Helping Kids Be More Independent

by Julie on July 19, 2011

One of the refrains we hear from parents is, “How can we help our child be more independent?” Given that so many of our boys and girls struggle to communicate or participate in activities of daily living without assistance, they are often more dependent on their families and caregivers than other kids. They rely on us to translate their words, make their beds and tie their shoelaces.

In order to make small changes that will faciliate your child’s independence, get down on his or her level and inspect your house. I’m serious. Take a look at the world within your home from your child’s perspective. Is the bed situated against the wall to prevent her from falling out? That’s great, but does that then make it difficult to make in the morning? Or are items the child often needs out of reach or disorganzed? I can relate to that.

These were trouble spots for my family and here are the solutions we employed.

  •  wet bath towels left on the floor – ick! When I realized that my kids couldn’t reach the towel bars to rehang their towels, we put up adhesive hooks at their height on the back of the bathroom door. There’s no towel folding involved and they can reach. It may take a gentle reminder, but at least now they are able to get those wet things off the floor.
  • back packs in the hall, kitchen, dining room – you get the idea. The kids can now reach the repurposed nursery peg board that hangs in the hall outside their bedrooms at their level. Other friends have purchased baskets or bins personalized for each child and placed by the front door. When homework is done, your student can put that backpack away. And then it’s easy to find in the morning. I love stress-free mornings.
  • art supplies – does creativity have to be this messy? I used to tolerate chaos in this corner of my kitchen. Now we’ve tamed the chaos with a recycled bottled drink box and a few Mason jars. If your kids are still little, you’ll want to select plastic cups to keep supplies separated.
  • little nick nacks will make me crazy  – where do they all go? You can organize toys in many ways, spending a little or a lot. Consider sorting toys into categories, placing each category in a bin, and labeling the bin with the name and/or a picture of what goes inside. When kids are playing set limits, allowing one or two bins out at a time. Because toys start off organized, kids are empowered to keep their things tidier and clean up independently.

Accomplishing new skills independently gives children a sense of pride in their work and their growing abilities. We can facilitate their independence with some simple adaptations at home.

Do you have suggestions for facilitating independence? We’d love to hear about it so we can share them with our community.

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