16th Apr 2019
Self-help skills are those which are necessary for basic daily life, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, feeding oneself and more. These skills can be developed from a young age but require consistency across environments, promoting the importance of shared learning with children’s families.
There are four main types of self-help skills:
- Getting dressed and personal grooming
- Hygiene and toileting
- Basic household help and looking after belongings
These skills are important developments for children as they gain mastery over their own world. Self-esteem is developed and self-confidence increases as children learn that the important adults in their life trust them and believe in their abilities. As children gain control over simple tasks around them their levels of independence increase and develop their sense of belonging. In addition, children develop their cognitive skills such as planning and sequencing as well as fine and gross motor skills
There are many different ways to support children as they learn to master these skills, both at home and in care. Below are some of the many ways that we can help children to help themselves.
- As soon as an infant can sit they can be offered finger food
- Use unbreakable bowls, plates and child sized utensils for toddlers
- Cut food into manageable sizes to begin with
- Following the introduction of utensils begin to discuss basic table manners like not playing with your food
Dressing and grooming:
Encourage toddlers to pull off their own socks, raise arms when removing tops, pull down pants etc.
- Buy a child sized hairbrush
- Encourage children to brush their own teeth (before or after you brush them) and set a 2 minute timer
- Initially buy clothes without complex fastenings to encourage independence
- Practice dressing and undressing dolls using clothes with buttons, zips etc.
Hygiene and toileting:
Between 2 and 3 is the most common age to begin toilet training but some children are ready before and some will not be ready until later
- Look for readiness signs such as a longer attention span and communicating when they need to use the toilet
- Encourage children to pull their own pants up and down
- Ensure they have a step to reach the toilet or a child’s level potty
- Role model washing hands properly with soap and for a sufficient amount of time, singing the alphabet song twice provides enough time to wash effectively!
- Talk about hygiene and body parts during bath time
- Toddlers can be encouraged to dry themselves after a bath
Lending a hand around the house:
Toddlers can be encouraged to pack away their toys when they finish playing with them – turn this into a game and allow them to feel a sense of accomplishment
- Children can clean up their own plate and bowl after they have eaten
- Children can be encouraged to help set the table with cutlery and napkins etc.
- Store toys at the child’s level so they are able to select and pack away games independently
- Discuss the importance of looking after belongings when at preschool or similar, and putting things back in their bag when they aren’t using them
- Gradually introduce more fun jobs such as feeding pets and helping to prepare basic food
As you go on this journey with your child remember that all children develop differently and what is normal for one child might not be for another. Remember to role model behaviours and celebrate with your child in their successes to help them develop self-esteem and encourage their progress. Make sure you show your child that you trust in their abilities and be prepared for a little mess along the way!