Thursday, September 1, 2016

Lessons in Independence

I want Olive to learn how to be independent, but it's hard for me.

It's easier to do things for her, to precut and give directions for activities or to plan everything out.  I know how things will go and what to expect for things that I plan.  I noticed when she turned two that she was showing signs of wanting to do things her own way and to have some wiggle room on our projects.  I took it as a sign she was growing up and getting opinions so I set out to help her learn how to be more independent.  I still plan activities for her, but always give her opportunities for choice, free play and time to make up her own mind about things.

Confession: I have to make an effort to plan these activities into our routine because it's my nature to just make the plans and take over.  I'm getting better at letting her be more independent as she's getting older and I'm LOVING watching her grow up and do new things.  She loves helping me with chores, doing things together and loves to come up with activities on her own.

1. Teaching Olive how to walk with me through a store instead of riding in a cart or stroller.  She's learning to look with her eyes and not with her hands, to ask permission to touch things, to explore a store and to be a good listener.  We have been having fun going out and about together.

2. Give her opportunities to play with her brother without my help.  This day she introduced him to all kinds of kitchen items and let him "taste test" food.  They both loved this game.  She enjoys teaching Fletcher how to play with his baby toys.  She doesn't really need my help and Fletcher grins ear to ear most of the time.  Occasionally I will intervene if things get too rough, but she has good intentions most of the time.

3. Play-doh.  We have basic ground rules - must stay on the counter, no eating play-doh and no throwing play-doh.  We've gotten to the point now where I can pull out the play-doh while I make dinner and we can both be working in the kitchen together.  It would be easy for me to make more rules and control her play time, but I try to stick to our three rules and just look past the color mixing and the wacky play-doh fun.  She has a blast so it's easy to just let her be in charge of herself.

4. Pretend Play.  I go along with her pretend play and let her be the boss of how it all plays out.  Lately, she has been pretending with her horses and entertaining herself for hours.  She asked me to get them some carrots and then she tucked them in for a nap.  She was so proud of herself and her horse set up.  I would never have thought of this game so I'm glad I let her come up with a game of her own.

5. Fletcher needs my help for most things, but we are just starting to see glimpses of independent play time.  He loves his toys and is getting good at playing with them on his own.  He's pretty proud of himself and I sit nearby and just watch him play.

6. Pretend Meals.  I'll prepare a real dinner and these two work hard on their pretend meals for us.  Fletcher is mostly interested in spatulas and Olive talks through things with him.  We all work on the island together and it's fun to see what they come up with doing.  I'll often give them similar utensils to mine and we work together.

7. Independent painting sounds scary, but I assure you it can be done.  We set ground rules - paint on paper, no eating paint and stay seated while you paint - and it works out pretty well.  I'll put out a bunch of supplies, go over the ground rules and then let her create anything she wants.  I usually help with getting her new paper, talking to her while she paints, rinsing her brushes and helping her clean up at the end.  I don't tell her what to paint, what colors to use or anything and just let her create.  She seems so proud of the things she paints on her own and I love displaying them.

8. Books - we are working on reading lots of books together and then I leave those same books out for her to "read" to herself and her dolls later.  She always picks up the books we've read together and then retells the story in her own words.  We have been reading potty training books, rhyming books, bedtime books and then any other book that catches her eye.  We're starting to pull out our fall & holiday books.

I got Itsy Bitsy Christmas: You're never too little for His love! by Max Lucado in the mail this week.
*I was gifted this book from Booklook in order for an honest review of it.

Itsy Bitsy Christmas is a sweet book about two mice who live in Bethlehem that come to share the Christmas story.  Itsy and Bitsy are noticing some commotion in town and they're eager to see what the fuss is all about.  They hear from other animals that there is a king coming to town so they go around asking questions about him.  They finally stumble upon a stable to find a real king lying in the manger.  The mice are amazed that a king named Jesus would come as a baby and be a king for everyone!  My 3 year old enjoyed the story and keeps asking to read it again and again.  I love the message and joy this book shares with my kids!

Independence Goals: I'm working on letting her be more independent when we play outside, go to the library, go out to eat, some basic chores around the house and to give her opportunities to play alone in her room.  I've also been pinning some ideas for getting ready boards to include things like brushing teeth, getting dressed, cleaning up, etc for her to check off.  We are both enjoying these new activities and it's exciting to see her learning these new skills.

What things do you do to help your kids learn to be more independent?

Linking up for Teaching Together with Beth


  1. You seriously are the BEST mom Whitney!! Olive and Fletcher are blessed beyond belief to have you as their mommy!

  2. Oh that whole independence thing is so tricky! They want to do it, but it takes longer and is messier. And while I want my son to master the tasks, he's my only child and sometimes I still want to be needed. But I do like him learning to do things for himself. I too let him do most crafts on his own (at least the unstructured ones). For painting I stick with water colors since I find them a little less messy. He loves grabbing his scissors and glue on his own and creating masterpieces, and since I don't have to worry about a younger child getting hurt, I can leave them out. Recently he's even done harder puzzles on his own, which I love! We need to work more on the getting ready tasks. While he's capable I just worry that he won't look as tidy or his teeth won't be brushed as well if I don't help. Baby steps for all of us right!?!

  3. Yes to all of this. The struggle to want to control is real and I love that you are practicing letting go of the little things now. Because it does not magically get easier. This kind of goes hand in hand with me learning to say yes more, sigh.

  4. I like the 3 rule thing. That seems easier than trying to lay out a bunch of rules. I know it is hard sometimes to remember that they are little and will make messes or won't follow rules. I love Olive's imagination and creativity.

  5. We did this a lot in the spring with Connor in preparation of no school over the Summer. I need time to do things without his help so he needed to learn to entertain himself a bit. It was a rocky start but now? He has mastered the ability to play independently in different ways for a solid 60 minutes.

  6. My mom is a rock star at letting L have independent arts and craft play. I admit I'm bad at letting her go nuts with messy stuff but am always surprised how (fairly) well she does with it at my mom's house. I have a hard time letting L and T have independent play time, because she is way too aggressive with him, but hey, we're great at letting Tell have independent playtime on the floor with his toys! (sounds better than just saying we leave the little one to do his own thing because the tot is so time consuming haha : ) )

  7. Letting them be independent is a lot easier said than done!! But good for you for recognizing it and working in ways to help Olive in that direction. I'm sure she is so much happier for it! :)

  8. As someone who works with college students and sees the result of overprotective or helicopter parents, I must say thank you. You are doing the kind of parenting I hope to do with my own kids and wish more people would do.

  9. Independence is hard. My oldest just started Kindergarten and is finding all sorts of new independence which is so scary. Hang in there- you're doing great!


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Smiles, Whitney