Now that we have three kids running (and crawling) around, I've noticed how more and more I am starting to give Finn and Lev little jobs to do on their own, stuff that I usually would have taken care of myself. They like the feeling of being a "big kid" and I like the feeling that they can take care of little tasks all by themselves. Making tasks doable and achievable gives them a huge boost of self confidence and helps them learn skills that they can build on throughout the year. There are tons of ways to help promote independence in your little ones, and the start of a new school year is a great time to introduce new routines and new responsibilities.
- A great way to cut down on battles and speed up the process of getting ready is to let your kids pick their own outfits. Sure, you might wind up with some pretty crazy combinations (Levy has been known to wear her old Baby Legs on her arms) but they're still young enough to pull it off AND what better way to foster their own creativity? You can put a tension rod at kid level in the closet so they can choose their own outfits safely. Want to start out slowly? Put Mom pre-approved choices only within kids reach. They'll like that they have choices, you'll like that they won't wear a tutu with a puffer vest every day. Put three or four outfit combinations in a basket that they can pick through themselves, give them some extra time in the morning starting out, and you'll be surprised with how quickly they get on board. We also have coat hooks and a book bag/bike helmet hook area both at child level and also labeled. If (when) something winds up on the floor there's no confusion as to who left it there or where it belongs.
- Create kid friendly organization. This goes hand in hand with the idea of color coding. Organize books by color or height, it gets kids excited about organizing because it creates a little game and you don't need to help them figure out which books go with which.
- PICTURES go a LONG way. I love using Stickygram photos to help label baskets, hooks, shelves, you name it I have Stickygrammed it. I use the Stickygrams as a great visual for rewards too. We have a whole bunch of "reward" photos, pictures of fun things we have done in the past like movie nights, trips to a favorite park, making a cake and more. When the kids get all of their responsibilities done for a week they get to choose a reward picture from our little line up on the fridge.
- Create a little space in a child reachable cabinet for snacks and juice boxes/water bottles they can fill themselves. When they are ready for a snack they go in and pick out what they'd like from the pre-approved stash. Leave some unbreakable plates and cups there too along with some utensils. I like letting the kids use cheese spreaders to spread their own peanut butter or hummus. We're always picking up cute ones that we see out shopping so we have a nice bunch of fun ones for them. These French Bull Melamine Spreaders are Lev's favorites.
- Bath time used to mean a battle for us, the kids didn't want to wash their hair AT ALL and it usually ended up in tears. After much trial and error we discovered that letting them wash their OWN hair using a handheld shower attachment has been the best thing. They control where the water goes and when to close their eyes and as long as the shower curtain is firmly in place there is no mess.
- Finn is even old enough (at almost six) that we let him do his own laundry once in a while, which is a huge treat for him (and me!). He has his own hamper, so all he does is put the detergent pod in, throw the clothes in and he's done! We're working on the folding part...
- Give them a step up to help prepare meals. Supervising, of course, let them help make meals for themselves and the family, it's the easiest way to get them out from underfoot, put them to work!
Overall these little jobs have helped the kids tremendously, especially with Levy, who has had an "I can do it myself!" attitude since about four months. Giving them the little tools to help them do it on their own has made our days go that much more smoothly. Take advantage of that special window when doing little jobs also equals fun for them, and it is the best kind of fun too, the kind that helps them build self esteem and feel good about themselves.