Toddler putting on shoe

Independence – What Does It Look Like?

Independence looks different at each stage of a child’s life. A young child’s ability to put on their own shoes, to pour juice from a jug, and to look at a book, are all important skills at home and at school.

These are skills that can be taught with guidance and support. From an early age you can give your child age appropriate tasks knowing they will meet with success. Independence builds confidence and self-esteem.

Most two year olds are struggling for independence even when they’re not quite ready to complete the tasks. You have to choose your battles here as your two year old can get frustrated and tantrum if they’re thwarted in their desire to do everything on their own. ‘No help needed, thank you!’

This is a time of negotiation and compromise for both parties, but be aware your child will usually win!

With guidance your two – three year old is ready to start dressing themselves. Choose items of clothing that are easy to put on – elasticated waistbands, chunky buttons, and large snaps that are easy for young fingers and early coordination. They may need some help but remember mastery is achieved by practice. Encourage your young child to put their toys away and to help set the table.

Everything will take a bit longer and may not be completed to your standards, but be patient and your child’s skills will improve.

Four – five year old children can independently make their own snacks, brush their teeth, feed the pets, choose their clothes and get dressed. Your child is also ready to learn their full name, address and phone number.

Positive feedback rather than criticism is important. If your child puts their shoes on the wrong feet it is better to say, “good job with putting on your own shoes,” rather than pointing out the mistake. They’ll soon discover that their feet are uncomfortable. Mistakes are opportunities to learn.

By gradually building on their ability to do things for themselves you are preparing your child for school where the expectations are higher. If your child is comfortable in their independence they will be ready and happy to complete tasks, meet with success, and have a stronger sense of self.