independent child

4 Things Kids Can Do on Their Own

Our home was beautiful. I loved it. It was cozy and clean. Then the kids arrived, along with a daily dose of destruction. There were toys and spills everywhere. Don’t get me wrong; I love what my kids have added to my life—the joy, the cuteness, the play, even the work to a degree. But the mess they bring has not been something I’ve enjoyed. Early on, I realized I was going to be exhausted if all I did was clean up after them every day. I needed each of my kids to become an independent child. They needed to learn as early as possible to clean up after themselves.

As dads, we want to do for our children. Helping our kids is certainly necessary. But we need to teach them gradually how to do more for themselves too. Learning to perform some simple tasks for themselves can increase their confidence and independence. It can also be a big help to you in the course of a busy day. Here are 4 things kids can do on their own.

If your children are old enough to physically pull a toy out of the bin, they can be taught to put it back.

1. They can pick up their toys.

I’ll never forget the morning I returned to my church’s Sunday School program to pick up my 2-year-old and found him happily putting things away while singing, “Clean up, clean up—everybody, everywhere! Clean up, clean up—everybody do your share!” If your children are old enough to physically pull a toy out of the bin, they can be taught to put it back when play time is over.

2. They can be Dad’s helper.

Lots of parents have another baby while there’s still a toddler (or even two) in the house. Help your older kids play an important role in taking care of the new baby. Have them bring you a diaper from the changing table, a burp pad or bib from a low shelf, or a blanket to wrap the baby in. The big brother or sister will feel needed and proud to be the “big kid” who can help the parents.

3. They can set and clear the table.

Your 3-year-old easily can take a handful of flatware and set it at each place before dinner (It doesn’t have to be perfect.) and can help after the meal by taking his plate and cup to the kitchen sink to be washed.

4. They can make their beds.

This is especially doable if your little one sleeps in a toddler bed she can easily reach across. Again, perfection is not the goal here—don’t worry about military corners. The idea is just to train your child that tidying the bedroom is her task, and that she can do it.

Sound off: What is one way you teach your toddler how to be an independent child?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing you would like to start doing on your own?”