Encouraging Independence In Young Children

It’s not easy teaching little ones to become more independent, but it is really worth putting in time and effort to help children develop this key skill.

A child who is self-sufficient is likely to have a healthier self-esteem and in a better position to navigate the challenges that life will inevitably throw at them.  They’ll learn to trust themselves, take responsibility for their actions and not be reliant on others, but for some young children (and for some parents), learning to let go and do things for themselves is a challenge.

If your child is starting to show signs of wanting to be more independent, if you want to help your child build self-confidence before starting early school or if you’re looking for ways to encourage their self-sufficiency, you’ll find the following tips helpful. 

Nurturing independence in your young child

Nurturing independence is far easier in safe, supportive spaces which are set up properly. 

Elements like having a low hook for a young child to hang a coat onto, providing easy access to toy and shoe boxes, placing books on low shelves, keeping non-breakable cups and plates in a reachable area, having a stool so they can reach the sink to wash their hands etc will increase the chances of them doing things for themselves.

Encourage age-appropriate risks

When children don’t do things for themselves and therefore don’t get an understanding of what it means to persevere until they succeed or find a solution, they can develop a fear of failure.  By encouraging a young child to take age-appropriate risks (like walking along a low log without an adult’s helping hand or climbing the monkey bars), you help them learn from their mistakes, build resilience, confidence and independence.

Encourage self-dressing

Allowing a young child to choose their clothes and self-dress can be as much an exercise in parental patience as it is in encouraging independence, but the rewards are significant. Fine and gross motor skills are honed and the child will feel a sense of accomplishment and will feel empowered.

Provide opportunities for self-help activities

Brushing teeth, helping in the kitchen, putting dirty clothes in the wash basket, turning off a tap, filling up a pet’s water bowl, turning the knob on the washing machine are all examples of ways you can help a child learn to DIY.  Mastering these will take practice and there will be slip-ups and frustrations along the way - so remember to always focus on positive reinforcement and encourage them to try and try again. 

Resist the urge to step in

It can feel counter-intuitive to stand back and watch a child struggle because it goes against your natural instinct as a parent, but there is real merit in allowing them the time and space to keep trying.  This will help them develop important problem-solving skills, help improve their self-esteem and cope with adversity.  And remember, you’re not aiming for perfection! 

Kitchen assistance

It’s helpful to encourage your young child to help in the kitchen with meal preparation, tidying up, getting a cup of water etc.  They will learn that their contribution is important and valued and they’ll like (and want) the feeling of achievement and purpose that it brings.


Learning to self-feed is a gradual process.  Yes, it will be messy and time-consuming, but young children really benefit from having a sense of control and the earlier you start, the better. 

Some key takeaways about young children and independence

If we’re always rushing in to correct our child’s actions and sort things out so they’re done the ‘right’ way, we run the risk of teaching them to be helpless rather than self-sufficient and independent.  Our role is to set strong foundations for children to thrive and to provide for them, but equally, our job is to empower children to provide for themselves. 

That brings us to the question of why high quality childcare matters for children’s development and how your choice of early education provider can have a material impact on your child’s ability to become self-sufficient.

Our spaces at Evoke Early Learning are carefully designed to develop independence as the children create their own play and direct their own explorations.  We’re inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early education which ‘future proofs’ young children, equips them with the necessary knowledge, skills, dispositions, attitudes, languages and self-agency for transitioning to big school and for active participation in all areas of life. If you’re considering quality childcare in Clayton or early learning in Albert Park, you’re welcome to book a tour or have a chat to our team about enrolling your child.

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