Supporting your child’s independence

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Independence means learning to take responsibility for yourself and your actions.

Much of children’s early learning is about making choices – choosing whether or not to behave appropriately, what to wear, whether or not to take a risk, what snack or lunch to eat, what activities they would like to join in with during the session, whether or not they want to join in a group activity etc.

Independence is also about developing emotional resilience – as children become independent they are more likely to keep trying to do things until they succeed if they have been given choices and allowed to make decisions previously.

By giving children lots of choice in their learning and involving them in decisions about what happens in their lives, they are able find out how they learn and make better choices at school and in the months and years that follow. We promote your child’s independence by providing them with lots of opportunities to do things for themselves.

Books to support independence… we use books children enjoy reading to help them learn more about how to be independent. For example, potty training books and puppets will help children learn that toileting is something to be praised and that, even with the odd accident along the way, they can eventually succeed.

Similarly, the story of the hare and the tortoise reminds children that they should keep trying and they will get there in the end, supporting children who find things a bit hard and encouraging them to try again.

If you would like to borrow books to share at home with your child please ask us.

Activities to support independence… here are just a few of the ways we work together with you and your child to support their developing independence…

  • We allow children plenty of time to do things for themselves – if they want to put their own shoes on and it takes ages, we start them off with the task earlier! Similarly if they want to feed themselves we have child-size cutlery and we don’t mind if food is dropped while they learn. parents will have seen our nose wiping resources – a lidded bin, box of tissues, reminder poster and mirror are provided so children can sort themselves out independently. Where possible, we do not do things for children that they can do for themselves.
  • We listen to babies and children and respond to what they are telling us. For example, when baby turns his head during meal times it means he is full; when a little one says ‘no’ we stop and respect their wishes. By listening we are showing them that we are treating them as their own person.
  • We encourage children to help with activities such as setting the table, making snack, thinking about whether the floor is safe for the baby, choosing new toys etc. This allows them to see that their thoughts are valued and their contributions are important to the group.  We give children appropriate praise so they know that we value their involvement.
  • We let children play by themselves – we do not ‘helicopter’ around them all the time, just in case they fall or make a mistake. We respect their right to play their own games and we tell them ‘I trust you’ – we will practice new skills first and are always close by in case we are needed.
  • We make sure children are aware of and contribute to the rules. It is much easier to remind them that some types of activities and play are unacceptable if they have been involved in setting the boundaries in the first place. As children start to prepare for school we find out what the rules are at school and introduce them in appropriate ways so children know what to expect when they go into the classroom.
  • We support children to make choices – what they want to eat, where they want to play, the type of games they want to be involved in, if they want to opt out etc. In order to develop these skills ready for school children need to be given choices from early in their lives. Similarly, we involve children in planning their environment and activities and when introduce them to a new theme we ask them what kinds of things they want to do.
  • We let children make mistakes – because we know that they learn from mistakes. We speak to parents about how children are treated at home and the decisions they are allowed to make and build on these in the provision.
  • When we take children on an outing, we make sure they know where we are and that they can come back for emotional refuelling, a drink or somewhere to sit quietly and watch. They need to know that the person they rely on is ‘planted’ somewhere so they can go off and play confidently.
  • We teach children about their emotions and how to manage their often strong emotions using music, dance, drama, masks, books etc. We are always happy to share ideas with parents.
  • We give children jobs to do when we are busy around the house – let them make their lunch, write a shopping list, sweep up a mess they have made, mop up water they have spilled, help with pegging out washing or folding clothes. These are all essential life skills for the future.
  • We allow children to play by themselves and to just be, sometimes without adult guidance or encouragement. We are always close by in case the children need us – but we don’t schedule their every minute – sometimes they need to lie on their backs and watch the clouds or sit quietly and do absolutely nothing.
  • We are careful to balance children’s play – yes, the EYFS and Ofsted say that adult led activities are important so that we are showing evidence of teaching children to be ready for school… but they need to cope in the playground as well, where rules are tough and everyone has to learn to get along.

Notes for early years practitioners

By promoting children’s independence and sharing your techniques with children’s parents, you will be helping children to be able to move confidently into a group environment and hold their own in a classroom full of lots of other children.

Why not make a list of ‘I can do…’ things for each child to share with their parents… this will help parents to recognise that you think their child is amazing and will encourage them to let their child be more independent at home.

You can find out more about ‘I can’ observations in e-book 14 ‘EYFS Observations’ from Knutsford Childminding.

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