Having an older kid is so much easier, isn’t it? Fewer tantrums, more communication, and the best bit of all is that they can amuse themselves without you having to play dolls or cars constantly. That is definitely one of my favourite parts of having an 8-year-old!
If you play your cards right you can also teach your children to do more for themselves to make them more independent – and also to make your life a bit easier. It’s good for them to be able to do more for themselves as they get older, it makes them more confident plus kids like to feel more grown-up and trusted by being allowed to do things that younger children aren’t allowed to do.
Whether you work from home or spend all day at the office, your free time at home is limited and you don’t want to spend it doing everything for everyone else 24/7.
So if you are looking forward to raising an independent child who can do things by themselves without needing you to help them, here are 7 things to get them started on…
Getting their own drinks & snacks
“Can I have something to eat” is a phrase that almost drove me insane over the summer. My child is constantly hungry, no matter how much I feed her she always seems to be starving.
This summer I was trying to get work done while she was off school for 3.5 months so having to get up to get her snacks every 5 minutes started to get annoying quite early on. The trick is to buy and prepare lots of snacks and drinks that you don’t mind them helping themselves to. Put them on a shelf in the fridge or a cupboard that they can reach and tell them that they can just help themselves when they are hungry.
You could also try filling a lunchbox or bag with the day’s snacks and allow them to take something from the box as they wish without asking you first. Obviously, you can choose to fill the box with whatever you like (no judgements from me!) but if you put in limited snacks like biscuits or crips then kids will learn quickly that if they eat the treats first thing in the morning then they are done for the rest of the day and will have to fill up on the healthier snacks.
This is our little snack box/tub:
Tidying up after themselves
I only have one child and my house gets messy very quickly, so if you have more than one I can only imagine how much tidying up you have to do! Kids make a mess and often that is part of the fun, but as they get older they also need to understand that they need to clear up after themselves.
Make your kids put their shoes and bags away after school, we have a shoebox and coat rack by the front door to make it easy. Get them to take things up to their bedroom so they aren’t left lying around downstairs.
Kids also love to tell you they can’t find things so make them put away their own belongings in the hope that they might remember where they put them. Who am I kidding, they won’t remember at all, but at least they are doing the putting away!
Feed their pets
Do you have any pets? We have a cat that wants food almost as much as the 8-year-old does! Little H wanted the cat in the first place so she has to help feed him. Put the food somewhere easy to reach and buy cat or dog food in pouches that are easy to open rather than tins.
Raising an independent child includes teaching them that they need to be responsible for other living creatures as well as for themselves.
Pack their own school bag
Getting everything ready for school is one of those jobs that most mums leave until just before they go to bed, am I right? Older kids are perfectly capable of doing this themselves though. We have the lesson timetable stuck to the fridge and Little H can check the lessons for the next day to see what books and equipment she has to take. Everything is ready and waiting in her cupboard so she just needs to grab what she needs.
Of course, I always have a sneaky check to see that she has remembered everything as I wouldn’t want her to forget books or PE bags.
Choosing their own clothes
We don’t have school uniform anymore so this applies to every day now, but if you do have a uniform it’s still a good task for kids for after school or at weekends. I will iron a batch of tops and bottoms and Little H can choose what she wants to wear. It lets older kids develop their own sense of style plus saves whining over “I don’t want to wear that!” every morning.
If you do have school uniform I like this idea of having everything laid out for each day so that the kids can just sort themselves out of a morning without the need for a parent to lay everything out in front of them.
Asking for things in shops and restaurants
This isn’t one that will necessarily make your life easier but I do think it’s a great task for raising an independent child, especially if they are naturally quite shy. We have been doing this more to get Little H to practice asking for things in Spanish, but even when in an English speaking shop or restaurant it’s good to help kids become more confident.
Give them chores
As well as getting children to do things for themselves, it’s a good idea to get them to do things for the rest of the family by helping with some simple household chores. I’m not talking about cleaning the house or anything, in my opinion kids should still be allowed to be kids without worrying about things like that. But helping out with chores like laying the table, putting grocery shopping away, or replacing the toilet roll will help you by allowing you to get dinner sorted quicker or spend less time on household chores and more time with the kids.
What do you think? If your kids did these things for themselves do you think it would make them more independent and free up some of your time? What other things do your kids do for themselves?