“The child seeks independence by means of work; an independence of body and mind.”

Dr Maria Montessori

Wouldn’t it be great if your child could do more for themselves so they didn’t need you to do everything for them, helping them to be a more independent child and freeing up more of your time?

But how do you get to that stage?

Here’s the thing, you need to invest some time at the start so that you can reap the rewards in the long run and this is where a lot of people give up.

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A classic example…

You are aiming to leave the house at a certain time and all is going well until your toddler decides that they want to put on their shoes by themselves… we all know how this is going to end. Mom is rushing to get out, doesn’t have time to wait 10 minutes as the child attempts to put their shoes on.

The child kicks off because they want to do, they want to learn to do it but mom is in a rush and it’s ‘just quicker’ if she does it.

The child learns that there is no point in trying to do it themselves because mom always swoops in and takes over, might as well let mom do it for me.

A few months later mom decides the child is old enough to put their own shoes on but suddenly the child “can’t” do it (why bother!)

And so the independent child that could have been is now labelled the needy child who needs to grow up.

I totally get it, we live in a fast-paced world and we rarely slow down but sometimes we need to slow down so that the kids can keep up.

With the above example there are two problems:

  • The child isn’t efficient at putting on their shoes, they need more practice.
  • The mom isn’t factoring in the time the child needs to get their shoes on.

Breaking things down in the kaizen sized baby-steps…

  • Set up a way for the child to practice putting on their shoes, so it’s not just when you leave the house. Dressing frames like these Montessori style ones are a great way to help the child practice with different fastenings. Dressing their dolls or soft toys also works.
  • Mom needs to add extra time when it comes to leaving the house. This means planning ahead a bit better, that’s all it takes, it’s not rocket science!

The following are three things we did when my son was a toddler/pre-schooler which made a huge difference to him becoming an independent child. And now he is a teen I can say they totally worked. it is 100% worth investing the time when they are little.

The Easy Way For A Toddler To Put On A Coat

Way back when, this was shared in a yahoo group forum, remember those? No, OK, I’m old. I digress… This trick is brilliant and I have taught it to every kid in our family since.

The problem with toddlers is their proportions because they haven’t grown to the correct proportions yet, something like putting their arm in the coat sleeves is extremely difficult. It’s like trying to put your coat on when you are really drunk!

This way, the short arms isn’t an issue!

  1. Put the coat on the floor, open with the sleeve spread out.
  2. Stand at the hood/neck of the coat.
  3. bend down and slide the hands into the coat sleeves.
  4. Stand up and flip it over their head. This step takes a bit of practice. But the smile on the kids face once they have mastered this is worth it EVERY SINGLE TIME.

toddler putting on their coat in 4 easy steps to raise an independent child

If you are outside, say you have been playing in the park and the ground is wet or muddy so you don’t want to put the coat down. You can try putting the coat on a bench, just help them not to bang their head in the process. The other way we did it was for me to hold the coat at the bottom (upside down) but quite high. He would slip his arms in and I’d help flip it over his head and sneak in a quick cuddle as I pulled it down over his back.

Learning To Tie A Bow (or shoelaces)

I have my sons kindergarten to thank for this little trick.

His first year at kindy he had a regular drawstring bento box. Here in Japan everything is regulated so the bags have to be a specific size and style.

The second-year we get a letter home to say he needs a new bento bag. At first, I was annoyed because who has time to be making new bento bags when the one he has worked – YKWIM!

But then I realised why they needed it and I was in awe at the genius idea. In Japan, most kids shoes are easy to put on/take off, they are either slip on or velcro. I assume it’s because we are in earthquake country and we don’t wear shoes inside so it has to be easy to put shoes on.

So, this means that kids don’t get to learn how to fasten their laces like I did, on my shoes as a kid! To navigate this the bento bag has a tie string and each day the kids get to practice fastening it. I think the sensei must have checked that they had tied it because it always came home tied.

I love this idea for 2 reasons

  1. It solved the problem of teaching a skill in a different way.
  2. It was set up for success as the kids got to practice at least 5 times a week. Every day they had their bento and at least once a day.

So you don’t have to use method this just for learning to tie laces, you can do this with anything. Just think about the skill they need to learn and then how you can build that into their daily routine.

help raise an independent child by using a bento box with laces to show a child how to tie their shoe laces

PS if you like this fabric, perfect for knight crazy kids… you can find it in my spoonflower shop here.

Setting Up Your Home For An Independent Child

I have worked with hundreds of moms over the years and one thing that comes up often is that other than the colour of the nursey and basic furniature for the kids, the home really isn’t set up to help the kids be successful.

What do I mean by that?

Having things at child height or at the very least having a step so that the child can reach. From getting onto the toilet by themselves to using thing sink to wash their hands and more. We have a step stool similar to this and still use it (well I use it because I’m a short-arse!)

Having tools that are child sized, brush and pan, mop, cleaning sponges, kitchen tools…

By providing the right tools for the job it make it much easier for the child to do the job. Have you ever tried sweeping up with an over-sized broom? it’s hard!

small boy cleaning a table showing how to raise an independent child

We go through all this and much more in The Wonder Mom Success Club. I believe that setting your kids up for success does, in the long run free up more time for you. And it helps them to be strong, independent kids which is what we want.

The other thing that we need to teach them is the work cycle. I go into this in more depth here. Basically, it is having the kids clean up after themselves, no matter what it is they are doing. From artwork to Lego to baking cookies to eating dinner. Instil the work cycle into them and this will all become so much easier.

And it stays with them. I have a teenage boy I rarely have to nag because he does all this automatically now. #winning!

To wrap up…

  1. Remember that kids need time to learn and practice new skills. It is part of their development so if we deny them the time, they will just give up. Why bother if someone will do it for them?
  2. When you notice a skill they need to practice, think outside the box. How can you help them to practice more often, so that they can master the skill quicker? (if you get stuck with this, hit me up in Moms That Rock)
  3. Remember that this is an investment, put the time in now so you can reap the benefits later. Get them helping around the home now so it becomes second nature.

What kind of job around the home is suitable for your child?

I’m not keen on the age restrictions usually set out, I feel their ability and their personality is important too. Use this cheat sheet to find the right jobs for your kids – so you are setting them up for success and making more free time for you! Win-Win!

pages from the guide for jobs around the home to raise an independent child