Help your child learn to independently accomplish daily tasks to develop confidence
Feeling capable and exploring independence is a crucial component of early childhood and important for growth. Some children are eager to try new things on their own and expand their skill sets, while others are reluctant to branch out and feel insecure without the guidance of a familiar adult nearby. However, achieving tasks independently helps build confidence and self-esteem, both of which are important facets of social and emotional development.
Being able to take care of yourself is critical to a successful future, so introduce your child to independence with simple self-care tasks that will allow them to build a foundation of trust in their own abilities.
Activities of daily living
Self-care skills are also known as the activities of daily living, and they generally consist of small tasks that adults help young children with until they mature enough to perform these skills independently.
Self-care skills are important because they help children learn planning, sequencing, organization, resilience, and the motor skills or physical control necessary to achieve the tasks. The ability to perform these duties without assistance gives children a greater opportunity to do well in school and among their peers, and it contributes to a sense of self-confidence that has a ripple effect into other areas of life.
Learning to feed themselves is one of the earliest self-care tasks most children master, and it’s driven by the motivating factor of hunger. Allowing your infant to practice with finger foods helps them develop the pincer grasp along with hand-eye coordination, which are both building blocks of future self-care skills.
Once your child masters the basics of self-feeding, move on to silverware. Learning to use a spoon starts with learning how to scoop items from one container into another. Practice this skill with packing peanuts or pom-poms during playtime before moving onto food to reduce the messiness associated with learning. A bowl with a suction cup bottom can be secured to the highchair tray during practice to provide a steadier container.
Practice with a fork by placing your hand over your child’s as they spear food and guide it to their mouths. Play-Doh and a plastic butter knife are ideal materials to independently practice cutting.
Perform basic hygiene
Bathing and brushing teeth are essential to your child’s general health and well-being. While you will have to prompt and/or supervise your child’s efforts to make sure they are doing a thorough job, these are great responsibilities for them to assume.
A small child will likely need to start in the tub. Start by providing them with soap and a washcloth along with instructions for washing their body from top to bottom. Once they can accomplish that efficiently, pour a small amount of shampoo in their hand and have them soap up their hair before you help with rinsing.
Brushing teeth can have lasting ill-effects if done improperly, so supervise your child closely but allow them to work on mastering this task by guiding their hand as they brush and having them watch you while you brush your own teeth.
Putting on clothes each day allows offers a wide range of opportunities to practice coordination and motor skills. Start slowly by having your child choose their clothes for the day, then move on to having them put on underwear, pants with an elastic waist, and socks. As they develop confidence navigating through those tasks, add their shirt to the routine before branching out to clothes with buttons, buckles, or zippers. Start by having your child remain seated to put on clothes so they don’t have to worry about their balance and can focus on dressing safely.
Learning to tie shoes is one of the more difficult self-care tasks, but it’s necessary to learn. Demonstrate the different steps of shoe-tying to your child, and encourage them to practice in an unhurried pace without the pressure of an imminent departure. To make it easier, practice on a pair of shoes the child isn’t wearing or with a jump rope wrapped around their legs. Start with the first few steps, then add on as they master the steps.
Although eating, grooming, and getting dressed are all basic everyday tasks, young children or children who have disabilities still need to be taught these necessities with clear instructions and the patient supervision of a caring adult. Helping your child experience independence in a safe and supportive environment is an important part of parenting, and contributes significantly to their long-term success in life.
Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.