Using the gift of time to teach independence

Taking time to teach the skills we are normally too busy to teach

“My self! I do it!”

Young kids love exploring their independence which is developmentally appropriate and wonderful, except when you are in a hurry. Which unfortunately, is most of the time in our house. Now with the gift of time, I am *trying* to slow down and take the time to allow my kids more room to discover how to do things themselves. Yes, it might take 10X longer when they do it however we have nothing BUT time right now in which to practice!

What are some things you find your child wanting to do by themselves? Take this gift of time and teach them.

How do I teach these skills?

Model it. The best teaching starts with modeling. Our kids learn through observation so when they see you do it, they are more able to replicate that skill themselves. Have they been wanting to learn how to put on their shoes? Sit down next to your child and put your shoes on. Talk the process out loud, naming specifically what you are doing. “I put one hand on the back of the shoe and one hand on the tongue of the shoe. Isn’t that a funny name for it! This part is called the tongue. When the tongue of the shoe is up, it is much easier to slide your foot in, like this!”

Practice, practice, pracitce

Provide lots of opportunities to practice. Take out all of the shoes that your child is currently wearing and have them practice taking them on and off over and over until they have it down. Practice the different elements such as Velcro, tightening a strap, or pulling your socks all the way up before putting your foot in your shoe. The more time they spend practicing when not in a hurry, the more likely they are to become an expert when you are running late for preschool!

Find tips/tricks that will help

For my shoe example, there are two different tips for helping determine left and right that I have seen. First, use a marker and make small matching shapes on the inside of the shoes where they come together. Stars, hearts, circles, in really doesn’t matter! The idea is that when the shoes are on the correct feet, the shapes match up.

circled shoe
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Image result for tricks for left and right shoe for toddlers

A second idea is to cut a sticker and put the left half on the inside of the left shoe and the right half on the inside of the right shoe. That way, if the sticker is lined up, they know they are putting their shoes on the correct feet!

Mind you, this is one of those ideas that is on my “to do” list. Everyday, Keener asks me “Does this shoe go on this foot?” and because we are in a rush, I usually just respond from a distance, “Does it feel comfortable?” and don’t actually take the time to teach him. Now is my time!

What new skills might you work on?

Get input from your child! What are some things that they are always asking to do themselves? For me, it is many of the skills that help us to get out the door quickly such as:

  • getting coat on
  • zipping coat up
  • putting on backpack
  • learning how to carry their backpack by the handle (if I don’t want them to put it on because we are getting in the car next)
  • filling up water cup
  • putting socks on
  • putting shoes on
  • closing dog gate
  • brushing teeth (not brushing your tongue or just sucking the toothpaste)
  • buckling own car seat

In a rush, power struggles are much more likely to happen as I don’t have the time to wait for them to complete these tasks independently. But now is the time to learn. They certainly won’t get faster if I never let them do it on their own.


  1. Love the sticker idea for shoes! Riese loves putting on her shoes “by self” but for some reason always manages to have them on the wrong feet. You’d think it was a 50/50 chance to get it right but somehow it’s like 90% wrong feet, ha!

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