Most parents are well-versed when it comes to baby-proofing their home. They know that there are cabinet and drawer locks to be purchased, safety gates to be installed, and electrical outlets to be blocked. But what about after the crawling baby and curious toddler phase have passed? How can you encourage independence in young children while still maintaining a safe space?

Young children want to help! They want to participate in the daily chores and activities around the house, but all too often, their efforts are hampered by their size. Help them out! There are three simple items that can make a huge difference in your home. Each can be used in multiple rooms and in multiple ways. We have selected the ones we feel are the most helpful, versatile, and easiest to purchase.

Encourage Independence in Young Children Pick #1: A Small, Lightweight Step Stool

We call the step stool “the great equalizer.” It makes more of the adult-sized environment available and allows the child to do more things for himself. A simple step stool makes brushing teeth, washing hands, helping prepare meals, and so many more activities easier and more accessible to little ones. They want to help! Let them!

Consider multiple step stools for different areas of the home: one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom, or have one on each level of your house. For a larger space, consider purchasing a learning tower. Learning towers are adjustable in height, provide a greater surface area for standing, and have the added security of side walls and a front and back bars.

Encourage Independence in Young Children Pick #2: Tension Rods or Closet organizers

Easily modify closet spaces without drilling holes in the wall. As your child grows, rods can be moved and adjusted for height. Put one in their bedroom closet and another in the hall closet for coats and jackets. For a larger closet, look for closet organizers that provide a low hanging rod.

By placing clothing lower down, you’ll allow your child access to more choices. For that reason, be sure to swap out clothes seasonally and as he or she outgrows each size. Otherwise, don’t be surprised, if you find yourself trying to convince your child that shorts and t-shirts are not appropriate in the middle of January!

encourage independence in young children: low closet organizer
A low bar on this closet organizer allows the child to select her clothing independently and makes it easier for her to help put clean laundry away!

Encourage Independence in Young Children Pick #3: Removable Hooks

Hooks that can be peeled off the wall without damaging the paint are the best! Use them in the bathroom for low towels and washcloths, the entryway for coats, jackets, and backpacks, or the kitchen for small brooms and dustpans.

As your child grows, hooks can be moved or replaced. Removable hooks allow for flexibility as you adapt your home to the changing needs of your family. Buy lots and use them often!

Key Concepts to Keep in Mind:

  • Safety first — Safety first, then independence! Be sure to consider the pros and cons before modifying your home space and respond accordingly. Make sure that medications, household chemicals, and sharp or dangerous objects are still safely out of reach.
  • Get down low — check out your house from your child’s eye level. What challenges can you easily help them overcome by adding a step stool, low bar, or hook?
  • Use common sense — adult supervision and guidance is the most important factor in making your home child-friendly and accessible.

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Children’s House Montessori School of Reston (CHMS) is a small, family-oriented school located in a peaceful wooded setting in Reston, Virginia. We believe that a child’s first school experience should be filled with curiosity, exploration and opportunities for  independence. We offer half-day and full-day Montessori programs for children 3 years of age through kindergarten.

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