Four Tasks to Nurture Independence

As a mother, it’s my role to love, nurture and educate my children. Part of that duty includes helping my children learn how to take care of themselves, and how to live respectfully with other people.Living respectfully with others, to me, includes taking care of your own things. Here are four tasks my children have done for themselves since they could walk. They might appear to obvious self-care skills, but even the obvious needs to be taught. The earlier a good habit can form, the better. The idea that everything has a place is not new. I’ve learned that teaching everyone in your home where that place is can be challenging, but so worth it in the end.

1) Dirty clothes in the hamper, pajamas on the bed: This is a task both of my kids are still always eager to do. Of course, this means they may be making free throws into the hamper with a dirty pair of socks, but at least they aren’t on the bathroom floor.

Every single night I have them walk their dirty clothes to the hamper. Sometimes it’s before bath, sometimes it’s after, but it’s always before they fall asleep.

In the morning, we assess the pajamas, and if they can be worn again, they go under their pillow.

2) Shoes go by the front door: The location will differ from house-to-house, but having a designated spot for shoes is a must. My son only ever has two pairs of shoes that fit him at a time. If he loses both pairs in the house, we’re in trouble.

3) Coats & outwear go in or near the front closet: In the winter, we have a basket on the floor next to the closet for gloves and hats. The coats can be hung over the door knob, or inside the closet door on hooks, but they need to be in the entryway. The kids know that this is the first thing they do whenever they come in from the outside.

4) Dirty dishes go in the sink: This will vary by age, but even a toddler can walk a dish or a utensil into the kitchen. The idea that they live in a home, not a restaurant, is an important idea to get across. This will lead to other meal preparation and clean up tasks, but it’s a good one.

What are other simple tasks you can empower the young ones in your life to do for themselves?

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14 thoughts on “Four Tasks to Nurture Independence”

  1. Things like setting the table for dinner;  hoovering; and yes, feeding myself when neither parent was home yet (from the age of 9 onwards, which I think would be unusual now, but it was great at the time).

    1. I learned how to boil hot dogs and make mac and cheese from a box at a young age.  I know it’s not high cuisine, but I liked knowing I could make myself food.  I didn’t realize this is not the norm anymore.

  2. One of the great things my mom did to “push us” towards independence is to make us cook at a relatively young age. My mom worked, so often times she would come home late and be exhausted, but also be too broke/too tired to do takeout. At 8 or 9, my mom started teaching me how to use the stove and the oven and a few recipes that were really easy for a kid to make ( pan fried chicken via 9 year old anybody?). Soon more family members started teaching me different recipes, so after school, my friends would come over and I would cook for them since they weren’t allowed to use the stove or were sick of granola bars.

    I still think its one of the greatest things my mom ever did for me and has given me a life long love for cooking – not only did I feel that I was “trusted” enough to do adult things that involved potential house burning down activities, but I became a person who could feed other people, which is powerful-yes, even for an 8 year old.

  3. Lol @ #4. My friend’s older brother has a kid. They started in with the “dirty dishes go in the sink” business from a really early age. When she was getting assessed to see if she was ready for kindergarden or not, a lady was asking her a bunch of questions and one of them was, “What do you do with a cup.” The little girl said, “You put it in the sink!” Brilliant, right?

  4. We’re pretty good about making the toddlers in the family put their toys away. I am almost ashamed to admit this, but when they are refusing to pick up, singing ‘the clean up song’ from Barnie works every single time. Its such a simple trick but it works.

    Mini was responsible for feeding the animals as soon as she was able to. When she was toddler are, it was just giving her the measured amount of food and then letting her dump it in the bowl. When she was old enough/strong enough, she had to get the food herself. My toddler nephew does this when he’s at my house now and loves it. He’s always trying to feed the dogs, even though he won’t go near them.

    My grandmother had a minature broom and dustpan for me that I had to use to help sweep the kitchen, which I thought was great and always did. And I used to help with pie crusts and other baking things that I couldn’t screw up.

    1. In my family we were expected to feed and clean the guinea pigs from a young age.  I plan to do the same for la Monita.  In my classroom the kids actually fight about who gets to feed Pedro and clean his cage.

      We also have multiple mini brooms and dustpans  I don’t know why, but it makes sweeping fun for kids?

  5. First of all: I wish you were my students’ mom. They’re in 2nd and 3rd grade and struggle with independence. Yes, they have disabilities, but no, that doesn’t mean they can’t carry their own lunches.

    Second: Mr Mona needs to learn 1-3. I need to learn 4.

  6. My family is fantastic at training the toddlers to take things away for us. One Christmas an 18 month old cousin picked up all the wrapping paper and put it in the bin. It was amazing. Another time she put all our empty beer bottles in the recycling for us. The only thing we couldn’t get her to do at that stage was open the fridge and get more beers because it was an old fridge with a heavy door.

    Our jobs as kids always included opening and closing curtains and as we got older, basic food prep such as peeling potatoes. We got our own breakfasts from a young age. Mum and Dad definitely pushed the “you’ll never learn younger!” idea with us kids!

  7. We do these most of the time, except for the shoes. I have managed to convince everyone but my daughter that shoes go by the front door. Her sneakers can be in any of a half dozen places in the morning, but she is surprisingly good at keeping track of her ballet slippers. Another one we do is feeding the pets. They eat dry food, so it’s something everyone can do.

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