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Daily Activities to Encourage Independence: Empower A Routine with These Simple Tips!

March 16, 2023
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    One of the best things parents can do for their children is to encourage independence and teach responsibility. The ability to act independently, even with small tasks, builds a child's self-esteem and teaches essential life skills.

    There are many tasks your child can do daily at home and school to promote independent behavior. Something as simple as brushing their teeth and getting dressed independently are activities toddlers can do themselves.

    As your child ages, the skills and tasks your child should be expected to complete independently will grow and change. Therefore, parents must encourage independence when their kids are young to create independent teens and adults.

    This article covers tasks around the home and daily skills that parents can encourage in their children to create a sense of autonomy and self-confidence.

    Activities to Promote Independence in Younger Children

    To develop an independent child, kids must be given opportunities to try new things, fail, and succeed. Life is about ups and downs, and developing independence skills comes from trial and error.

    School expectations and helping out around the house are two ways to encourage independent behavior in your kids. Having a set schedule with tasks done in the same order daily will help children become independent because they know what to expect and what will happen if they do not follow through.

    If your child struggles with routine, create a picture schedule to help make it more fun and so they can see the order of events. Eventually, your child will anticipate what's next and complete tasks independently.

    Household Tasks

    All children can participate in chores. However, household tasks should be based on your child's age and ability. Not only do chores build your kid's self-confidence, but helping around the house teaches children how to be part of a community and participate in the greater good of a group of people.

    Below are lists of home tasks designated by age. Each list builds upon the previous one. Weekly household tasks accompanied by an allowance have the added benefit of teaching young children how to manage money and responsibility.

    Kids 3-5

    • Help set and clear dishes
    • Making their bed
    • Help cook or prepare food
    • Water plants
    • Put toys away
    • Put away groceries
    • Putting dirty clothes in the hamper
    • Brushing teeth
    • Washing face and hands
    • Periods of independent play

    Kids 6-8

    • Washing dishes
    • Help take care of the pet
    • Putting clothes away
    • Make their own snacks
    • Vacuum or mop
    • Empty and load the dishwasher
    • Help wash the car

    Kids 9-12

    • Take out the trash
    • Help prepare meals
    • Walk the dog, pooper-scooper responsibility
    • Help take care of younger siblings
    • Clean the bathroom
    • Raking leaves
    • Doing their own laundry
    • Washing dishes
    • Showering and bathing
    • Walk to school or bus stop independently

    Tweens & Teens

    • Babysitting siblings or cousins
    • Cleaning bathrooms
    • Washing windows
    • Vacuuming, cleaning the vacuum
    • Small household repairs
    • Ironing clothing
    • Clothing repairs
    • Prepare meals

    Packing Their Own Bag

    Preschoolers and older can pack their bags for school or a special vacation. The routine of checking their bag each night before bed or in the morning helps kids learn to be responsible for their belongings.

    When packing for vacation, children love choosing special outfits to pack. To help your child when packing, provide them with a picture list or if they can read a written list.

    Allow them to Complete Tasks on Their Own

    To build self-reliance, children must be allowed to complete tasks independently. Unfortunately, parents often jump in to "save" their children, especially when completing complicated or larger tasks. However, when parents step in, it often results in power struggles or stops a child from developing independence.

    When choosing which tasks to allow your child to complete alone, consider your schedule and daily routine. Allow your child ample time to complete everyday tasks, so you and they don't feel rushed.

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    Allow Them to Pick Their Clothes

    One of the biggest ways parents can help their children feel empowered is by allowing them to choose their clothes and develop a sense of identity. Parents often want children to wear clothing that resembles who they are, not who their child is.

    Choosing their own clothes will build confidence and independence. Let go of the need for your child to match and let your child wear the yellow shorts with the pink socks, red and blue striped shirt, and purple headband.

    Picking clothing out the night before also gives you a little more time in the morning, and most children enjoy the task.

