When you have a lot of little ones (I have 4 kids; my eldest turned 5 in December, my youngest is 7 weeks old), it’s important to nurture every bit of independence in them as you can.
It’s a matter of sanity.
If none of my kids did anything for themselves, I would have 3 pairs of shoes to find and put onto little feet. 3 coats to put on and zip up. 4 hats to find and 8 mittens to find. Plus my own things, getting the baby strapped into either the car seat or a carrier, the diaper bag and stroller to get ready. All of that might take 20 minutes, depending on if the toddler took off his boots and hat and lost them while I was helping the older 2. This whole ordeal might just be for a 10 minute walk to the post office or to pick up a bag of milk.
I’m pretty sure I don’t have the patience for that, so I help my kids be able to do things for themselves.
Here are some ideas for helping kids be more independent:
Let the kids have a cup in the bathroom for drinks of water. My oldest can’t reach the kitchen tap but he can reach the bathroom tap so if he’s thirsty, he can get his own drink. And sometimes he even gets one for his little sister as well.
Let the kids dress themselves. They might not get it right and their clothes may not match, but that’s Ok. My son puts his pants on backwards most of the time. Sometimes his shirt and underwear are on backward too. That’s OK.
If you want the kids to make the bed every day, use just a comforter or a sleeping bag. It’s much easier to pull a thicker blanket up and put a pillow on top than struggle with a thin sheet.
If your kids can’t reach the sink to wash hands yet, let them use a baby wipe to do the job sometimes. I know that some messes need a good scrub with soap under running water, but not all of the time. You can even make your own wipes to save money.
Avoid shoelaces at all costs. If you must buy laced shoes, get the curly elastic laces.
Brushing several sets of teeth before bed can be stressful and hectic for a mama. I found that when my son was able to look in a mirror to really see what he is doing, he can brush his teeth pretty well on his own. I usually do a quick check when he’s done, but he does a good job when he can see where his teeth are and what part of his mouth he’s brushing.
Getting into the car can be a gong show sometimes when you have to do all the buckles for several car seats. My older two kids (3.5 and 5) can get their arms in the straps on their own, and sometimes can do the chest buckle. In the summer when clothes are less bulky, my son was able to do the crotch buckle as well.
Practice! Don’t wait until you’re running late and frazzled to try to get your preschooler to learn to zip his own coat. Make a game out of it during the day so your little one can practice without everyone feeling hurried.
Remember to shower your kids with praise when they do things for themselves, even if it’s not a new skill. Tell them how much you appreciate it when they do something for themselves. Most kids love to know that they’re helping Mommy by helping themselves. I’ve noticed that when I start taking their skills for granted the kids can sometimes start to regress a little bit, or at least start complaining about having to do things they’re perfectly capable of doing.
Here are some more ideas shared by readers on my Facebook page:
Eliza says: We have a snack basket. I divide out the snacks into individual portioned baggies. There are also fruit snacks in there. My 4 year old knows she must ask first but the basket is where she can reach it. So if I am busy with dishes or cleaning at snack time she can get her and her sister a snack.
Carla shares that: I tried to copy a toothbrush song that we heard on TV which turned into our own version and now I never have an issue getting my daughter to brush(most of the time she takes initiative) …in fact I can hear her hum and wiggle her hips while she is brushes.
Cassandra suggests: Put plastic bowls and spoons in a cabinet with cereal low enough for kids, in fridge have small container with enough milk for cereal. They can make their own breakfast in the morn
You can read more ideas here on my Facebook page.
And take heart; they won’t be little forever! Enjoy these days as much as you can.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
Galatians 6:9 NKJV