Children at the age of two start developing a strong drive for independence and determination. They begin to want to do things for themselves. Most of the time this drive does not coincide with their actual abilities to do things in a timely or effective way. For example, children might not have the specific coordination skills required to put on their clothes by themselves. So, quite often, parents or teachers decide to step in to help them. However, this is not the most effective approach. Children need to be offered opportunities to master new skills in order to feel capable of taking on new responsibilities. They need to learn through trial and error.
There are so many everyday tasks that adults consider as being ‘simple.’ For instance, hanging up clothes, matching a pair of socks, emptying water out of a cup into a sink, putting away toys. But such activities involve using a range of physical skills like eye-hand coordination. They also create an excellent foundation for more advanced skills, such as handwriting.
How you can help your child develop independence at home?
Encourage your child to do things for themselves. For instance:
- Dressing and undressing themselves
- Putting on their shoes
- Peeling their fruit like bananas & tangerines
- Pouring their own drink – this will also help them learn about the concept of capacity, by seeing how it works in practice
- Hanging their own coat
- Using a range of tools (including a knife to cut vegetables, or a whisk to mix)
- Helping to prepare their breakfast
- Allowing them to make decisions about what to learn or play with – motivation is key in learning!
- Allowing them time for trial and error. They must be allowed to get a suitable amount of time to “fail” and try again!
Observe your child and assess what they can already do, then build on that by offering them further challenges, so for example if they can put their coat on then maybe they can have a go at doing their buttons. Sometimes you have to role model these skills to your child as most children of this age group learn by concrete examples and through demonstrating.
You can help your child by giving them only a few, simple choices, as this gives them certain parameters within which they can make a better selection (avoiding what is known elsewhere as “choice overload”).
Lastly, remember to respect your children’s choices even if you feel they are strange! You want them to avoid learning that their choices are unimportant, dismissed, or invalid. It is essential that they have an opportunity to make decisions about their own learning as this will support them in becoming confident and independent learners.