If you’ve finally made it past the toddler years and you’ve noticed that your child is still having a hard time being away from you or tackling new challenges, then it’s time to start focusing on the next stage: teaching independence in preschoolers!
Now that your child can finally communicate and follow directions well, it’s time to tackle promoting some independence and a little self-reliance.
Some children easily blow through this stage and happily tackle new tasks and challenges with a happy wave or a stubborn “I do it!” (I was lucky enough to have this experience with my 2nd child.)
Other children, however, tend to need a little nudge. They are a little more cautious and find it easier to rely on mom to help them navigate life rather than sort things out on their own.
This was definitely the case with my 1st and 3rd child, so I have had a lot of experience fostering independence through the preschool years.
With a little encouragement and some good habits, you can help teach them how to be more confident and able to handle situations without you having to constantly hover nearby.
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Why independence in preschoolers is so important…
Teaching independence in preschoolers is part of helping your child have a happy and healthy childhood. It’s also the beginning stages of learning how to become a confident and successful adult.
As your child starts getting older they will be heading off to school, building friendships with other kids, and eventually navigating new experiences outside of your home. They need to know how to confidently handle these new experiences even when you aren’t right by their side.
You probably need a break!
One of the first reasons teaching independence in preschoolers is so important is because you probably need a break! Parenting is a 24/7 job and it’s tough. Especially in those early years!
It gets even more interesting when you have more than one child or a new baby. When you’re trying to master breastfeeding again or getting that bottle at the perfect temperature and dealing with daily sleep deprivation, you will be grateful for every ounce of independence your older children have.
Even just dealing with the nonstop requests for snacks and keeping the house cleaned becomes a monumental chore when your children struggle to do things on their own.
Having a child who is capable of playing by themselves, following directions without constant supervision, and handling age-appropriate tasks can free up a lot of time and energy for you as a mom.
Young children learn by doing
The next reason teaching independence in preschoolers is so important is because children learn best by doing. It would be nice if they could just listen to everything we say and magically be able to do things on their own, but that’s just not the case.
If you want them to be successful at tackling new challenges by themselves or persistently working at tasks without always asking for you to help or fix it, then they need to practice.
The things that they practice at home with you are the skills they will take with them as they start venturing out into the world on their own.
Independence builds self-esteem and self-confidence
The last (and my favorite) reason teaching independence in preschoolers is so important is because it builds self-esteem and self-confidence. When your child learns new skills that they can manage without mom or dad helping they develop a lot of pride and confidence in themselves.
They learn how much they are capable of and what all they can really do. This is a skill that is so, so important for kids as they grow up. Especially once they start going to school and interacting with other kids.
Sometimes kids are mean and their school environment can be full of bullies and difficult situations. It is never too early to help teach your kids skills that will help them be more confident and self-assured when dealing with those kinds of situations.
5 Quick Tips for Teaching Independence in Preschoolers
As I mentioned before, my 1st and 3rd children have definitely needed a nudge when it comes to being more independent. I also worked in childcare for over 4 years. I have had a lot of experience teaching independence in preschoolers.
Here are some of my favorite tips for helping young children build this important skill…
1.) Assign chores and responsibilities
My first tip in teaching independence is preschoolers is to assign them chores and responsibilities. As I mentioned before, kids learn by doing. They will learn how capable they really are by practicing this skill with age-appropriate chores.
It will also help them develop a better understanding of all the work that you do and what it means to be part of a community that works together.
Here are some chore list ideas for preschoolers:
Pick up toys
Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket
Put their dishes in the sink
Help set the table
Make their bed
Help put away groceries
Help feed and water pets
Wash their face
Put away clothes
Help switch over the laundry
You by no means need to make your children do all of the chores on this list. This is just an example to give you some ideas. Feel free to pick and choose a few to get started and go from there.
Starting out, your child might need some help and encouragement to do their chores correctly, but with a little practice, they will surprise you with how much they can do.
You can find some great chore charts HERE that help everyone get into a good routine.
2.) Let them work & play independently
My next tip for teaching independence in preschoolers is that you need to let them work and play independently. Don’t feel the need to hover over them while they are working on those chores we just talked about.
