Greetings! We are so excited to be finishing up enrollment here at the EEC and are looking forward to meeting all our new students this summer! As we begin thinking about the new school year, we try to prepare our classrooms in a way that makes sense to a child who is brand new to the school and that allows them to begin to build independence. For example, we have a picture schedule of what happens during the day, we have the children’s names and pictures on their cubbies, so they know where their things go, and everything is within the child’s reach such as the sinks, soap dispensers, toys, etc. These tricks help children naturally learn independence, which is an important skill to have before entering Kindergarten. Here are some tips and tricks that we use to help children become more independent.
1. Create Predictable Routines
We utilize a picture schedule to help children know what to expect next in the schedule. A few months into our school year, most children are already independently following the routine. The more consistent you are with a routine, the more likely they are to do what’s next on their own.
2. Let children help
We let children help us do things like sweep the floor, clean the tables, get materials, bake, garden, etc. They work alongside us as our “helpers” so it gives them a sense of being needed and a boost in their confidence that they get to do “adult” things.
3. Give your child choices
“Do you want to carry your backpack or your lunch box?” “Do you want to do the dishes or take out the trash?” “Would you like to put on your jacket in the bedroom or by the door?”
By giving them a choice, they are still required to do something, but they can choose and feel more in control which fosters a willingness to want to help and be independent. Make sure to choose your words wisely and only give options with outcomes that you need/want them to do.
4. Talk to them and ask their opinions!
What do they like to do? How did they feel about doing that activity? What chores are they interested in?
Help them feel heard and important.
5. Let them solve their own problems
This one can be tough because many times the first instinct when we hear a child get frustrated and upset is to jump in and help. However, that can give a child the message that they need someone else to solve their problems. If you stand back and monitor them as they work through their frustrations, you’ll often find that they end up figuring it out. You can also talk it out with them and encourage them to keep trying. We like to say, “you can do hard things!”
6. When they dress themselves or put their shoes on, try not to point out that they don’t match or that their shoes are on the wrong feet. Instead, celebrate the fact that they did it themselves!
Helpful tip for shoes: put stickers or markings on the inside of the shoes so they can visually see which side it goes on.
7. Let them have unstructured play!
In a play-based school like the EEC, the teachers often stand back and let the children explore all the materials and equipment on their own. They need the time to themselves or in groups to explore the world around them and figure out how things work. Again, this goes back to letting them get frustrated if they can’t make something work.
8. Model, Model, Model!
When teaching children things like putting on socks, we scaffold the learning and show them how each step is done. For example, we will model for them how to put the socks on over their toes, and then have them help us pull it over their feet. Once they have that down, we will open the sock and show them how to hold it and put it over their toes. We break the steps down into what’s doable for them and each time offer less and less help. It all starts with having them pay attention to how we do it and really making sure they are watching the steps. Practice makes perfect!
These are just a few suggestions, but there are many more ways to foster independence. Just a simple google search will bring up all kinds of tips and tricks. Reach out to us if you have any specific struggles and we can offer advice or give some ideas of what we do here that is successful. Thank you for reading! Happy Spring!