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
Image from
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.

Maintaining balance for you and your family; finding what works for you

It’s only Wednesday. This is hard. No matter who you are and what age your kids are, life has changed. And change is hard.

I’ve been posting more frequently to try and give additional ideas for those of you home with your kids. This page is my “home page” and links to all of my other posts regarding this new found increase in time home with our kids. Yesterday, I posted St. Patrick’s Day ideas. Both art projects we ended up doing were a big hit and could easily be modified for any art project.


  • glue sticks
  • construction paper
  • scissors
  • computer paper
  • dot stickers (affiliate link – I LOVE these!)

You will see a visual schedule posted in the background. We loosely followed it before lunch. Keep in mind, I am a teacher so this comes very naturally to me. It also works very well for Keener. (Grace simply enjoys putting all of the possible schedule cards on the wall and then taking them off). The most important part in all of this is finding what works for you. If having a schedule posted increases your stress and anxiety, don’t do it!

Below is what is working for us. For now.

Thinking in bigger chunks of time

It helps me to think about “morning” and “afternoon.” After breakfast from about 8:30-12:30 and then after naps/quiet time from 3:30-5:30. Given how much longer the morning is, I feel I need more structure during this block.

Yesterday, it worked well to have a few activities planned. We did art and some building from about 9:30-11:00 and then went outside before lunch. Our dog Hank definitely didn’t get the memo on what is going on and he still needs exercise! From 11-12, we took him to an empty field. We brought our shovels and both kids spent almost an hour digging in the dirt. Call it whatever you want: science, nature study, collaboration, problem solving, creative play – they had a blast.

Take time to reflect on what is working and what is NOT working

The reason we did art and building from 9:30-11 and not 8:30 to 11 was because they watched Peppa Pig from 8:30-9:30. I needed physical and mental brain space to get ready for the day and check in with some work and this was how I got that space. It totally worked for me. I’m not willing to wake up an hour earlier to take this out of the routine. They were happy, I was happy. No beating myself up for something that is working for all of us.

Something that did work work very well was having Grace follow our “schedule.” She turned 2 in November and while Keener (who will be 4 in May) thrives with structure, it was just too much for her. So she followed it to an extent and the deviated and did her thing – which was totally fine! For her, the following was extremely helpful:

  • flexible seating. Sitting for extended periods is not generally a 2 year olds friend. She sat in a chair, stood, and sat on the floor all during one art project.
  • embed movement. As she finished a sticker page, she would run to the trash to throw it away. In fact, I think she was peeling stickers off quickly just so she could make as many trips to the trash can as she could!

Follow your kids lead

We were building with cups and tongue depressors and the kids decided they wanted to build other things. Thankfully, I remembered I had some clay hiding so we diverted the bridges and tunnels and started trying to make a tissue box!

When possible, try to change your mindset to think about this truly being a gift of time. There are very few times during the hectic “every day normal life” to be able to follow our kids lead and explore concepts they are truly interested in.

Some teacher moms I know are using curiosity to drive all home learn instruction. Everything from researching “why do turtles move so slowly?” to “what do raspberries do for your body?’ are questions we are going to be researching. When you can find high interest topics to explore together, it feels a lot less like “trying to get to bedtime.”

Be kind to yourself

Last night I was exhausted. Even though there were so many things I could have done — clean, laundry, cook, etc. — the most important self care I could do for myself was get in bed early. I turned on a documentary about peanut allergies. I couldn’t take reading or watching one more thing about the Coronavirus, so I didn’t.

I plan to explore self care more as I know that is an area of high interest. For now, pray the beginning of the Serenity Prayer and breath slow and long breaths through your nose, not mouth.

“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;”