Thursday, June 11, 2015

encouraging preschooler independence

When I was in residency, doing pediatric check-ups in clinic, one of the questions we were prompted to ask parents of five-year-olds as part of the developmental assessment was, "Can your child prepare a bowl of cereal by himself?" Almost every time, the parent would look mildly startled and respond with something like, "I don't know. He's not allowed to do that."

As I sit here now, while four-year-old Faith puts a bib on her toddler sister and pours bowls of cereal for both of them... I think, those parents are crazy!!!

I mean, sure, sometimes she spills a little. But that's why we have the paper towels stored where she can reach them.

Here are some ways we're fostering our preschooler's independence:

- We have a small water dispenser and plastic cups on a low table in the kitchen so she can get herself a drink without help.

- The paper towels (as mentioned above) are on a holder that hooks on the cabinet doors under the sink, so she can reach them without a stool.

- Their toys are in open baskets -- no lids for easier and quicker putting-away-- with labels with pictures. The pictures are key. The pictures mean that my pre-readers know where everything goes. Not only does this lead to less "Mom, where's my _____?" but they can put things away more effectively too. Labels with pictures are by far my favorite kid-organization tip.

- Same thing for our three-section hamper, so Faith can pre-sort her own laundry. She does a reasonably good job.

- Same thing for their shoes. (I, uh, might go a little overboard on labels. But they're SO AWESOME!) And the 4-year-old's hanging-up clothes (mainly skirts and dresses) are on a lower closet rod so she can access them and dress herself without help.

- We have a "clean up chart" that helps Faith straighten up without getting too overwhelmed, so she can accomplish mini goals even before everything is done. One the left half of a laminated* sheet is "To Do" with a sad face, and a bunch of small velcro squares. On the right half is "Done" with a happy face, and more velcro squares. Then we have a bunch of small laminated pictures of their different categories of toys with velcro on the back. So when it's clean up time, we stick the pictures of whatever they need to clean up on the left, and when they're done with one category of items, they get to move that picture over to the right side.

What do you do to encourage your kids to be independent in their daily activities? Any gold mines I've missed?

*Yes, I have a laminator, and it is awesome.

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