When your child is ready for doses of responsibility, it is a quintessential time to give them small activities they can do independently. In turn, this will be beneficial to their development, encourage self-sufficiency, and lastly, take a (small) load off your plate. This time requires you to give your child opportunities to be self-reliant, while at the same time, doing your best to let them figure it out and learn from their mistakes or struggles.
We know how frustrating it can be when your kid wants to assist you or do a task on their own, but it turns out differently than how you would’ve done it. It’s vital to remain patient (emphasis on patient for a reason) with your little one as they take on responsibilities and gain confidence and to also not overwhelm them with tasks. Rather, slowly introduce new ones as they are ready for more.
We’ve put together a list of small tasks that you can incorporate into children’s daily routines as they take on more responsibility in their own lives.
Let them dress themselves
Allowing your child the opportunity to pick out their own outfits in the morning will give them a sense of confidence and independence. Start out slow with a couple of days a week, then once they feel confident in the task, it’s probably safe to transition to allowing them to choose their outfit every day. And yes- sometimes when you give your child that option, they’ll come down the steps in a Halloween-themed outfit in the middle of April. Resist the tendency in suggesting a different outfit and move forward with your day. Don’t stress, their style will get better as they age!
In the same fashion- we also recommend giving your child the responsibility to prepare to go outside. Whether that be putting on their own coats, hats, and mittens, or putting their socks and shoes on by themselves, it’ll help lighten your load and hand over more responsibility to your kid.
Require clean up after playtime
We know the easy, short-term solution is to pick up your child’s toys after playtime. It’s quick, easy, and done the way you want. But the more you take the reins, the more your child will expect it, and the less they will learn about bearing responsibility for a mess they make. Introduce the chore by explaining what “clean up” means. Breaking the task into smaller tasks, in addition to demonstrating, helps make an overwhelming task seem more achievable. Then, explain why clean up is necessary. Describing “So that no one gets hurt” or, “So that none of the pieces go missing” helps children make the connection between play and tidying up.
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again- once your child has completed their task, let it be. If you fix what your kid already put effort into, they might be less likely to clean up the next time.
Allow them to feed themselves
Children can begin feeding themselves as soon as they’re able to pick up food and put it in their mouths, whether via their hands or utensils. Not only are children learning how to be self-sufficient by feeding themselves, but are also working on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Allowing your child to choose one or all the items on their plate (but well-balanced foods) will give them a sense of responsibility as well as the ability to monitor their own bodies.
If your child is older and is capable of preparing a meal on their own, that’s great! Although they’re now able to take on this responsibility, they might still need some behind-the-scenes assistance from you. For example, if your kid can put together their breakfast but can’t reach the oatmeal on the shelf, it’s completely acceptable to set up the items on the counter so they can take it and run with it from there.
And of course, following a meal always requires clean up. If your child is capable enough to prepare their own meals, they are also capable of cleaning up any items they used. Encouraging washing dirty dishes or putting dishes in the dishwasher will take a few things off your plate. Like we’ve said before, it stimulates self-sufficiency and taking responsibility for a mess.
Develop a small list of easy household chores
Chores will vary depending on age, but tasks as easy as keeping a clean bedroom, helping take out the trash, setting the table, or feeding a pet will help your child gain confidence and understand what it means to contribute to a household. If chores are overwhelming at first, try breaking down the task into smaller tasks or an editable chore chart. For example, with cleaning a bedroom, your checklist could include: making the bed, putting away toys, picking up clothes off the floor, and putting away clean clothes. This way, you can give your child the list and they should be able to clean up their room all on their own. They’ll feel good knowing that they did a chore without any help.
Handing over responsibilities to children is an exciting time for their development. They will begin to learn new life skills that will carry over into their young childhood and eventually adulthood. Once you begin incorporating more tasks, you will start to see growth in your child like never before!
Remember parents, it isn’t just all about your kids in this process. Patience is a virtue and it always will be as your child continues to grow alongside more responsibility.