Ways to Encourage ‘Self-Help’ and Independence in Your Young Child

Learning to do things independently is a big deal for all children. Being independent and knowing how to do things without the help of a grown up develops confidence in young children.

Here are a few tips to encourage you to help your children learn self-help skills to become more independent and thus, increase self-confidence.

Being independent doesn’t mean that your children will no longer need you. Let’s make this clear right away. Your child will always need you as he or she grows up. Your child will need your love, your support and your friendship. He/she will need your advice, your guidance and time together. Your child will always need you throughout their lifetime for many reasons.

But right now, it’s time to allow them to do more tasks on their own so he/she can feel the pride that comes with experiencing success at doing “big kid” things. Here are a few of the basic independent tasks that three-, four- and five-year old children should be able to do or learn to do during their early years at school and at home.

Brushing hair

Children learn these basic grooming skills by watching and copying you. Show them how you brush your hair from top to bottom. Maybe you can make up a little song about brushing your hair to make it more fun. Teaching your child to take pride in their appearance boosts self-esteem.

Brushing teeth

Cleaning your teeth beside your child every morning and night will help them mimic your behavior and develop hand-eye coordination. You may need to help them brush their teeth so that they are well cleaned. Once you’re done, allow them to check your teeth to see if you did a good job too!

Carrying their own things

This is an excellent time for your child to learn to bring their own school bag in and out of school. At school, early childhood educators will encourage students to place their daily belongings into their cubbies, carry their own library books, carry their snacks to/from cubbies to tables and to trash bins, and more! Students are getting lots of practice every day with this self-help skill!

Drinking from an open cup

Although water bottles are the way of water consumption these days for many children, take time to serve your child in an open cup too.

Feeding themselves

They will grow more confident at feeding themselves with finger foods and utensils. Allow your child to open food containers, baggies, and juice boxes. It’s okay to “get it started” but allow them to open the container up the rest of the way. Then compliment them on what a “big boy/girl” they are!

Walking themselves to places

Your child is sure to experience pride walking themselves into school in the morning rather than being carried. It will boost their self-esteem and feeling of self-autonomy. If your child cries in the morning and asks to be carried, that can be a signal that they are being carried too frequently. Allow your child time at home, in the neighborhood, at the store, going out to visit family, to walk more and be carried less. Soon your child will be more comfortable with walking into school without tears.

Putting toys away

This is a good age to start encouraging your child to put their toys away and clean up after themselves. Your child will begin to understand simple directions like, “It’s clean up time. It’s time to pick up your toys. Help me clear the table.”

Road safety

This is a good age to begin teaching your child road safety. With less time in the stroller, they will be strolling along pavements closer to moving cars and other vehicles. Give simple explanations to help them learn the rules.

Blowing nose

Some children are ready to start learning how to blow their nose when they are two, while others may take longer. Blowing should be gentle, then teach them to clean the outside of the nose so germs are not left on their skin.


Teach your child how to sneeze into a tissue or into their elbow. They’re also old enough to learn why it’s important to avoid spraying their sneezes everywhere and onto others.


Let your child try to resolve (non-harmful) difficulties by themselves. Don’t be too quick to rush in and help them. Between three and four years of age, your child will be learning through trial and error. Teach them how to use communication to solve problems, rather than using aggression. The students at Concordia get to practice problem-solving many times in one day. Children learn by direct instruction, and by watching and listening their peers and adults.

Children also learn independence when they are allowed to wash and dry hands on their own and by putting their clothes into their dresser drawer or laundry hamper.

 875-img1-Ways-to-encourage-self-help-and-independence-in-young-child Ways to Encourage 'Self-Help' and Independence in Your Young Child

There are so many ways your child can learn to be independent and increase their confidence. Take the time to allow them to have successes with being “big” every day and watch them smile and grow!

By Julie McIntyre, Early Childhood assistant principal at Concordia International School Shanghai

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Concordia International School Shanghai

Concordia International School Shanghai

Concordia International School Shanghai is a co-educational day school for students aged 3 to 18, located on a 10-acre campus in the heart of Jinqiao—one of Shanghai’s largest international communities. Known as the “green city,” with its many open green spaces and family-oriented amenities, Jinqiao is a destination for expatriate families from around the world.

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