Children have a natural drive to be independent. As they grow, they want to do more tasks for themselves, and take responsibility for themselves whenever they can. As adults, we naturally want to help them where we can, protect them from making mistakes, and bail them out of sticky situations. However we have to be careful that this does not hinder independence!
With independence comes confidence and self-esteem, the ability to problem solve, and them believing in themselves.
We’re not saying leave your child on their own and let them be completely independent! We want to allow them to be independent within a safe environment. It is the little moments that occur day to day that provide these great learning experiences, that will lead them to become independent people we can be proud of.
Here are some of the things we do to nurture independence at Shaws Preschool, which start from our toddlers as young as 18 months old!
Nurturing self-help skills
Self-help skills are brilliant at nurturing independence and building confidence in even very young children.
There are generally four main types of self-help skills – Self feeding, independent dressing and grooming, hygiene and toileting, and helping with daily chores such as packing up toys and setting the table. The key is to give children age appropriate activities to help children be successful and to provide sufficient time for children to master these skills. In a preschool classroom such as Shaws, these include children being responsible for the activities they choose. From as young as 18 months all, children pick out their activity and take it to their table. After they complete the activity, they pack it up and return it to the shelf. When they arrive at school, the take out their water bottles, snack boxes and communication books, and places them in the appropriate baskets, and pop their bags into the cubby holes. <strong>When children practice self-help skills, they gain confidence in trying new things, and build great self esteem and pride when they are able to complete a task.
Giving children choices
Choices allow children to have some control in a world where adults usually make all the decisions. Giving children choices is a good way to give children independence. However giving choice is the easy part – the trickier part is having your child understand that they need to live with their choices.
Learning to fail – It’s ok to make mistakes!
“To learn to succeed, you must learn to fail” – Michael Jordan.
What is the important is the ability to try again. When children have a problem, don’t be too quick to step in and give them a solution. These may be problems in work such as trying to work out how to complete a puzzle, or how to negotiate with a group of friends in the playground. It could also include letting them try and solve a problem when they come to you for help. When children are working on a task, step back and let them figure it out. The outcome may not be perfect, and even if it isn’t they would have learnt a tremendous amount. Our job is to encourage them to try again. And most times, they will surprise us or even themselves!
Accepting the outcome
When we allow children the independence to take charge, we have to remember that the outcome may not be the same as what we envisioned. They may choose to build their tower in a particular way, or paint their tunnel in a particular way. It is their way and they are proud of it! And we should accept their end product if that is what they worked towards.
Encourage independent play
Children need time to be by themselves and engage in independent play. At school, these are usually activities designed to be done only by one child from start to finish, giving children time and space to explore and experiment on their own. This is very important not only to encouraging independence, but also for all-round development. Children do not need to be entertained all the time. They should not need an adult next to them at all times. They need periods of self-directed, uninterrupted play to learn to problem solve using their own ideas. And when children are in this “space” of independent play, the teacher’s or parent’s hardest job is really sitting back and watching the magic happen!
We want our children to grow up independent, with confidence and ready to take on the world!
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence” – Dennis Waitley.