Greetings, Crème Community!

We just celebrated the 4th of July and now we are looking forward to Back to School in the Fall. One common theme here is independence. Fostering independence is important for young children to develop a sense of self, responsibility and citizenship. There are several ways teachers and parents can help children develop independence to prepare them for the years ahead.

  • Give children the opportunity to choose. Start with small things, such as picking out their own clothes or snack. When they are shown that their opinion on how to care for themselves is valued, they will begin to go beyond the beginning steps and dive into more sophisticated choices: Do I want to comb my hair or brush my teeth first?

  • Make the environment conducive to independence. Small adjustments to the environment can really help children feel empowered to be independent, such as providing stools for them to reach counters, light switch extenders to turn on/off the lights, or small furniture that allows them to make activity choices: I need lights on and a table to color this picture for mom and dad!

  • Routines. Having routines creates a sense of consistency and confidence in children so they have a sense of what comes next. If they know that a snack immediately follows a nap they are inclined to head to the kitchen: Hmm, an apple sounds good today after nap.

  • Give them small responsibilities. Children love to help, especially when adults express appreciation for the assistance they provide. Although adults may fear children will make a mess, not do something the way they would or just prolong the process, creating opportunities encourages them to do their best and provides the experience of being part of something bigger than themselves – part of a family or community: I know how to put salad dressing on the salad and feed my family!

  • Let them solve minor problems by themselves. Children inevitably face daily strife and seek comfort or support from their trusted adults. This is certainly a sign of a healthy attachment, but this is also an opportunity to develop independence. Start by listening to the problem, but then ask an open-ended question, such as: Why do you think he did that? How can you make it better? Experience in solving their own small problems paves the road for them to tackle the harder ones as they grow. Give them problem solving words: “I can make this better by…” “I can help my brother by…” “I know how to…”

When we demonstrate confidence in our children to accomplish tasks and care for themselves, we are essentially providing the building blocks of independence that they need to thrive in the real world. Start small and build as they grow!

Dr. Masek
Vice President of Education