Little kids love to be independent. It might come as a bit of a shock – one minute they’re a helpless little bundle in your arms and the next they’re a tiny human ready to take control. And they’ll often let you know pretty firmly that they can (or at least want to) do something for themselves.
Our handy guide is a way to introduce independence in preschoolers with as little chaos as possible – from things like brushing teeth and washing hair, to feeding the pets and clearing their plates. Just remember that every child is different. Some children will take to these tasks with gusto, others will go along at their own pace. Enjoy the journey as your little person begins to develop their own skills, in their own time.
Just remember that every child is different. Some children will take to these tasks with gusto, others will go along at their own pace. Enjoy the journey as your little person begins to develop their own skills, in their own time.
Here is our guide to helping preschoolers gain confidence and independence.
They’re called threenagers for good reason, but years three and four are really important for growth and learning independence. Your kinder kid is going through a stage of emotional development, play is a critical part of their learning, and they are becoming curious about their bodies.
Many preschoolers will give anything a go, as long as they have some gentle guidance.
Your tyke might still need help with some parts of dressing, especially if there are buttons and zippers involved, but let them do what they can. Make your mornings a little easier by laying out their clothes and giving them plenty of time to get dressed (don’t do it when you need to be out the door in five minutes). Or if they want to pick their own outfit, embrace the mismatch and let them create their own style.
While kiddos should still have an adult close by when bathing and showering at this age, your little one can certainly have a go at washing themselves. Just guide them to the important spots!
A really handy way to make sure they get the job done properly is to use a two-in-one product. Weleda Kids 2-in-1 Shampoo and Body Wash is all they’ll need to clean from top to toe. Just launched, the range of clever cleansers smell delish, deliver foaming fun and don’t contain any harsh synthetic detergents (so no nasty stinging if your kiddo gets some in their eyes).
Brush their teeth/wash face
While preschoolers can have a go at brushing their teeth, just keep an eye on them to make sure it’s done properly (two minutes seems like a lifetime in kid-years!)
After they brush their teeth is also a great time to show them how to wash their face properly.
Wipe their own bottom
This is actually a tricky skill for little hands to master. It takes a lot of technique to be done properly, and some kiddos can’t get past the ick-factor. Don’t worry, just try and get them to wipe their bottom as well as they can, then give it an extra wipe yourself.
Put their shoes on
Ditch the laces for some easy slip-ons or velcro straps and your tyke will be kicking up their heels in no time.
Help put toys away
Your preschooler may have started doing this as a toddler, so now’s the chance for your poppet to pick up after playtime without being asked. Crank up some tunes as a musical cue and you’ll have the deck cleared quick smart.
Put dirty clothes in hamper
Pop a clothes hamper in their room, or just make sure they know where the dirty clothes go in the laundry. Kids love colurs, so you can also teach them about separating lights and darks.
Clear plate after meals
Ask your tyke to take their empty plate to the sink when they’ve finished eating. Bonus points for getting them to wipe the table down when they’re done.
Help to set the table
Little ones love helping out at dinner time, so get them to count out the plates and cups and set them on the table.
Make their own bed
Resist the urge to remake it after they’ve had a go – it’s a little bit of a pride killer! Try using a comforter on their bed to make it a little easier (and look a bit better).
Wipe up own spills
Little person equals big mess, especially when there’s liquid involved. Instead of getting cross, teach them how to wet a cloth and wipe up their own mess.
Use a handheld vacuum
As long as it’s fairly light, kids love having a go of a real vacuum. Just get them to start in their own room and work their way up as their stamina builds.
Pack their kinder/daycare bag
You’ll still have to make their lunch, but your little one can take some ownership by putting their lunchbox in their bag.
Know their own phone number
This one can be a bit tricky with most people forgoing landlines for mobile phones. But you’ll be surprised how quickly preschoolers will learn a number – try making it into a song. Don’t worry if they can’t remember it straight away, every now and again try and give it another go.
Know their own address
Kids should know their address for safety reasons, so try and get them learning it early. Again, some little ones will need extra time to remember this, particularly if it’s a long address.
Your big kid is now on track to be a little grown-up. During these important ages, children are building emotional, social and thinking skills. They may need help talking about their feelings and want constant approval.
At this age most kids are either preparing to start school, or are already in their first year. As part of formal education they will be learning new skills and independent learning, so it’s the perfect time to extend this to home. But keep in mind, every child is different – take these as a guide rather than milestones children need to reach.
Wipe their own bottom
Many school-aged children will have somewhat mastered this skill, but some will still have trouble doing the job properly (they’re too eager to get back to their friends or game). If you find their underwear is dirty some days, just use it as a way to gently remind them about the importance of bottom wiping.
Use a knife and fork
One of the trickier motor skills to master, using a knife and fork can be practised regularly at this age. Your munchkin will still need help, but the more they do it, the better they’ll get.
Tie their shoelaces
Not an easy skill, but one that will give them a great sense of achievement. There are plenty of ways to make learning to tie shoelaces fun, so make a game of it.
Wash their hair
As your kiddo gets older, they may graduate to having showers rather than baths. This can make hair washing a little trickier, so make sure you give them something that’s mild on the eyes (bonus points if it also washes their body too!)
Eat and drink independently
This is a skill they would have started practising at preschool and will continue into school. That means that it can be carried through at home.
Blow their nose properly
This is more difficult than it seems, and lots of kids simply can’t get the concept for quite some time. So you may still need to help by holding the tissue properly, and encourage them to do a good superhero blow.
Feed the pets
Store the pet food in reach of the kids (but not the pets!) and make it a bit easier by having scoops and cups ready for them to use. They can also be in charge of making sure water bowls are always full.
Leave bathroom clean after use
Your kiddo is old enough to leave it as they find it. Make sure those dirty towels are picked up, wayward toothpaste cleaned and water spillage wiped up.
Use a broom and dustpan
Who knows why, but most kids love to sweep as soon as they can hold a brush. And now they can put that play time to good use. A simple sweep with the broom and dustpan will be a huge help to you and make the kids feel important.
Pack their own school lunch
This will still require a little prep work from you, but the kids can easily grab their own fruit and snacks and pack them in their lunchbox.
Water outside plants, flowers and vegetable garden
During the warmer months, this can be a weekly or daily chore, depending on how hot it is.
Strip bed sheets
Once a week, get your big kid to strip their own bed and put the sheets into the laundry. One less job for you!
Share and take turns
While there will still be some disagreements, particularly between siblings, for the most part, sharing should be second nature. Sharing is caring!
Call emergency number
By this age, your kiddo should know their address and be able to call ‘000’ in an emergency. If you don’t have a landline in your home, make sure you teach them how to dial an emergency number from your mobile phone.
Read and prepare a simple recipe
Kids love helping in the kitchen, and by now they may be able to help out making a simple recipe with minimal supervision. Hello breakfast in bed! Of course, anytime they need to use a knife, the stove or oven, they will still need adult help.
When your kiddo is ready to have a go at a solo scrub, make sure you have a product like Weleda Kids 2-in-1 Shampoo & Body Wash handy. It comes in three dreamy, delicious scents and is specifically designed for children between three and 10 years plus.
It’s really gentle on their skin and won’t dry it out, it’s vegan, all natural, organic, dermatologically tested and, best of all, it actually works. Your tyke will smell amazing, look squeaky clean and be super-chuffed that they were able to wash themselves.
Available online from weleda.com.au ($14.95).
(This guide has been created in partnership with Weleda)