It was time to line up and I heard sobs coming from the end of the line. Our line leader was at the back of the line, crying so hard he could barely breathe. Instead of walking to the front and asking for his spot, he stayed in the back, unable to solve his problem. He was so upset by this, he could hardly walk down the hallway. It took him 15 minutes to calm down.
Encountering problems is a reality of life. Your child’s success in kindergarten is greatly impacted by their self-help skills and problem-solving abilities. Are they able to think through problems and come up with one, two, or three different ways to solve them, or do they burst out in tears expecting someone to come along and fix it?
Kindergarten is stressful enough without the added pressure of being unable to solve your own simple problems.
Why are self-help skills important?
Self-help skills are essential to your child’s growth and development. When they are independent, their skills boost their confidence and self-esteem. They develop a sense of responsibility and independence when they are able to take care of themselves and solve problems. Their ability to navigate even these simple tasks can affect their long-term happiness.
Self Help Skills to Practice for Toddlers
You will often hear “I do it!” with a toddler. They can be so independent, or they strive to be anyway. Toddlers are so excited to start practicing some of these self-help skills, and they will need some help along the way.
- Brushing Teeth
- Combing Hair
- Feeding themselves
- Putting toys away
- Clearing plate from table
- Carrying their own things
- Walking themselves places
- Dresses and undresses self
- Put shoes on/take them off
- Hang up coat (on a hook they can reach)
- Start experimenting with a fork and spoon
Are you tired of hearing “It’s TOO HARD!” followed by a meltdown?
Using this one simple phrase you’ll get in this powerful lesson, you’ll not only be able to help your kiddo not give up but you’ll:
>Activate their superpower of perseverance so that they can turn around a meltdown and keep trying
>Inspire them to use perseverance…even when it’s hard
>Teach them to recognize the warning signs of giving up, and how to turn it around by taking control of their choices.
Grab your powerful FREE video lesson to teach your kiddo one of the most powerful keys to perseverance.
Self Help Skills to Practice for Preschoolers
Preschoolers are at a wonderful age when they know they can do some things on their own, and they love to let you know it. Preschoolers can also be easily frustrated when things don’t go their way the first time. Remember when your preschooler is learning a new skill to give them time and space to work through big feelings, and offer encouragement to persevere and problem-solve!
- Make bed
- Put clothes away
- Take care of dirty clothes
- Practice using snaps, zippers, and buttons
- Clean up spills/messes
- Wash and dry hands
- Bathroom skills
- Washing their hair and body
- Covering their mouth/nose when they sneeze or cough
- Getting their own drinks
- Cleaning their own dishes
- Able to open all lunch containters if eating lunch at preschool
- Simple chores around the house: Unloading the silverware from the dishwasher, collecting trash, folding washclothes and towels
- Look both ways before you cross the street
- Learn address and phone number
- Get a snack from the pantry
- Explore cooking (with help): Making own peanut butter and jelly, cracking eggs, simple recipes
- Recognizing a problem and coming up with several different ways to solve it
The Biggest Thing You Can do to Help Your Child
Your child encounters many problems every day. Start mentioning “problem-solving” as you talk with your child. Learning how to think through solving problems now will make them not as overwhelming later on.
- Don’t immediately solve problems for your child. Give them time and space to try to solve it on their own. If you need to step in, don’t immediately solve the problem. Give your child a couple of things to think through that may help them solve their problem.
- Make your child ask for help. You are the expert on your child, and have been solving their problems since you brought them home. Often times as they grow, we forget our expectations should grow as well. (My son was a late crawler because I forgot to grow my expectations. I was so used to carrying him everywhere I never sat him down and gave him the opportunity to figure out how to crawl.) We see a problem and want to solve it right away, but it’s important to give your child time and space to realize they have a problem, and find a respectful way to ask for help.
- If you are with your child while they are brushing their teeth and there is no toothpaste left, don’t immediately give them more toothpaste. Make them ask you a question in a respectful way. Don’t just allow them to stand and stare at you expecting you to solve their problem. They should ask “Can you get me more toothpaste, please?”
- In my classroom, kids come up to me with a paper in their hand and just stare at me, expecting me to know what they are thinking. Most of the time I know what they need, but I still make them ask me the question. I can’t just go up to my boss and stare at him, expecting him to solve my problem. I must ask him a question or explain what I need. Expecting the same from your kids early on will help them as they grow.
- Expect your child to answer your questions with words. Shrugging your shoulders or making noises aren’t sufficient answers to questions. Set the expectation of answering questions with words.
Give Them A Chance to Use Their Self-Help Skills
We encounter situations on a daily basis we can use to teach problem-solving and independence with a little intentional conversation.
- When your child uses problem-solving, draw attention to it. “Wow! You couldn’t reach your toy, but you went to get a stool instead of giving up. What good problem-solving.” They will feel proud when you call attention to what specifically they did to solve their problem.
- When reading stories and characters encounter problems, pause your reading and ask your child how the character can solve their problems. For older children, have them give two or three solutions to the character’s problems. (We don’t always solve our problems on the first try. Sometimes we need a plan B, C….or Z….)
- As your child gets older, create problems in everyday life that they will have to solve. Give your child a task to do and move the items they will need to complete the task. If your child needs to set the table and all of the forks aren’t in the drawer, where could the forks be? In the dishwasher? In the sink needing to be washed? How are you going to problem solve?
- Talk about the problems you have and how you solved them. Children are curious about what mom and dad do at work. Telling your child about your day outside of what they see models for them how to talk about their day (this will come in handy when you are asking them about their day in kindergarten.) Most importantly you have an amazing opportunity to lead by example and call attention to important character traits such as problem-solving.
- Let kids be frustrated. As a teacher of a class made up of 23 5-year olds, I am not hovering over each one immediately available to offer them ways to solve their problems. They will have to learn to deal with frustration, stay calm and think through how to problem solve. It is important to allow children to be frustrated at home while in their safe space with an adult they trust. This is a great way to prepare them for the frustrations they will encounter during at school.
Helping Your Child Process Worry…
At school, there are parents who email me and say “My child was worried because he left his lunchbox at school yesterday so I told him I would email you and ask you to send it home.”
Instead of immediately solving your child’s problem, walk through how your child can problem-solve with them, and allow them to do it. Allow your child to come up with their own solution.
If they need help thinking about how to solve the problem, ask them questions like “Who at school could help? What should you say to ask for help? “
If your child has a problem that absolutely needs to be taken care of that day, and you aren’t sure that your child will ask for help, always let the teacher know. Teachers appreciate a heads up on things that need to be handled.
Don’t tell your child you will talk to the teacher. Put your child in charge of solving their problem, even if you feel the need to give their teacher a heads up.
How to Encourage Self-Help Skills
When your child is learning anything new, mistakes will happen. Milk will be spilled, buttons will be buttoned wrong, and messes will be made. Remember to focus on the process, not the outcome. Praise and encourage their new personal responsibility and the effort being made, instead of scolding mistakes.
When your child is confident that mistakes are allowed and accepted, they will be more willing to try new things.
When you encourage your child to do things for themselves, it will boost their independence, give them the skills necessary to thrive in kindergarten, and give them confidence that will benefit them throughout their entire lives.
If you liked this, you’ll love:
How do you work on self-help skills?