    Preparing Food Or Snacks

    A great way to give your toddler independence is to allow them to pick or prepare their food and snacks. Of course, bigger kids can be expected to do this task, but parents sometimes need to realize this is something a toddler or preschooler can do too!

    Create a snack cabinet or shelf on your child's level with only healthy, approved snack options. Teach your toddler that they can come to the shelf independently when they're hungry.

    Set up guidelines such as letting your child choose two options from the shelf for a snack, one shelf item, one fresh fruit, etc. Once you've established this routine with your toddler, you can keep it going as your kid grows!

    Setting The Table Before A Meal

    Another task a young child can help with is setting the table before a meal. Even a toddler can do something simple like placing napkins. Then move to non-breakable items like silverware. You can always use plastic dishes or paper plates for your toddler to practice setting the entire table.

    Having a job to do gives your child a sense of importance and confidence. Children can also help by clearing the table after a meal.

    Taking Care Of A Pet

    When choosing chores for your kid to partake in, consider pet care. Not only are there a ton of health benefits of owning a pet, learning to take care of one is an excellent early childhood activity that develops a sense of empathy, prioritization, and responsibility.

    Pet care should be based on your child's age. A toddler can play with a pet or learn to refill their food bowl with adult supervision. Big kids can learn to walk the dog, scoop the litter box, and clean a cage or fish tank. 

    Tips to Give Your Child Independence

    In addition to your child helping out around the house, adults can encourage independence by giving your child choices, eliciting their opinion, and holding them accountable for their actions.

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    Examples of tasks parents could assign tasks like include: homework, making their bed, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed.

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    Give Choices

    A lack of choices often results in power struggles. When encouraging independence, parents need to give their children choices occasionally. Choices must be realistic and contain at most two or three options. More than three choices will overwhelm children.

    The choices you allow your child to make should be based on their age. For example, preschoolers could choose snacks, their clothing, bedtime stories, or whether to go to the park or the pool.

    Depending on their maturity, bigger kids and teens could choose which extracurricular activities they do, when to complete their housework and homework, or which classes to take.

    When you let your child make choices, they see the direct results of their decisions, which helps develop independence.

    Ask Their Opinion

    Ask your child their opinion on matters to encourage independent thought. For little ones, it can be as simple as whether they'd like to go for a walk, play in the backyard, or want chicken or hamburgers for dinner.

    An older child can plan entire meals and choose daily or weekly household tasks. And teens should be involved in discussions about how much independence they should be allowed, decisions on their education, and other topics important to them.

    Hold Them Accountable

    When your child makes a choice resulting in a negative outcome, hold them accountable. Holding them accountable doesn't mean adults should punish or criticize a child. Instead, accountability is taught by helping a child understand the natural consequences of their choices.

    For example, if a child refuses to clean up their room, a parent may remove the toys left on the floor for a week or two. Or, if a child resists or cries about doing homework, they may lose electronic time and likely receive a poor grade.

    Start Young

    Parents must learn to let go and allow their children to do independent tasks. Building independence takes time, but the younger you start, the easier your child will respond to expectations.

    Most toddlers can put their toys away, dress partially (or fully), carry dishes to the sink, and carry their school bags to and from the car. These simple tasks are the stepping stones to creating an independent child and teen.

    Older children who have never been asked to help out around the home or engage in independent tasks are more likely to push back and engage in challenging behaviors when asked to pitch in or complete tasks.


    Children need to learn how to act independently, make their own choices, and grow from their mistakes. Kids as young as toddlers can help around the house and be responsible for things like making their bed, cleaning their room, and learning about personal hygiene.

    As kids grow, their independence should branch out until, eventually, they are self-sufficient when it comes to completing work for school, household tasks, and choosing extracurricular activities.

    In order to be independent, kids need parents who allow them to act on their own, make individual choices, fall (physically and metaphorically), and get back up again.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.