Five Ways to Foster Independence in Kindergarten

by Elizabeth Cameron

CMDS SK Teacher Elizabeth Cameron

Uniforms, all day school, learning to read and write sentences: Kindergarten is a big year! Your child grows taller, stronger and their brain soaks up everything it possibly can. The move to Kindergarten also means greater independence from parents and caregivers, and more responsibility for the children.

They want to do things on their own, but aren’t quite sure how. You want to help them, but you want to be careful to prepare THEM for the road, NOT pave the way for them. How can you foster their independence during this sensitive time for their growing brain?

1. Give your child age-appropriate chores and responsibilities at home.

When children are used to cleaning up after themselves at home, they have an easier time taking care of their supplies and cleaning up classroom items.

2. Take a step back and allow them to work on basic self-care skills.

As parents, you can do your part to ensure that classroom time is better managed simply by teaching your child valuable self-care skills. Allow them to dress themselves. Practice working on buttons, zippers and snaps both on their clothes and on their outerwear. Give your child the opportunity to practice opening containers, wrappers, bottles and juice boxes. Let your child pack up their backpack with some fun things to do in the car. Practice hand washing, nose blowing and coughing into their elbow.

3. Allow children to feel some degree of frustration.

One of the best ways to learn is by doing. Remember that we are working on preparing THEM for the path, NOT paving the path for them. It’s hard to see our children struggle with something. As parents we want to help them, but struggling with something isn’t always a bad thing. It teaches children to keep trying, it engages critical thinking, problem solving and helps children practice patience. Kindergarten presents your child with many new challenges and many things will not be mastered easily or quickly. You do not want them to become easily upset, frustrated or left feeling defeated when confronted with something new and/or difficult.

The next time your child asks for help getting their shirt or shoes on, encourage them to try again. Walk them through it by asking questions like “what should you do first?” or “why do you think that didn’t work?” Offer them puzzles with more pieces than they are used to. Dress them in clothes with zippers, buttons or snaps versus things that easily pulled on and off and let them be responsible for dressing and undressing themselves. They may experience frustration but they will also be gaining valuable skills in the process.

4. Provide children with opportunities to make choices.

Choosing their outfit for the day, books read at bedtime, the day’s lunch/snack menu or choosing between different activities (i.e. playing with Play-Doh, painting with watercolors or building with blocks) all helps children develop a sense of autonomy and enables them to make decisions when confronted with choices at school. You do not want your child to feel flustered, lost or unable to act when faced with challenges or decisions at school. Children need to be able to follow classroom routines and engage in activities with distractions (i.e other children, noise) present. By giving your child opportunities to make choices you are preparing them for the classroom.

5. Offer lots of opportunity for unstructured/free play.

Yes, play actually fosters independence ­– especially when it’s unstructured. Children are forced to come up with their own ideas and engage in play independently. Teachers need students to be independent, to be able to follow simple directions without needing an adult constantly by their side. Provide children with the opportunity to play and explore on their own and allow them to be bored and have to problem-solve.  It will benefit them at home, school and later in life.

We see our Early Childhood students come to school in August as a tiny seed, ready to be planted, grow and flourish. By the end of kindergarten, they are writers, readers, hard workers, caring friends and responsible classmates who are ready for 1st Grade!

Elizabeth Cameron has taught SK at CMDS since 2013. She has three children who attend CMDS.

Christ Methodist Day School first opened its doors in 1958 to 75 kindergarten students. Since then, CMDS has stayed true to its Christian elementary school roots while continuing to thrive as one of the best private schools in Memphis. We encourage you to come see why we are the primary choice for so many Memphis families.


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