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Encouraging Children to Be Independent

I'm a stay-at-home mom with a teacher's heart. I'm always looking for new, fun things to do with my kids that are educational & memorable.

Mommy, I Want To Do It!

When my son was a toddler, he used to say, "I do it, Mama. I do it!" He was very insistent and was often frustrated when I wouldn't let him do whatever it is he wanted to do. Most of the time, the thing he wanted to do wasn't age-appropriate or safe, like when he wanted to stir a hot soup I was making or push our grocery cart when he was only two years old. As he and my daughter have gotten older, I'm trying to let them do more on their own to help them feel independent and confident in themselves and in their abilities, which will help them grow into functioning and happy adults in the future.

The other day my daughter, now five, brought me a bottle of nail polish and said she wanted to do her nails. Normally she'd pick a color, and I'd sit and paint her nails, but she was pretty specific about wanting to do it on her own. At first I was hesitant, thinking only about the potential mess and annoying clean-up a bottle of spilled nail polish would create.

Then I decided to let go and allow her to do it on her own. She was totally confident, telling me she would be careful not to spill it. I got her something to put under her nails and had her paint them in the kitchen. That way if the bottle happened to spill, it would be easier to clean it up. I demonstrated on one of my nails the direction to paint and how to get off any excess paint when pulling the handle out of the bottle, and then I let her loose.

She worked quietly and slowly, and she was deep in concentration. She did a great job if I do say so myself! The best part was that at dinner that night, she proudly told her Dad and brother that she painted her nails herself all the while wiggling her fingers in their direction!

Creating that self-confidence in doing something so little was totally worth the potential mess she might have created!

What Age Should Kids Paint Their Own Nails?

Can you tell she also did her own makeup  that day? Not to worry, it was kid makeup and easily washable!

Can you tell she also did her own makeup that day? Not to worry, it was kid makeup and easily washable!

Things To Consider When Allowing Kids to Do Tasks Independently:

  1. Make it age-appropriate and safe
  2. Make the task realistic for them to complete so they have a sense of accomplishment at the end
  3. Make it fun: even if your child is helping with chores, show them that it can be done with joy and that there is joy in the doing as much as the playing afterwards!
  4. Allow them to do things their way and praise their effort, even if the task isn't done as well as you could do it yourself
  5. Be patient: little hands often take much longer than we would

We Have Things To Do: Work Before Play

As you can see in the photo below, my son is helping to wash some windows. Now I will tell you the backstory. My son wanted me to play with him but I told him I had a few jobs that needed to be done first. So, I told him what I needed to do, and that I couldn't play with him until my chores were done first. My husband was washing the car, our daughter riding her bike outside and it was the perfect time to get a few windows washed before our family came to visit. My son said he wanted to help so that I would have more time to play with him afterwards. This was a win-win for me since actually was helpful and also understood the value of getting chores done before relaxing and playing.

My five year old also thought window washing looked fun so I helped her wash one window but by the end we were both wet and it was obvious this was not an ideal task for a five year old. My eight-year-old son did great though! I demonstrated on one window what needed to be done to clean the window, and then he did the rest of the windows in our court yard. He is the appropriate age to help with a task like this since he could follow several steps of directions and because he was physically tall enough to reach the tops of the windows. I think he actually had fun helping!

Age Appropriate Chores For An 8 Year Old


Age-Appropriate Suggestions Kids Can Do On Their Own

  • Order their own meal at a restaurant - my kids love this one, as early as three years old
  • Small chores & basic self grooming - ages 2-3
  • Feed pets and help with walking the dog - ages 4-5
  • Help with cooking, make their own breakfast - ages 6-7
  • Cook dinner, with supervision ages 8-10

According to the Center For Parenting Education, children who regularly do chores are also better able to deal with frustration; delay gratification; have higher self-esteem and are more responsible compared to children who don't help out with chores.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Lisa Bean


Lisa Bean (author) from Virginia on January 18, 2019:

Thank you Claire for both the words of encouragement and including my link in your Monday feature! It's hard to know if what we're doing when they're small is really worth it or if it will benefit them when they're older so I am SO happy to hear about your success stories of your older and productive kiddos! Thanks again and happy Friday!

Claire Saul on January 17, 2019:

I completely agree with teaching kids independence from an early age and like to think we did this with our 3. It is coming to fruition now as our eldest, having graduated last summer, is now running his own IT start up! As mum and dad it feels surreal, a bit scary and that we did something right! So your little one is starting with her nails - love the pic - but this will lead to who knows what! I really enjoyed this great article and I hope you don’t mind but I added your link in my regular feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire x (PainPalsBlog)

Lisa Bean (author) from Virginia on November 28, 2018:

Thanks Victoria!

Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on November 28, 2018:

Absolutely! Great article.

Lisa Bean (author) from Virginia on November 28, 2018:

Thanks Pamela!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 28, 2018:

I also think it is important to teach children to be independent. I think this article explains that view very well.

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