8 Activities to Encourage Preschool Independence

preschooler trying to be independent by preparing breakfast

Like any new skill, independence-building activities can take time to master and preschoolers need ample opportunities to practice these skills and feel autonomous. Start with these independence-building activities: 

Activities to Nurture Independence in Preschoolers

  1. Picking out clothes. This is a great activity to do at night before bed, especially if the morning is busy. You can also have children pick out clothes for the whole week on Sunday. Allowing a child to make their own clothing choices is an easy way to increase their confidence.  
  2. Getting themselves dressed. Putting on your own clothes tests both fine and gross motor skills, so it takes young children a lot of repetition to learn this skill. Allow your child time to practice when your family is not in a hurry and begin with loose, easy clothing, such as pants with an elastic waist. 
  3. Kitchen Self-help. In the kitchen, keep non-breakable dishware down low and teach your child how to get a simple snack or cup of water.  
  4. Preparing toothbrush and brushing teeth. Toothbrushing will have to be supervised through the early years, but young children can learn to put toothpaste on their brush, how to brush every tooth, and how to clean up after. 
  5. Setting the table or cleaning up the table after a meal. Giving the kids a role in the family meal is not only great for building independence, but it also models the value of everyone pitching in with chores. Begin by having your child bring their plate over to the counter near the sink. Over time, that can expand to cleaning their plate in the trash, bringing all plates over to the counter, and putting condiments away. 
  6. Putting away toys. Build time for cleaning up into the daily routine, even if it’s just 10 minutes before bedtime. Children are a lot less overwhelmed by cleaning up a small mess than a big one. Stay on top of the mess before it becomes unmanageable.  
  7. Putting away coats, shoes, backpacks, and lunchboxes when entering the house. Children are more willing to help when they know what to expect and can feel successful. Designate a space for shoes, coats, books, toys, etc. Label storage containers with words and icons and use low bookshelves, hooks, and boxes that children can easily reach. 
  8. Taking care of a pet. Feeding the dog/cat/fish, filling water bowls or cleaning fishbowls, giving pets a bath - there are so many responsibilities that preschoolers can take on when caring for a pet. An added benefit is that they learn about compassion and caring for others. 
Remember that these skills take practice. There will be mistakes or accidents that require starting over or cleaning up, but encouraging preschool independence skills has an amazing payoff down the road.  
Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
preschooler trying to be independent by preparing breakfast