If you’re like every mother, your main goal is to teach your child to be self-sufficient, even from the time they are preschoolers. Learn how!

Building Self-Sufficiency In Your PreK Child

The Pre-K years are exciting ones in the development of a child. In just a few short years, the child has gone from a helpless baby to a toddler and is progressing toward school-age. They have learned how to eat, sleep on a schedule, walk, and talk, among a whole list of other things. This is the time, too, when we become aware of the need to start letting them be more independent. As a child learns to be more self-sufficient, they develop more confidence in themselves, they learn skills they will use the rest of their lives, and they practice problem solving skills. It is very important that we as parents and teachers, learn to let kids become more self-sufficient. It may feel easier and less stressful to just do everything for our kids. But if we don’t let them try for themselves, we are preventing them from learning some very valuable skills.

What kids of skills should Pre-K age kids be working on? We should let them try the following things by themselves as much as possible, only offering assistance when needed.

  • Tying shoelaces – This is the time to start teaching how to tie shoelaces. This can take some time to teach, so introducing them early to the basics, could make it easier. At this point kids should be able to:
  • Getting dressed – Let kids learn to dress themselves, including buttoning, zipping and snapping. putting on socks and shoes, and hats. Some things like gloves and jackets may be more difficult and still require assistance. Kids can also learn how to put dirty clothes into a hamper and match their own socks from the dryer.
  • Dressing for the weather– At this age, kids should be learning what clothes are appropriate for what weather. In other words, they should know to wear a coat when it’s cold or a raincoat when it is rainy.
  • Following a schedule – When a similar schedule is followed day to day, a child should be able to anticipating upcoming events and understand/follow expectations for regular activities. Setting up a visual schedule can be helpful for this.
  • Buckling into their seat – Let kids be involved in getting into their seat. If possible, let them buckle themselves. If not, they can at least sit down on their own, with minimal help.
  • Eating– Obviously, kids should be feeding themselves at this point. They should also be eating a variety of foods and should be trying new foods. This is difficult for some kids and forcing them won’t work! But continuing to offer different, new foods will allow them to expand their palettes.
  • Drinking– Kids should have transitioned away from the bottle. Though they may primarily be using a sippy cup, they should also be learning to drink without a sippy lid. This skill may take a little bit to learn, but is important for those times when they have to use a “big kid” cup.
  • Recognize health food choices– At this point, kids should be able to distinguish healthy foods from sugary sweets/desserts. Help them make good choices as often as possible.
  • Open easy/child-friendly food containers-¬†This skill is an important one for developing independence! Help kids to learn how to open¬†such things as ziploc baggies, water bottle tops, and certain plastic containers.
  • Help in the kitchen– Teach kids to put dishes into sink/on countertop after meals. They can also learn to help unload silverware from dishwasher into the silverware drawer. Also, they can set the table. Letting them help gives them a since of contribution to the family meal.
  • Playing independently– Let kids play by themselves. Having a variety of toys and activities easily accessible and then giving them the opportunity to select which ones they want, helps young kids to learn independence. You want to move away from having to constantly entertain them. Let them use their imaginations!
  • Using art material appropriately– Let kids self-select art supplies and media. They should be able to open and close marker lids, wash paint brushes, wipe down art messes from tabletop/desk and return materials to their places.
  • Sustained attention– Kids should be able to attend to short tasks and activities at this point. Helping to create an environment for concentration, is beneficial.
  • Follow multi-step directions– This will have begun with just one step instructions (ex: Get your shoes). But should be advancing to 2- step and then 3-step (by age 5) instructions. Don’t be afraid to practice and then gently prompt kids until they learn to follow through.
  • Clean up- Kids should be able to clean up after themselves. If they drop something, pick it up. If they have trash, throw it away.
  • Books– Let kids learn to choose and look at picture books independently. The should be able to put books back on the shelf or in the basket after reading.

Each of these skills is not accomplished all at once. They are a learning process for our kids. But it is our responsibility to be encouraging and teaching things that will lead to more confident, independent kids. And what a joy it is to watch them grow and blossom into more self-sufficient little beings!

Check out some more helpful resources below!


  • Tooth Brushing Song- This is a cute 2 minute song that shows kids how to brush, while also giving them a time frame for brushing!


The following are Amazon affiliate links:

  • How to Be a Big Kid This fun book covers lots of different topics for a preschooler, from manners to how to dress themselves to personal hygiene. It is sure to be a good reinforcement to the important things you are teaching your Pre-K child.
  • How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room?– A silly book about making a mess and then cleaning it up. A good guide to help kids know how to clean up their own rooms.


The following are Amazon affiliate links:

  • Kid’s kitchen knife set and folding cutting board– Let kids get in the kitchen and help…in a safe way! Check out these plastic knives perfect for little hands.
  • Kid’s electric toothbrush with timer– This toothbrush plays a song (you can choose between a few) to help kids know how long to brush. Let them take more of the responsibility of keeping their teeth clean!
  • Responsibility chart– Let kids learn to be more independent with their daily tasks. List the things they must do each day and have them mark them off when done. This is a good one for young kids, because the task has a picture beside it for easy recognition.

how to teach your kid to be self-sufficient