Independence is a very important skill for children to develop. An independent child has greater self-esteem, confidence, motivation, and a sense of belonging. Preschoolers are naturally interested in developing their independence, and there are many ways you can help them do so while keeping them safe.
Here are some ways to give your preschooler more independence.
Continue to demonstrate respect to your child
Your preschooler wants to try new things and express their thoughts and feelings. Letting them know that you respect these initiatives will give them the confidence to continue, and show them that being more independent isn’t scary or bad. For example, ask them to pick out their outfit for the day – even if they choose mismatched socks or a superhero cape. Ask them if they want help with a task instead of automatically doing it for them. Showing them that their thoughts and actions do have merit, even if you disagree, will give them confidence.
Allow your child to be bored
Many families are busy, with appointments, errands, classes, and games. This structure is important to a preschooler’s life. However, it’s also important to create spaces in your daily schedule where children have the opportunity to entertain themselves. Children are naturally creative, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what they choose to do with their time when they’re left to their own devices.
Start slowly if necessary
It can be difficult for parents to reduce or stop a parenting behavior they have been used to. If you want to help your child become more independent, it may be easier for both of you to start slowly. It might not be realistic for your family for your preschooler to load the dishwasher, but they can help set the table using items you give to them. Another small step you can take towards preschooler independence is sitting at the playground and watching them as they play, rather than following them. When taking these steps to independence, continually reassess whether your child can be doing certain things on their own. As your child builds skills, they may be able to do more things independently.
Provide a safe space for experimentation
All parents have the urge to protect their children and prevent them from harm and injury. However, part of independence is failing and then trying again. Look for ways you can help your child explore and experiment that is also reasonably safe. For example, supervise your child on the playground to ensure they’re staying within safe limits, but let them climb and swing if they’re physically able to. Or praise them for their effort in tying their shoes, and ask them if they want to try again. Allowing your child to experiment within safe parameters gives them the security they need while teaching them valuable skills.
Independence and self-reliance are critical skills that will stay with your child for the rest of their life. There are many ways you can help your preschooler build their independence for greater confidence, self-esteem, motivation, and a sense of belonging.