Allowing Kids to be Independent

ParentingAll Ages7 Comments

Allowing your child to independent.

That sounds obvious, and maybe even easy. But it is something I believe every parent may struggle with at some point in those early independent, yet dependent, years.

ALLOW kids independence-20111111-8

How to keep some control of the chaos, yet allow your child to have a say, takes some balance. Jillian, author of the inspiring learning blog A Mom with a Lesson Plan, helps us achieve that balance. Or, at least, lets us know how she’s learned to balance it out.

I have always believed that kids should have a space that allows them to practice independence.

Three tips to remember that Jill shared with me are:

  1. Change the rules.
  2. The tools must be available.
  3. Everything has a place.

Change the rules.

To explore these more, Jill explains why changing your rules may be important for the independent child. Instead of expecting certain outfits, or the outcome that your child is the cutest kid on the block. Jill says she, “…swallowed my idea of cute and changed the rules.”

Her rules simply became:

  1. Her hair must be brushed
  2. She must wear clothes.

She then gave her daughter the opportunity to choose her own outfits, and now at the age of four, she dresses herself completely (tights included) — one of those basic life skills that Deborah of Teach Preschool talked about — as well as hanging and folding her own clothes.

Some days we see 5 or 6 very creative outfits. The older she gets to more excited I am that we set her up this way. At 4 she can maneuver clothing as difficult as tights with no problem and when she gets herself ready she beams with pride at what she’s wearing… so what if its purple rain boots, red shorts and a pink princess shirt?

ALLOW kids independence-20111110-8

She did this by making the tools available.

The tools must be available.


Jill made her daughter’s clothes within her reach. In addition to choosing clothes, make the tools available to your children so they have access to do with them as they please. Set simple rules for those items, but let them explore. For instance, Jill created a creative space for the kids. (I recently added one of these in our home, too! See the picture at the right of our simple creative space.)

The really nice part about this is that sometime art happens while they are playing. Big M may decide to add a drawing to his Lego city, or Little M may need to add to an investigation by jotting down some notes. They are not restricted to times that I feel like prepping art.

The simple rules that came from Jill’s creative space:

  1. Art must be done at the table.
  2. Clean up after yourself.

Cleaning up! How brilliant is that? Ha.

Now, if everything had its own place, wouldn’t that make it easier for the kids to be able to do it themselves? (And bear some of that responsibility that Sarah of Füdoo Boards shared with us.)

That’s Jill’s 3rd suggestion:

Make a place for everything.

Whether it be by labels, or by like items. Your kids should be able to know where to put a toy, or clothes, or an art tool.

That way when I say “Time to clean up”, M and M can put the room back in order all on their own. This works out to be another area that they can find confidence and independence in accomplishing something on their own!

allowing independence in preschoolers

So, when your child comes to you and insists that they can do it.

Allow them to try. And try often.

Allow them to create something how they want to. Whether it be stories, art, their outfit.

Follow Jill’s lead, and figure out what’s really important. And stick to your guns on those. But let them be independent with the rest. Jill says that,

For me setting up an environment that allows her to make as many choices as possible started with deciding what was really important.

Ready for fun with your kids?

Plan the fun with the free kids activities planner! And receive activities every week!

I'm Ready


  1. Charlotte says

    This is a great article Jamie.

    Some things I like to do to encourage independence:

    keep shoes unfastened/untied, left and right side by side in the bottom drawer of the dresser with the socks

    we keep our art tools in open jars so they are always ready, the paper is in an in-tray at the bottom of their easel for helping themselves

    snacks are kept in the bottom of the cupboard, in see-through clip-top tubs the kids can open whenever they are hungry (obv only the healthy all you can eat stuff is kept here!)

    Blue Skies,
    Charlotte xo

  2. Anonymous says

    Thank you so much for this article. You are so right. We want our kids to be independent and we as parents should be fostering that within limits of course. Really need to get my world better organized so my tot can make choices and have responsibility. Thanks again!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *