Credit: Dr. Joyce Sibbett
Children are capable of doing a variety of activities independently. You can set the stage for this independence by laying out creative materials while devoting some time to let children know that you see them and the outcomes of their play and project completion. The following points can help you set the stage for this independence.
1. Allow your child to predict their environment.
Make sure that your child has a daily routine to bring a sense of safety and control. As children apply skills in their daily routine, they become more and more competent in doing routines independently, such as getting dressed in the morning and getting ready for bed at night.
Mealtimes are important times to share the daily routine as they occur at pretty regular intervals. Children can anticipate that play and project time usually comes between meals and before bedtime. Knowing the order of the day helps children anticipate what to expect as they apply their creativity in a variety of activities.
2. Provide a sense of control through choice.
Children thrive on independence. Being able to choose outfits they want to wear, toys and activities they want to engage in, and projects they want to pursue gives them the independence they enjoy.
Choice does not mean that children have full reign on everything. You may want to preplan a couple of daily clothing options, provide some choices on food, such as what they want on their sandwich, and lay out play materials they can choose from. It’s a good idea to set up toys, projects, and art materials on low-lying shelves to allow children to choose what interests them, and then rotate the materials periodically to provide new opportunities for activity choices.
3. Encourage creative art play.
Creative art play is a wonderful opportunity for your child to imagine an object or scene. Children love to engage with a variety of paper colors, child scissors, crayons, markers, paint, stickers, and clay.
When art materials are available for creative expression, children can imagine a variety of scenes to represent on paper or with clay. Sometimes a brief conversation can stimulate their imagination. For example, you may refer your child to a character or scene from the book you read before bed last night. You may refer to the dog they played with at the park. You may remind them of someone’s birthday coming up. Art materials provide ample opportunities for creative expression.
4. Set up materials for imaginative projects.
Children also apply their imagination with building projects, such as wooden blocks, Legos, discarded cardboard boxes, or items from the kitchen, such as cans and plastic ware.
Other projects can come from items such as beads and strings, containers for transferring objects with tongs, containers for pouring liquids. You will be amazed at how your child’s imagination is stimulated with a variety of materials.
At times your child may need you to talk with them about what they might create. After a short conversation, you can remove yourself and let your child’s imagination take off. It’s also beneficial for your child to have you notice what they have created. “I see that you built a tall tower with blocks and cans!” “I love to see how hard you’re working on stringing your beads to make a necklace.”
5. Encourage your child to complete household chores.
One of the favorite ways to get your child excited to accomplish chores is to work along with you. This might be helping you prepare a meal by cutting vegetables (with a small and child friendly knife), peeling carrots, filling small glasses from a manageable container.
Chores around the house can be making their bed first thing in the morning. (You will have to be satisfied that it will not be done as neatly as you would do it.) They can put dirty clothes in the bin at the end of the day. Simple acknowledgment that you noticed that they worked hard to accomplish a task will provide incentive for them to keep working to accomplish daily chores, which sets a positive mindset for what they will continue to do in the future.
In conclusion, children are capable of accomplishing a variety of projects and tasks independently, but they may need some help and encouragement as they go. Taking a few minutes to give them ideas, acknowledge what they have accomplished, and give them hugs through the day can stimulate their independence. They don’t need you to step in and take over; they need you to offer support to stimulate their imaginations and acknowledge their creative accomplishments.