Let them work through it by themselves as much as possible. Try to give them some initial direction and then see what happens.
This might mean that you simply do your own thing quietly nearby or maybe you leave the room altogether. Just give them the sense that they are doing their chores on their own.
The same idea should be applied to when they are playing. Try to encourage independent play as much as possible. Play is how children learn best, so this is a perfect opportunity for them to practice some independence.
If your child is used to you providing entertainment for them, this will take some practice, but the pay off is definitely worth it.
Want to help set your kids up for success? Check out these 5 Fun Family Activities that Build Healthy Habits!
3.) Allow them to solve their own problems
My next tip for teaching independence in preschoolers is to allow them to solve their own problems. When they come up against a task or issue, don’t rush in to immediately help them.
Give them a chance to work through it on their own. They may stumble through and take longer to get to the solution than if you helped, but there is valuable information that they learn through the process.
If you find yourself wanting to rush in and help them when they seem to be struggling, remind yourself that the whole point behind building independence is that they learn to do things on their own. That’s going to be hard to do if someone is constantly coming in with solutions at the first sign of a problem.
If you’re worried about your child getting overly frustrated, focus on giving encouragement and hints instead of offering the full solution or doing it for them. Children learn the best through doing! This includes problem-solving.
4.) Let them experience natural consequences
Another good tip for teaching independence in preschoolers is to allow them to experience natural consequences. Learning independence requires children to practice making decisions and dealing with the results that come with them.
Just like with problem-solving, if your child never has to suffer the consequences of their actions, they won’t learn how to make better decisions. This means they will still constantly rely on you to make decisions for them.
I have seen this tip work really well with my own kids. I set the expectation that morning chores will be done before they get to play with any special toys or go outside.
It doesn’t take them long to start tackling their chores first thing when they start to miss out on getting that fun playtime.
5.) Give them options, not demands
My last tip for teaching independence in preschoolers is to give options, not demands. Instead of requiring them to do exactly what you say, allow them to practice a little autonomy and give them choices.
Getting to make decisions about what and how they do something helps build confidence in their decision-making skills. This confidence is the foundation for your child to feel successful enough to start practicing some independence.
Now, I think this goes without saying, but you want to pick specific situations to apply this tip. And never give an option that you aren’t ok with your child choosing.
You would never do this in any situation that might be dangerous or when you’re running late and trying to rush out the door. Pick times that everyone is calm and you aren’t in a hurry.
Here’s an example…
For example, I might ask, “Do you want to wear your dinosaur shirt or your monkey shirt?” I’m not asking if my child wants to get dressed, because as far as I’m concerned, we’re doing that either way.
But I am letting him practice making his own decisions by getting to decide which shirt he wears. This can be applied to chores or tasks around the house as well.
Let your child choose which chore to do first. Ask them what kind of music they want to listen to while they pick up their toys.
Little choices throughout the day will go a long way to helping them learn to be more independent.
Resources that can help!
My favorite resource for teaching independence in preschoolers is chore charts and daily routines. Chore charts and routines create a stable and consistent environment for kids. This stability helps them feel secure enough to start exploring things on their own.
I like using printable chore charts because they are inexpensive, easy to change out as the children grow, and usually pretty customizable for our needs. I will usually laminate them or use contact paper if I want to reuse them.
I post them where the kids can see them and check them off throughout the day. With the younger kids, I like to use fun stickers and with the older kids, a simple checkmark gets the job done.
Here are some chore charts you can check out.
Conclusion on 5 Quick Tips for Teaching Independence in Preschoolers
So there you have 5 quick and easy tips you can use for teaching independence in preschoolers. With a little bit of practice and consistency, I bet you will be blown away with how quickly your child can learn to be more independent.
How do you focus on teaching independence in preschoolers? Tell us in a comment below or email me at Candice@littlestepsbighappy.com. Follow me on Pinterest for more parenting tips and advice.
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I’m a busy mom of 3 turned Health and Fitness Coach and Self Defense Instructor. I help inspire other moms to reach their health, fitness, and weight loss goals. You can usually find me chasing my kiddos around, training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or sneaking away to read romance novels. About Me