How to Encourage Independence in Your Preschooler

Jan Lashbrook
Children learn independence from their parents! Here are a few simple ways you can begin to develop independence in your children.

Independent children function from a core belief that they are “competent and capable of taking care of themselves,” says an article in Psychology Today. Like most things, children learn independence from their parents. Boundaries, expectations, and encouragements that are consistently reinforced cause children to be secure and self-reliant individuals who fulfill their responsibilities in the family unit.
[Preschool] is a great time to begin giving [children] more responsibilities so that they learn to take on challenges with confidence.
There are many things preschool age children are dependent on their parents for and they should be, but this is a great time to begin giving them more responsibilities so that they learn to take on challenges with confidence. We begin this process in Pre-K3, teaching our students to put their own backpacks in their cubbies and be responsible for putting their things away each day. Parents can help nurture independence in their child at home by adopting a few changes to daily routines:

  • Let them choose and lay out their uniform for school the next day.
    It will save you time and arguments the next morning! As much as they’re able, allow them to dress themselves. All the buttons, zippers, and pulls help develop those important fine motor skills that are critical to success in school.

  • Have your child set the table for meals and help clean up afterwards.
    Starting small with tasks like laying out utensils or napkins is a great way to ease your kids into chores. As they progress and mature they can take on more responsibilities, like clearing everyone’s plate from the table, rinsing off dishes, and putting things that are light, like ketchup or salad dressing, back in the fridge. These clean-up skills will be used for a lifetime, and their spouses will thank you someday!

  • Have them help put away toys.
    Speaking of cleaning up, everyone benefits from teaching their child to put away their own toys when they’re finished playing. Realizing the work it takes to put them away may even help when it comes time to get rid of old toys. You’ll likely need to help and encourage your child and results may not be perfect, but eventually, he or she will be able to do it all on their own. You can make a game out of it, have a clean-up song, and remind them when you help that many hands make light work.

  • Encourage your child to lead prayer time.
    Give your little one the chance to pray at meal time or before bed. It’s a great building block for their spiritual life and can also help them own their faith as they grow.

  • Let your child help with the pet.
    Taking care of a pet is a great way to foster responsibility and independence. You may have to help quite a bit in the beginning, but they learn good lessons about caring for others and compassion through pet ownership and responsibilities.

It takes patience and time to help foster independence in our children, but we believe it’s worth it in the long run, as your child gains confidence and pride in their ability to do things on their own.


Jan Lashbrook is the Early Childhood Program  Director at Calvary Christian Academy. She and her husband are “empty-nesters,” having raised three children who are all grown and married. Their youngest attended CCA for 12 years, graduating in 2016.
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