Developing independence skills for school
Going to school is a big change for many children, a new environment, new adults, new expectations and routines.
An independent child can often manage the transition to school much more easily. They are more likely to be able to manage their own needs and independence promotes confidence as well as motivation and perseverance.
Developing independent children takes time, patience and lots of encouragement. By offering opportunities for your child to try new things, make mistakes and giving them the time to try and try again will encourage them to be independent.
Your daily routine offers you lots of opportunities to encourage your child to help them learn to be independent. Feeling a sense of achievement is a very important feeling so making it achievable and offering praise will encourage your child to keep trying again.
Here are some top tips:
- Encourage your child to put on an item of clothing. Talk them through each stage each item of clothing and the process they need to go through. Getting dressed can lead to lots of frustration and this is either to do with the item of clothing or because they feel rushed. So, to start with consider velcro shoes and clothing with no buttons or zips.
- Pyjamas are a good item of clothing to practice on, when your child is not too tired, because they usually have elasticated waists, are stretchy and have no fiddly bits.
- Help them practice getting teddies and dolls dressed, this way they can practice the process.
- Try to practice getting changed when everyone is calm and there is no need to rush out of the door as this can add to the stress.
- When sitting down for mealtimes and you are helping your child with cutting up their food or putting it on a fork, talk your child through the process as you do it.
- Offer your child their own cutlery set so you both have a set each, this way they can have a go too!
- When you are wanting them to try and cut food up try it when they have food that is easy to cut, such as soft vegetables or fish, this will reduce the frustration.
- Use role play as a time to practice these skills such as having a picnic with their superheroes or the dolls so they practice using the spoon and cup.
- Offer your child smaller versions of jugs and cups so they can ‘have a go’ at pouring a drink or pouring the gravy on their dinner. Using a small jug is lighter and easier for them to hold.
- Remind your child to wash their hands after going to the toilet and before meals. Talk them through the process, such as, first we turn the tap on, then put soap on your hands, then rub them together, then rinse and dry with the towel. Using the same routine will remind them when they are ready to do it themselves.
- When your child has a runny nose, gently tell them that they have a runny nose and tell them that they need to get a tissue. Telling them this, instead of just doing it for them helps them recognise the feeling of a dirty nose. Teach them how to blow their nose and put their tissue in the bin.
- When your child looks hot and sweaty or cold tell them so they start to recognise the feeling and it helps them regulate themselves. For example saying ‘Oh your hands are really cold and you are shivering, let’s put a coat on because it is cold outside’. This helps your child recognise how they feel so they can eventually recognise this themselves.
- Playing games together with your child helps them understand that there are rules for different games and so they can practise taking turns. You may need to remind them each time that its ‘my turn, your turn, my turn, your turn’
- Have play dates with friends so your child has a chance to mix with different children and their different personalities, it helps your child to experience different situations.
- Playing with others will give your child a chance to learn how to share. They will often need support with this initially, so when they want something that someone else has encourage them to wait their turn and distract them with something else. For young children waiting and sharing can be hard skills to learn but it is an essential skill for when they go to school and they are playing independently. Supporting them to learn this skill is essential to reduce frustration.