From pouring his own drink to tying his shoe, doing little things for himself sets your kid on the path toward independence. We look at what kids are capable of at every stage, and how you can help
You’re scrambling to get the kids out the door, but your three-year-old is putting on his shoes at a glacial pace. The temptation to take over is overwhelming. While letting your child do it himself definitely takes more time and patience, it’s some of the most important parenting you’ll do, says Jane Hewes, chair of the Early Learning and Child Care at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton. “When kids learn to do things for themselves, they’re developing a positive self identity, and it makes them feel competent and worthy.” Here’s what kids can learn to do for themselves at every stage from toddler to tween, keeping in mind that some may be ready earlier or later — and what you can do to help your child blossom into a self-sufficient young adult.
The toddler years (1–3)
“I do it!” may become your toddler’s daily mantra and now is the time to start nurturing that independent spirit.
Using the potty Around 24 to 36 months, kids are developmentally ready to be toilet trained, and they’ll show you when they are interested, says Emmett Francoeur, a developmental paediatrician at The Montreal Children’s Hospital. “They might be curious about adults using the toilet and begin to imitate it, or start inspecting the toilet or potty.”
Coaching tips: Once your child shows interest, encourage him to use the potty once or twice a day to start. When he goes, celebrate and offer lots of praise.
Drinking and pouring Toddlers can graduate to cups without lids. At around 18 months, kids can also start pouring their own drinks.
Coaching tips: To minimize cleanup, have your child start with a small pitcher filled with water.
Eating with a spoon From the time your child is sitting up in a high chair, she can start eating with a spoon.
Coaching tips: Let your child have a spoon as soon as she’s able to grab it from you. Holding utensils helps develop the fine motor skills your child will use later to hold a pencil, says Hewes.
Putting on coats and shoes Kids this age are capable of putting on their own coats and shoes — if they’re given time and patience.
Coaching tips: Make it easy for your child to get her outerwear, put it on and put it away, by installing a hook or cubby within her reach, and offer help only if she’s getting frustrated.
Up next: the preschool years >