← Go back Teaching Your Children Independence
Published on Sunday, March 4, 2018 by

Imagine this: Your child finishes playing with her toys and instinctively puts them away where they belong. It is mealtime and your toddler happily set up her own placemat, plate, cup, and cutlery at the dining room table.
It is time to get dressed and your child goes into her room, chooses what to wear, and dresses herself. Is this a dream? It doesn’t have to be! Young children crave connection to their family and to their environment.
When you set up your home to encourage independence in your children, you satisfy their needs in ways that make them more confident, engaged, and ultimately happier.

Five Ways to Put Everything in Order

Is your home overcrowded with too many toys? Take a good, hard look at what your child is interested in and has grown out of. Pay attention to items that are just taking up space. Donate, sell, or store those.

Purchase appropriate shelving for your child’s toys. Low and open shelves are ideal. Have similar activities grouped together and keep them in small baskets or on trays. So for example, you might store miniature cars in one basket and kitchen items in another. The more orderly your children’s space is, the more organized they will be!

For a child, having access to over 40 different types of toys or countless activities can be overwhelming. Cleaning up a massive pile of blocks is not realistic for a young child. Instead, put out a small selection in a basket. Rotating toys is the perfect way to keep your child interested in what he or she already has. Every month, change up the activities on the shelves. Consider switching out puzzles, crayons, and building blocks regularly. Keep the other toys in bins tucked away in your storage area. About 15 different toys out at any one time can suffice.

Think Accessibility
We want our children to do things by themselves, but we don’t always make things accessible! Look at the environment in your home from your child’s level. Are their hooks at the appropriate height so he or she can hang up things easily? Can your child access shoes, hats and mitts independently? Arrange to have appropriately-sized plates and trays so they are realistic for your child to manipulate.

Limit Choices
Have a limited selection of clothing, shoes, for your child to choose from. Avoid having summer clothes in the drawer when it is winter! Set your children up for success by continually switching up the environment with seasonally-appropriate items.

Three Ways to Encourage Independence

Maintain Routines
Young children have no concept of time so they rely heavily on cues from their environment to know what’s happening next. Consistency in their routines helps children anticipate what to expect. Picture this: Every time your child comes into the house, she takes off her shoes and put them away on the shoe rack. She takes off her coat and hangs it up on the easy-to-reach coat hooks. She then proceeds to wash her hands at the sink which has a stool for her to stand on.

Practice Makes Perfect
Provide the time to practice these skills. Demonstrate to your child how to do something. Slow down your movements to emphasize the actions needed to be successful. Through repetition your child’s abilities will steadily improve and your assistance may be rarely needed.

Make Expectations Realistic
Keep in mind when your child is tired or hungry (or both) things may not go as smoothly! Be flexible but still follow through. Give your child choices and the opportunity to show independence. Encourage your child every step of the way as he or she becomes more and more independent. Then celebrate those milestones.

Christie Stanford is Internationally trained in Montessori from birth to twelve years old. For the past 8 years she has been running the only Montessori Parent-Participation program in Western Canada for children from birth to three years old. Currently, she teaches 11 Infant and Toddler classes per week, out of North Star Montessori Elementary School in North Vancouver www.northstarmontessori.ca.

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