As we are beginning the year, one of the things we hear most from the parents is amazement at the new found independence of their children at school, closely followed by, “Why don’t they do this at home?” Many children, even as young as two, are at the age where they are becoming (or already are) physically able to do tasks that we, the adults, are accustomed to doing for them. As we go through this school year we want to encourage parents to reassess your child’s physical capabilities, what can they do for themselves? What do they still need help with? How could you encourage their independence? And don’t forget that they grow, so keep reassessing!
At school, everything in our classroom environment is carefully prepared to make sure that your child can come into our classroom and become a more independent human being. The tables and chairs are their size, so they can move them with ease, brooms and dustbins are hanging at their level, a little pitcher is next to the dishwashing station so that even the youngest child can put on an apron and fill the dish washing basin, etc. Every task and chore in our classroom is thoughtfully prepared by the teacher so that it can be done independently by the child. When teaching a child to sponge a table we carefully and slowly emphasize each tiny step of the process from how to squeeze the sponge out before you take it to your table to how to wipe the table from end to end, left to right.
In order to create this same independence at home here are a few ideas. Start by making the child’s materials and toys easy to reach. Toys should be sorted and stored on small, child sized shelves. Your child’s dishes should be kept in a lower cabinet so that the child can help to set the table, get their own snacks and drinks, and help to put dishes away. Keep a low drawer of towels or rags in the kitchen so that they are available for cleaning up any spills. I also like to have healthy snacks and a pitcher of milk within easy reach in the refrigerator so that they can be responsible for serving their own snack throughout the day. Provide a child sized broom, dustbin, mop and sponge that your child can access easily. This will allow the child to be responsible for cleaning up their own spills and eating area. In your child’s bedroom have clothes accessible at their level, or a step stool, so that they can begin to get dressed on their own in the morning or before bed.
Your Primary child is at an age where they are beginning to desire independence, our responsibility as their care takers is to set up the environment in both home and school to foster this need. As you look around your home take the time to reflect, what do you do for your child that they could do for themselves and how can you set up your home environment to nurture your child’s independent spirit.