Self-care milestones are essential to learning in early childhood. It develops a sense of independence crucial for their growth. For this reason, parents need to instil self-independence even among toddlers and preschool-age children.
Children need to discover how to wash their hands, dress themselves, and use utensils independently as they get older. They must be taught and practised the basic chores that adults sometimes take for granted.
Although every kid develops at their own pace, children should generally be able to perform most self-care milestones by age five. If they aren’t, there may be a cause for concern.
One primary reason is that parents nowadays are quick to jump in when they see their children getting frustrated with tasks. As parents or guardians, your role is to encourage and teach your children to complete the tasks (not perfect them). Children must learn to rely on themselves to find solutions to problems.
Here are seven simple tips that encourage children to reach self-care or self-help milestones:
1. Model Good Habits
Parents need to set good behaviour for their children, as they mainly learn and develop their own through observation. It’s not about what you tell them but what you show them that counts.
For instance, if parents always have clean hands, put their dishes in the sink, and hang up their towels, there’s a good chance that their children will continue these habits.
2. Offer Positive Reinforcement
Praise your kids when they do things correctly. It would help if you were specific too. Just saying “good job” is not enough. For example, you can say, “good job for cleaning up your toys.”
Give rewards when they finish tasks you assign to them to reinforce good behaviour and help them figure how to work things out.
3. Be Patient
Don’t give up on getting your kids to follow good habits. Make sure to be encouraging despite their inability to complete tasks. They need to know your love for them is not based only on their good works. Be patient in teaching them again and again until they get it right.
4. Be Consistent
You can’t expect your kids to learn anything if you don’t stick to a routine. Routines are great in early childhood development because they instil discipline and responsibility.
They know what to expect, and the boundaries you set give them more confidence as they work out tasks they need to learn independently.
5. Give Age-Appropriate Tasks
Make sure that you are giving age-appropriate tasks to your children. The tasks need to be attainable, so they develop confidence in doing them independently.
If something is so difficult for them to complete, this may cause them to feel inapt, causing them to shy away from other tasks you may give.
Moreover, don’t force your children to do too many things at once, or they might become frustrated and give up.
6. Have Your Child Set A Time Limit
Predetermine a time limit for a specific task. When your children have completed the task, tell them that they can stop. Having a time limit will help your children learn how to self-motivate.
7. Give Lots of Opportunities
When you’re teaching your children, give them many opportunities to learn. Make tasks part of their normal routine as well. Every time you can allow them to help out, do so. For example, they can be in charge of putting their plate in the sink when they are done.
You can also put a child-size pitcher beside them at the table to refill their glass—little things like this continue to help them reach self-care milestones with ease.
As mentioned, every kid has their own level of independence. Some children are very good at getting things done independently, and others need a little prompting.
As a parent, don’t force your kids to do things before they’re ready. Let them set their challenges, but be prepared to help when they need it.
However, developmental delays may be caused by either physical, cognitive, or similar developmental challenges. In this case, your developmental pediatrician can give you guidelines on the milestones you need to watch for in your children.
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