Nurturing Children to do things for themselves

The Summer Play Series: Nurturing Children to do things for themselves

If you want your child to do things for themselves, they need to learn what can be a complex set of skills. For that to happen, they need to be interested in the task for as long as this process might take. And to capture this interest, children need to feel like a task has a point. This is as true for learning to walk as it is learning to read.

How is this going to benefit me?

How much impact can I have on it?

Is it worth my efforts?

Your child is developing complex cognitive, reasoning and thinking skills through everything that they do. Their experiences of pleasurable self-motivated discovery and independent achievements are encouraging this process. And where the barriers they meet have led to new discoveries, rather than seeing this as a reason to give up.

Exploring Objects

Children’s toys tend to be stimulating to the senses for a reason but avoid those that limit the way they can be played with. Instead, gather a range of interesting, stimulating and novel things together to motivate your child’s interest. These can come from family and friends or purchased inexpensively from charity shops. Even your local hardware shop can offer limitless possibilities. Then, let your child explore the objects and their uses in their own way. As they discover things for themselves, let them show you what they can do.

Catch the Crocodile

Encourage motivation in an activity by widening the possibilities of it. Play “Find the Fox” or “Catch the Crocodile” (any soft toy will do) and hide them anywhere in your environment. When they are very young, use noise to help them locate the missing friend, a crinkly ear or a rattle inside its foot. As they get older, use clues as they explore such as “warmer” and “colder” to guide them. Or flashlights to add an extra level of interest as you encourage their ability to move around the environment.

To every task that must be done…

Children love to feel a sense of their own independence. You will know this if you have a toddler in the “Me do it!” phase! Encourage this motivation to explore and understand by nurturing their independent inclinations. Where you can, put labels on the draws and cupboards where their bits and pieces belong. Use photographs and words from a young age so they begin to associate letters with meaning, then encourage them to find the specific places where their toys, clothes, dishes, and household items go. You can turn it into a game by “forgetting” yourself where things may go, or intentionally getting things wrong as they take great joy fixing your “mistakes”. And rather than see tidy up time as a task that must be done, find the element of fun.

Posting Possibilities

Children love to play at doing things they see you doing. Use this desire for them to do things independently and enjoy a more realistic version of the many posting games you may come across. Use an old cardboard box to make your own post-box. A shoe box with a slit across the top will do or you can get really creative. Use your junk mail for your younger child to have fun posting and retrieving. Or to practice their fine-motor skills as they open the envelopes. As they get older, talk

about the pictures, colours or letters they can see and what this might tell them about who it is from. You can then extend this game with penny stamps and envelopes as you give them freedoms to think, to engage and have a go for themselves.

This article is taken from our course: What Every Parent Should Know

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.


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