Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Road to Independence

Independence is a word many parents adopt into their vocabulary early on.  From the start we all want to help our children become "more independent".   Independence, however, is not given or earned, it is a quest of the human condition.  Dr. Montessori stated that Independence is psychological and biological.  Therefore, as parents and caregivers to these human beings that are newly entering the world, we must respect that need for independence and allow the child to come to his/her full potential.

We do what we can with what we have (financially and with physical space). We didn't have everything we wanted for our first, we accumulated items along the way, and have a wish list that we ask our family to consider for birthdays and holidays.

Here are some ideas on helping your child become more independent based on things that have worked for us:

* Have all items they will need in a low shelf so that they can help set the table, get their bowls, plates, spoons, cups, on their own.

* Use real plates, glasses, cups with handles, forks, etc that are child size so they can feel a part of the family and learn good manners along they way rather than struggling it with it later.

*Keep a routine (vs. a schedule).  A routine will help a child know what comes next.  Keeping to the same order of things at each meal, cleanup, getting ready for bed, making the bed, getting dressed, etc, will allow them to repeat the same actions over and over thus perfecting that skill.

* Start with small and basic steps.  When helping a newly walking child clean up, give them the spoon or fork to take to the kitchen.  When they have mastered that, they can then take the cup, and once that is mastered, they can add on carrying the plate, and disposing of the remnants in the trash.  (This is a larger topic which I will expand upon in part 2)

* Set up the child's room so that they know where their things are.  Keep all clothes in low shelves so they can pick out their clothes and dress themselves.  Both my children (very strong willed), loved to pick out their clothes and get dressed by  18 months.  It tries my patience frequently at their choices of attire, but in allowing them the freedom to choose and become independent, I must let them make those choices which are also times they can learn a lesson from- like wearing not enough clothing on a cold day.
 I had hoped to make picture labels for each cubby, but within 2 weeks both children by 18 months knew which drawer had what clothes.  At first the entire thing was for my older daughter, now the top is hers and the bottom is for the little on.

*Washing hands and blowing noses.  Early on, as soon as they start eating, carry your child to the sink and wash their hands.  The routine and consistency of washing their hands in water will help them to have control and independence to do it on their own when they start to walk and are able to get to a sink on their own. Think of it as saving the environment from all those wipes.
 I realized my mistake when I took this picture.  For months we've had a small bar of soap, but recently, we put this giant one and the little one had such a difficult time holding this.  The hotel bars are perfect for them. We also prefer bars of soap over liquid.  Less waste.

*Have appropriate size stools or step stools so children can reach up to wash hands, brush teeth, and help out at the counter.  Do not put their dishes up high and have them climb up, instead move the dishes lower so they can hold them while having two feet firmly on the ground.  

These chairs are great for them to be able to get up and down on their own when sitting at the dining table.

*Give children the opportunity to help in the kitchen to prepare food, set the table, and cleanup all areas of the house.  Having child-size brooms, dustpans and such will enable them to be successful.

*One ability must be mastered before being challenged with a new one. Challenges not obstacles was a constant reminder to us when taking the course.  When challenged there is a new skill to be learned.  When an something becomes an obstacle, we tend to give up or feel inadequate. Mastery of a skill will help the child feel confident so that they can readily acquire new skills.  

* We cannot expect children to know what to do just by telling them.  We must demonstrate, even if it means letting go of control, and slowing down to a pace that is comprehensible to them.

*Practice a task yourself putting yourself in  your child's shoes.  This will help you to know how to present the activity to your child.  When carrying a glass, use two hands holding it carefully and walking slowly.  Children will imitate this behavior and you can encourage them to walk slowly so they can be successful by not dropping it.

Most of all, be patient and slow down.  Life is difficult for us as adults, having children adapt to a grownup world is challenging for them, so it's up to us to sometimes change our world to adapt to their needs.

Also check out cooking with kids for ideas in the kitchen and with food prep, and freedom and discipline on the importance of responsibilities which ultimately lead to independence.

Shared on: hiphomeschoolmomssmallfootprintfamily. Sunday Parenting Party, fresh eggs daily, Kids in the Kitchen,  mums make lists,
Living Montessori Now


  1. Love this blog! Where did you get the chairs for the kids? What about the set of drawers?

    1. Thank you! You are too kind. The chairs that they sit at the large table are from STOKKE and the small white table and chairs are IKEA. The drawers from the room? Those are IKEA as well, but I think you get those modular types at Home Depot and Target. Costco had a set for a while. One set of STOKKE chairs are on loan from a friend and the other we got from Craig's list. They are really worth the investment.

  2. What a great post. We aren't so good at the routine in our house. we have a rhythm but with the two of us working party time Goblins week had many variables and some days are more rushed than others. It's not ideal for helping build independence but I guess it's going build resilience. Thanks for sharing at the Sunday parenting party. I will be sharing this on our pinterest board


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