Google+ Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas: Everyday Ways to Foster Independence Skills in Children {Get Ready for K Through Play}

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Everyday Ways to Foster Independence Skills in Children {Get Ready for K Through Play}

The move to kindergarten means greater independence from mom and dad for children. In the classroom children are expected to perform basic self-care tasks like putting their jacket on and off, packing and unpacking their backpack,  using the bathroom including the managing of all laces, buttons, zippers and snaps, opening up lunch items, eating neatly and making appropriate decisions.  

As parents we tend to want to take care of our children. Speaking as a teacher, it is nearly impossible to do everything for the approximately 20 or so children in our care each day. We need our students to be self-sufficient and independent. As parents, it is up to us to foster their independence and help them be adequately prepared for kindergarten.  

Fostering a child's independence doesn't have to be difficult. We don't even have to go out of our way to do it. Honestly! Here are some everyday ways to foster independence skills that will help get children ready to be self-sufficient in Kindergarten. 

Offer lots of opportunity for unstructured/free play. Yes, play actually fosters independence - especially when it's unstructured. How? Children are forced to come up with their own ideas and engage in play independently. They become increasingly self-reliant. This is a wonderful skill for children to master and such a help for parents as well. Can you imagine having to facilitate all of your child's play? You'd never get anything else done. It is the same at school. Teachers need students to be independent, to be able to follow simple directions without needing an adult constantly by their side. I have had children in my classroom who simply could not proceed with an activity unless I was next to them. It was not only difficult on that child but it was unfair to the rest of the class and very hard for me as the teacher. While it's wonderful to have structured and planned activities (we obviously do them ALL often!) make sure you provide your child(ren) with ample opportunity to play and explore on their own as well. It will benefit them at home, school and later in life.

Give children age-appropriate chores and responsibilities at home. Children who are used to cleaning-up after themselves and helping with small chores at home have an easier time taking care of their supplies and classroom environment at school. At school children will be responsible for not only keeping their area tidy but they will have to clean-up after snack and lunch and help keep the overall classroom orderly as well. By encouraging your child to clean up after themselves at the end of meals (take plate and cup to sink), tidy their toys at the end of the day, put clothes in laundry bins and help with simple chores like setting the table, sweeping the floor, dusting, etc you will be preparing them to be responsible for their belongings and classroom at school.

Foster your child's basic self-care skills. Imagine a classroom of 20 or so children. Now picture them all needing the help of their 1 teacher with zippers, buttons, snaps, tucking shirts in, tying shoe laces, opening lunches, emptying folders, etc. Welcome to the world of the Kindergarten teacher. It is time consuming. It can waste valuable teaching time. As parents, you can do your part to ensure that classroom time is better managed simply by teaching your child(ren) valuable self-care skills. Allow them to dress themselves. Practice managing all those buttons, zippers and snaps both on their clothes and on their outerwear (jackets and sweater) and don't forget those backpacks. Go on picnics this summer and pack a lunchbox. Give your child the opportunity to practice opening containers, wrappers, bottles and juice boxes. Going on a day trip? Let your child pack up their backpack with some fun things to do in the car. Practice hand washing, nose blowing and coughing into their elbow. Really, I can not stress it enough! Think of all those runny noses and coughs that run rampant at school. I can not tell you how many children I have come across in my years of teaching that do not know how to blow their own nose or simply prefer to use their sleeves. Practice, practice, practice! Your child's teacher will love you for it, trust me. 

Allow children to feel some degree of frustration. It's hard to see our children struggle with something. As parents we want to help them. We want to make things easier for them. Struggling with something isn't always a bad thing. It teaches children to keep trying, it engages critical thinking, problem solving and helps children practice patience. Kindergarten will present your child with many new challenges. Many things will not be mastered easily or quickly (think about all those new reading, writing and math skills). You do not want them to become easily upset, frustrated or left feeling defeated when confronted with something new and/or difficult. One of the best ways to learn is by doing. The next time your child asks for help getting their shirt or shoes on - encourage them to try again. Cheer them on. Walk them through it by asking questions like "what should you do first?" or "why do you think that didn't work?". Offer them puzzles with more pieces than they are used to working with. Dress them in clothes with zippers, buttons or snaps versus things that easily pulled on and off and let them be responsible for dressing and undressing themselves. Go ahead and challenge your child this summer. Break out of their comfort zone. They may experience frustration but they will also be gaining valuable skills in the process.

Provide children with opportunities to make choices.  This is a big one. Your child is going to be spending a big chunk of their day at school - away from you. They need to be able to make decisions and think for themselves. They must be able to follow rules and make appropriate decisions to ensure they are acting in accordance with them.  Children need to be able to follow classroom routines and engage in activities with distractions (i.e other children, noise) present. By giving your child opportunities to make choices you are preparing them for the classroom. Choosing their outfit for the day, books read at bedtime, the day's lunch/snack menu or choosing between different activities (i.e. playing with play dough, painting with watercolors or building with blocks) all helps children develop a sense of autonomy and enables them to make decisions when confronted with choices at school. You do not want your child to feel flustered, lost or unable to act when faced with challenges or decisions at school.

How many of the above are you already doing with your child(ren)? How many do you still need to work on this summer? 

I hope you find these tips both useful and doable as you prepare your child for kindergarten. Good luck and remember to have fun. Join us next week as we share early math skills that help foster kindergarten success. 

Thank you to My Cute Graphics for the use of the superhero kids graphic.

This post is part 3 of an 8 week series being hosted on 6 blogs to help kids Get Ready for K Through Play! In previous weeks we discussed -

For even more Independence Skill Building ideas 
check out these awesome posts shared by my series co-hosts:

and be sure to follow our Get Ready for K Through Play Pinterest Board for lots of awesome Kindergarten Readiness resources, ideas and activities. 

Have fun getting ready for K!


  1. Love your ideas and suggestions! Everything you said is so true!

  2. What great tips! It is hard sometimes to be patient while they do it themselves, but it is so worth it.

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  4. good that you are instilling skills into your kids. this is good parenting. its not enough to bring your kid a cute kids backpack you need to make them understand that its their responsibility.

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