Teaching children to be independent is great for building their confidence and creating a more stress-free home, however, it’s important not to get too ahead of yourself too soon. Although little ones may seem quite capable, there are lots of things they still need a co-pilot for, including these six activities.
1. Brushing their teeth
Just because your child will remember to brush their teeth without any prompts from you doesn’t always mean they’re doing it properly! Dentists don’t recommend that kids brush their teeth by themselves until they’re eight years old, the simple reason being that they’re still learning, and are too young before then to do it properly. Make it an activity you do together to ensure they reach all their teeth, brush for a full two minutes, don’t use too much toothpaste, and actually spit out the paste instead of swallowing it (or just standing there sucking the toothpaste off the brush while staring into the mirror).
2. Walking across the street
A recent study has found that children lack the perceptual judgment and motor skills to safely cross the road until they reach the age of 14. So even though you may be tempted to send your little one around the corner to their friend’s place without you, perhaps you should think again. When crossing the road with your kids always hold their hand and teach them to be patient, look and listen for cars, and only cross when you’re absolutely sure it’s safe.
3. Watching TV
This might seem preposterous to most parents, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids under five years old shouldn’t be watching television or shows online without an adult — and not for more than one hour a day and quality programs only. The researchers say that kids this age still need help to understand what they’re watching and how to apply it to the world around them. This enables them to ask you questions and ensures they don’t stumble across any inappropriate content.
4. Eating meals
While it’s important to let your child feed themselves from an early age, you should still be close by until they’re at least 10 years old. It’s not only a great bonding experience to sit around the dinner table as a family, but young kids may also need help cutting up bits of food, or could benefit from encouragement to ensure they eat a sufficient amount. A little one’s mind easily wanders (and so do their legs!), so if you’re sitting with them at meal times they’re far more likely to eat properly.
5. Going online
You may think it’s okay to give your toddler your phone to play a game or watch a video, but it’s very easy for them to hop on to YouTube, social media, or any type of website and start accessing questionable content, communicating with strangers or even purchasing items. Young children should not be given access to the internet by themselves, and once they reach school age, parents should put security measures in place to ensure their online time is safe, secure and age appropriate.
6. Setting routines and making decisions
If it was up to a four-year-old they would be eating pancakes for every meal, watching endless amounts of TV, and going to bed at 10 o’clock with a bunch of stray neighbourhood cats. While it’s okay to allow your toddlers and preschoolers to make some choices (e.g. grapes or sultanas for morning tea), you will need to make almost all of their decisions for them, as well as establishing and enforcing their routines and habits.
So what can they do?
On the flip side here are a few activities your preschooler CAN do without you:
- Get their own breakfast – As long as they’re not using the stove, oven or sharp knives. it’s perfectly fine to let your little one get their own cereal. They’ll love the responsibility and it might save you some time too, but just remember to keep bowls and spoons easily within their reach.
- Entertain themselves – Children are perfectly capable of making up their own games, doing puzzles, reading or playing quietly. And you don’t have to resort to screens either! Just give it a go and after a while you’ll find they get better at it.
- Tidy up and other chores – They aren’t going to be able to mop or vacuum the floor but they’ll be able to put their toys away, put dirty clothes in the laundry basket, or take their dirty plates to the dishwasher. They will also be able to feed the cat, get the mail from the letterbox and help put recycling in the bin.
- Dress themselves – They might end up wearing a mix-match of swimmers and a pirate costume with the buttons done up wrong, but they will be dressed! Just make sure you keep their clothes in accessible drawers and cupboards.
- Wipe their bum – Of course in the early stages of toilet training you will need to help them wipe their backside, but as long as you show them how to do it themselves, by the time they’re four (or even earlier), they will be able to wipe without you.
What activities do you let your child do by themselves? Tell us on Facebook.