Self-Sufficient Little Ones


My granddaughter Rebekah (4)

“I want to do it myself!”

Sound familiar?

Starting at about one-and-a-half years old, children yearn to be capable and strongly resist any attempts to do things for them. You can launch your little child into feelings of healthy self-sufficiency and capability by making life a little easier to manage for them.

Look Who’s Feeding Baby

Begin with your baby that wants to feed himself. Instead of spooning the food in his mouth and fighting him for control, try something we stumbled onto years ago. Scoop the food into a clean plastic jar lid (mayonnaise size is good). Mashed potatoes, yams, applesauce, oatmeal and other thick foods work best. Give the lid to the baby in a highchair and he’ll pick it up and eat/suck/lick it out of the lid himself, quitting when he has had enough. You can offer him a few lids, with different foods in each, and finish up the job with a spoon if needed. Baby learns quickly to feed himself right along with the family.

selfreliancedshoesNo More Backwards

Toddlers want to dress themselves, but it can be a frustrating experience as they always seem to get things backwards and inside out. You can help little ones have success in dressing themselves by marking on the back of their clothing. A black dot made by a permanent marker on the inside back of their underwear, pants, dresses, skirts, etc. will make it easy to spot which direction to go. I mark the back because that is where most clothes have tags and they can eventually learn that the tag goes in the back.

On clothes that come in pairs, such as shoes, gloves, and slippers; you can write the first few letters of their first name on the left shoe and the remaining letters on the right shoe. Most little ones recognize their name and can line up their shoes right. You can also teach them that the buckles go on the outside so they never touch each other when they put their shoes together. Lining their shoes up before they put them on means less tears and fewer times with backward shoes. (We live in troubled times, and making a child’s name available to strangers out in public may not be a good idea. But you can still write their name in small letters that aren’t visible unless close up.)

Put in a few low hooks in your child’s closet, or where you hang your coats, so your little children can hang up their own jacket. It only takes 5 minutes to install the hooks and saves 500 minutes of picking their coats up off the floor because they can’t reach.

Easy Laundry

selfreliancedresserI sort laundry into bins with the children’s names on them, and then they come every morning during our chore time before breakfast and get their bins. I don’t fold the clothing. They are expected to do that when they put it in their drawers. Too many times I have watched mothers neatly fold stacks of clothing just to have the children crumble and stuff them in their drawers.

With toddlers and children up to age 8, I label the drawers with a picture so they know what goes where. Little children are fully capable of putting away their own clean laundry neatly and returning their bin to the laundry room. When they are little, it doesn’t matter so much if they are do a good job of folding their clothes as t-shirts and pajamas don’t wrinkle much anyway. As long as they are in the right drawers, life still goes along pretty smoothly when it is time to get dressed.


toothbrush-141105_1280I get my little ones in the habit after every single meal to do “hands, face, teeth”. Often they trot in and do it themselves, or I just mention the words and off they go. Of course, “hands, face, teeth” means to wash your hands and face and brush your teeth. After they do this little routine, they come running to me with their toothbrush and I “check” their teeth. A dentist told me that children cannot do an adequate job of cleaning their own teeth until about age 12. So I have them brush their teeth, and then I rebrush them as I “check” them. Anyway, the whole ,”hands, face, teeth” business is an excellent habit that even toddlers can be taught after every meal. It keeps sticky hands off the furniture, keeps them looking presentable, and insures that their teeth are kept clean.

Little ones can do a great deal to help themselves and it brings them feelings of being capable and independent. Just taking a few minutes to make life more manageable really pays off.


May I recommend:

Practice for Preschoolers

Kids to the Rescue!

Toddler Tote

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