Independence is something all children need to learn, and the best way to help them develop this vital skill is to encourage exploration and other healthy risk-taking, says Shona O’Neill of Little Bear’s Nursery
Independence is a key component of your child’s early development and essential for developing other key life skills, such as social skills, self-reliance and perseverance, which, in turn, enhances self-esteem and feelings of belonging. So, how can parents help support their child’s independence?
Offering informed choices
The secret to offering informed choices is to choose the right battle. Start with allowing your child to choose what to wear. Assist the choice by stating what the options are and why they would be a good choice, such as wellies in wet weather as they are waterproof.
Providing flexibility within structure
Predictability and consistency help children feel safe; however, rigidity can be counterproductive. Providing opportunities for your child to choose activities where practicable builds up a spirit of co-operation and creates an atmosphere that values other views and opinions.
Encourage healthy risk
Children’s safety is paramount; however, we must balance the desire to keep our children safe without squashing their desire to develop essential skills, like using scissors or other tools. There is a difference between a ‘hazard’ and a ‘risk’. A hazard is something unpredictable and unmanageable that can and likely will hurt your child, such as traffic or poisonous substances. A healthy risk is something that might make you cringe a little but supports your child’s growth and development. Examples might include riding bikes or scooters after you’ve talked with your child about safety rules and highlighted the potential dangers. In a healthy risk, you’ve done your part to ensure your child’s safety and your child knows how to moderate potential dangers.
When children are little, it’s appropriate to offer plenty of support; however, we must allow children to make mistakes because they learn the most from those trial-and-error moments. We should be mindful not to squash our children’s desire to explore and learn without the fear of scrutiny.
Set up an environment for success
How your home is organised can make a big difference to your child’s independence. Organise your home so your child knows where everything goes. For instance, shoes and coats go in the cloakroom and toys go in marked bins in the playroom or bedroom. In the kitchen, keep plastic dishware at child height and teach your child how to get a simple snack or cup of water.
Little Bear’s Nursery is located at 14 Seagry Road, Wanstead, E11 2NG. A free registration offer is available until 15 May. For more information, call 020 8530 7541 or visit littlebearsnursery.co.uk