With the start of term just days away, many 4-year-olds across the country will be starting school. This can be a daunting prospect for children and parents alike. Suddenly you won’t be there to help your child and they will have to be more independent. So whether your child is starting school or nursery, our top tips to encourage your child to be more independent will help them (and you!) prepare for the next step.

Let them choose

Choice is empowering. Letting your child make their own decisions about what they want to wear or eat gives them the feeling of being in control. Of course, given the choice, most 4-year-olds would wear a superhero costume to go to the shops and eat sweets for dinner every day. So it’s really about making them believe they have the choice. For example, offer two suitable outfits for your child to choose between, that way they feel they have had a say and you are happy they won’t be turning blue on the way to Tesco (other supermarkets are available).

Give them responsibilities

Giving your child certain jobs to do will make them feel grown up and give them a confidence boost. Perhaps allow them to be in charge of the shopping list as you go round the supermarket or give them the task of setting the table for dinner. Check out SuperNanny for a list of age appropriate chores.

Be patient

Becoming independent is a learning curve. Don’t expect perfection from the start. Praise them for their efforts and allow room for error. When you take over, you could be denting their confidence. For example, when learning to tie their shoelaces, allow a little extra time and let your child try and do it themselves first. Don’t step in and do it for them, ask if they would like help. If they can’t do it, help them out, praise them for trying and reassure them that they will do better next time. This will help give them the confidence to try again. If at first you don’t succeed…

Children playing on a rainy day

Let them play on their own

Give your child plenty of opportunities for self-directed play. Us adults do have a tendency to take over, helping them build a Lego tower or dressing their doll. Giving your child the chance to play by themselves will give them the chance to figure out problems for themselves and use their imagination. It also means that when they go to school they’ll be able to play alongside their peers and won’t be looking for Mummy or Daddy to show them what to do.

Younger play dates

Often, when children are in a group, the older ones will take over and decide on a game or direct the younger ones. Give your child the chance to be the eldest child at a play date, meaning they will be the one to take charge and instigate a game. Being the leader gives children a huge confidence boost and will improve their teamwork skills in school as well as in later life.

In no time at all your child will be ready to tackle whatever school throws at them! We’d love to hear your ideas for encouraging children to be more independent. Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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