For those of you who have already read part one and part two of our school readiness series you would know that I am a Prep teacher and very keen to help children be the best that they can be. This truly starts in the home where parents are the child’s first teacher.
Image - independent eating skills take time...
The idea of independence is a bit of a catch cry for me! The parents in the class I teach will often hear me say, “your child can unpack their own bag, they pack it themselves in the afternoon”. The ability to be an independent learner is not as simple as unpacking and packing their own bag but it is a start, and an important one!
I mentioned in School Readiness – Part One that there is a quote that says, ‘don’t do for your child what they can do for themselves’. Take a step back and allow your children to have a go.
There are day to day activities that you no doubt do for your child that they could indeed do for themselves, if only given the chance and the time. Choosing clothes, socks and shoes on their own helps to encourage independence, decision making and a sense of control. If you’re like me and would really like the colours coordinated and put nicely together you will find this a challenging task, especially when he wants to wear black pants and a blue top!
Getting dressed and undressed requires an ability to control hand-eye movements along with fine motor strength and skills. Our Master H who has just turned three is starting to dress and undress himself and boy does it take patience on my behalf… But I am learning to encourage him, be there as a support and offer help when needed.
Developing the foundations needed for some of these independent skills comes with time and practise. We at Happy Explorers have tried to include as many hand-eye coordination and fine motor based activities in our boxes as we can. It's our little way of helping out!
Alongside assisting your child to be independent is the idea of having a go at things they may not have tried before. The willingness to have a go and face a challenge is a key part of learning. With trying something new comes new found success, but also comes failure. There are ways to support your child as they work through these challenges and help them develop a language of growth mindset.
Briefly, growth mindset is the idea that you can in fact improve and achieve. You can problem solve and work through issues. Try varied strategies and use a number of resources to complete a task. When needed you ask for help, coaching or support. It is about having a go and not giving up. Trying again and looking for assistance when needed.
Helping your child develop self-talk such as ‘I will try again’, ‘I can have another go’, ‘It’s ok, I just need help’ and ‘I won’t give up’ assists them to take on a challenge, have a go and become independent.
Think of your day to day routines with your child and the amount of times you pass them something, make them something or do something for them.
Write a list of all the little things –
- Getting out their clothes and shoes
- Packing their bag
- Making breakfast
- Brushing teeth
- Helping them get into the car
- Helping them get out of the car etc…
Now break those down and think about what your child could be doing independently. Can they get their own bowl and spoon for breakfast? Put their dishes in the sink afterwards? Get their own toothbrush and toothpaste?
Image - putting on your own socks is hard work!
Play too can promote independence and having a go at a task. Letting your child build a tower out of blocks and seeing how high it can go. Then as it crashes down promoting self-talk for growth mindset of ‘try again’ and ‘have another go’.
When exploring the park and playground children often want to climb or try new equipment. If they say I can’t do it you can encourage them with growth mindset talk such as ‘give it a go’, offer strategies to support them, where should they put their feet, their hands etc. Be their coach on the side, allowing them to try but offering ideas to assist.
Other independent skills to assist your child with –
- Feed themselves
- Placing rubbish in the bin
- Putting toys away
- Carrying their own bag
- Opening and closing containers and drink bottles
So... Let go! Just a little...
Allow your child to have a go at new things, support and encourage them and be there when needed.