Without fail, every time I sit down to fold the laundry or return a phone call or chop vegetables for dinner (or dare step foot in the bathroom) my kids urgently need my help. They want a drink or a snack or a toy from a high shelf. I don’t mind lending a hand, but I also want to foster independence and confidence in their ability to do things on their own. So I’m trying these seven tips to help kids to help themselves:
1. Store plates, bowls, cups and cutlery at their level.
I used to keep my kids’ plastic plates, bowls and cups in the cupboard next to our everyday (breakable) plates. Then I got wise and designated a bottom drawer in the kitchen for their dishes. Now they can grab a cup to get a drink and help set the table on their own.
2. Buy prewashed and presliced grocery items.
Want your kids to make their own lunch or grab a snack without your assistance? Then it may be worth paying more for conveniences like presliced cheese, prewashed veggies and individual serving sizes of items such as yogurt or hummus or crackers. (You could also package snacks into serving sizes yourself to save money).
3. Keep a stool handy.
Stools make it easier for young (or vertically challenged) kids to do simple tasks such as wash their hands, brush their teeth or hang a towel. IKEA sells sturdy stools on the cheap, so you can keep one in every bathroom or on each level of your house.
4. Install hooks at their height.
My life changed for the better the day I installed hooks near the door at kid-height. Although I still occasionally need to remind my kids to hang up their coat or backpack, they can easily comply – which was not the case when the hooks were hung at adult height.
5. Go green to clean.
My kids are young enough that they are fairly eager to help. My 6-year-old daughter loves to clean bathrooms and shine windows. I feel a lot better about handing over the cleaning products when I know they are non-toxic and free of scary chemicals. For me the peace of mind is worth the typically higher pricetag.
6. Be organized enough — but no more.
When you’re putting together spaces your kids frequent, such as a bedroom or closet or playroom, don’t go too crazy with color coding or labeling. While these organizational systems are pretty to look at, they are likely too high maintenance for kids. Keep it simple.
7. Spell it out.
Kids generally respond really well to lists and charts. If you find yourself continually reminding them about what’s next in the bedtime routine or what snacks are OK before dinner, make a list and post if where they can easily see and follow it.