Self-Care Skills –Toddlers to Preschoolers
As children grow, they can begin to participate in some self-care skills that will foster independence. Parents often wonder when a good time is to start teaching different skills. Let’s take a look at some developmental milestones to help guide your little ones to independence.
Toddlers can begin to participate in some independent skills. Although they still lack the coordination to dress themselves, they can begin to help undress. Taking off socks or elastic pants is a good starting point. Some toddlers can put on slip-on shoes too. You can start by showing them what to do and then asking them to try. Some children may be more reluctant than others but encouraging them to try is a great way to get them involved. Another basic task is to ask them to bring you an article of clothing. For example, “can you bring me your coat?” Asking them to participate in a way that they can, will build their confidence for trying new tasks in the future. As they approach their second birthday many children enter the “I can do it myself” phase and therefore want to actively participate in self-care.
Along with learning to dress and undress toddlers can begin to learn self-feeding skills too. Many young toddlers use their fingers to eat, but as they grow learning to use utensils is another important self-care skill. Providing child-size utensils makes the learning process fun and successful. You can allow your child to assist in pouring and gathering snack and food items too. All these things help to build confidence as your child grows toward independence.
Sometime during the toddler years, children begin potty training. This is a big step toward self-care independence. Personal hygiene such as handwashing is another important skill for toddlers to learn. Potty training and handwashing are also important milestones for most preschool program attendance, and they help children feel like “big kids”. Proper handwashing needs to be taught and there are fun songs like “happy birthday” or the ABC’s that help children learn proper handwashing techniques.
Preschoolers, three-to-five-year old’s have gained enough coordination to be able to dress themselves using easy to put on clothing. They will still need assistance but at the beginning of the preschool years, they can begin to master this skill. Learning to dress and undress is an important independent skill, especially if you plan to send your child to preschool. You want them to have the necessary skills needed if a “potty accident” would happen while at school. Once attending school, being able to put on their coat, and practice learning to zip it too is also an important self-care skill.
Most preschoolers are potty trained and have the basic idea of handwashing down. Although, some children might still be mastering potty training most are well on their way. You can take a “first you then me” approach to teeth brushing by having your child brush first, and then you go after them to make sure the hard-to-reach areas are clean. Brushing their hair and putting their clothes in the hamper are both things they can accomplish by this age. It is important to continue to reinforce the skills they have gained with positive praise and gentle reminders. Children thrive when they are encouraged and supported.
Another self-care milestone is using utensils to eat. The introduction of utensils begins in the toddler years and becomes increasingly easier as they grow into preschoolers. Again, providing child-size utensils and even introducing the use of a butter knife with supervision is something preschoolers can begin to master. Even a plastic knife can be safely used to cut soft fruit or spread jelly on bread. Remember, always supervise when allowing your child to practice their cutting skills! Preschoolers love to help, encourage them to clean up after they eat by throwing away their trash or carrying small items to the sink.
Whenever you decide to enroll your child in a school setting, whether it is as a toddler or later in the preschool years, all these skills are essential. At school, being able to hang their bag and coat, or throw away their trash, hand washing, and toileting needs are all helpful to a successful school experience. The more practice they have at home with their self-care needs the better equipped they will be once they enter school.
When teaching your child these necessary self-care skills it is important to approach it with patience, encouragement, and support. If they don’t complete a task “just right” praise them for trying. Model things for your child so they can learn. Allowing them room to grow and try is crucial to them gaining the skills they need to complete these tasks successfully. Soon, your child will be completing tasks with ease!
Rock, Amanda. “How to Teach Your Preschooler Important Self Help Skills.” Verywell Family, 6 Oct. 2020, www.verywellfamily.com/preschooler-self-care-skills-2764714#:~:text=As%20your%20preschooler%20grows%20and%20matures%2C%20there%20are,things%20that%20need%20to%20be%20taught%20and%20practiced.
“Teaching Your Toddler Self Care Skills.” Teaching Your Toddler Self Care Skills | Essential Parent, www.essentialparent.com/lesson/teaching-your-toddler-self-care-skills-2257/.