The Importance of Letting Children Complete Tasks on Their Own

February 19, 2021

Think about all of the things that you can do without thinking about them. Chances are that you've got a pretty long list of things you are capable of doing without even really thinking about what you need to do to complete those tasks. They can be anything from zipping your zipper (and what to do when it gets caught), to how to scrape the food you didn't eat off your plate and put it in the sink or dishwasher.

Now think about all of the steps that you have to take in order to complete a single task on your list. Let's take a look at putting on a sock: you know that your sock has to be turned a certain way so that the heel ends up in the same spot as the heel on your foot; you know that you have to open up the sock and put your foot in the hole at the top, pushing your foot in while pulling at the top of the sock at the same time. What happens if the sock gets twisted, or your toes end up getting stuck? You know that you have to adjust the sock, and maybe even take it off.

There are actually quite a few steps involved in being able to put on your sock, but you do it without even thinking about it. You are not born knowing skills that seem like simple tasks, they require time and attention, and, within a week or two of trying, children even as young as two (2) are pretty capable of completing these tasks, like putting on their shoes, pulling up pants, or scraping a plate of food, when given the opportunity to try, and it makes them feel so proud when they complete them.

Often, when it comes to learning, these types of tasks are overlooked. There are many reasons, be it that caregivers just do not have the time to wait for their child to attempt to put on their pants so they just do it for them, or learning the alphabet or how to write your name before entering school is seen as more important. What a lot of people do not realise is that these tasks are just as important for children to learn, if not more. The tasks we do every day that we do not think much about require fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and problem solving skills, just to name a few. Not to mention what it does for self esteem. How good do you feel when you complete a task that seems next to impossible when you first try? Pretty darn good!

A lot of schools have begun asking caregivers to make sure that their new students are capable of a lot of self-help skills before even starting Kindergarten. When a child enters school, it is imperative that they are capable of putting on their winter gear before heading outside for recess as teachers are not able to get all of the children ready within the small window of time that is recess. That doesn't mean that if they are struggling that help won't be offered, but the help that is offered is minimal and will eventually no longer be needed as the child is able to complete the task.

So what can we do to help our children learn to complete tasks on their own? 

If your child is beginning a new task that they have never done before, make sure you give them enough time to complete it. If they are working on zipping up their coat but they only get to do it when leaving the house, then you are more likely to take over when they are taking too long. Work on it at a time when you're not needing to leave the house, and provide toys and dress-up clothes that have zippers, buttons, snaps, etc. on them.

You can also make a game out of it. If the task your child is working on is learning how to clean up their room, set a timer to see how quickly they can do it, or sing a special song while helping them learn how to organize their toys.

There is nothing quite like completing a task and the feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes with it, even as adults. Children get so excited when they are able to zip their zipper by themselves, or put on their shoes, or pull up their pants. They are so capable of it, and just need our time and patience to walk them through the steps that we already know without thinking about it.

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