Encourage Self-Help Skills in Children

Build Self- Help skills in Your Child

Children have a willingness to learn.  It is part of growing. At different stages, children are able to complete more tasks of self-help. It is easier for you to do these tasks yourself, but then it doesn’t teach the child how to do them.  By you completing the task, yes it gets done quicker but a lost opportunity to foster independence in your little one. It is important for development to encourage self-help skills in children.

This is a long article.  If you don’t have time now, print out this self- help guide for everything you need to know.  Have as a reference sheet to make things easier for you.  Print your very own cliff notes.


Encourage Self-Help Skills in Children

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Why are self- help skills important?

Self- help or self-care skills are an important part of development. These are the first ways that children learn to perform necessary daily tasks. Invest some time with your little one to encourage these self-care skills. At each age, children are able to carry out certain self-care tasks themselves.  These tasks need to be done independently, without assistance. Many self-help skills are precursors for school-related tasks. When children go to nursery school they start to teach some self-help skills in class.  They work on hanging up their backpack, hanging up their jacket, putting their jacket on themselves and opening their snacks.

When a child completes these tasks they have a sense of accomplishment and are in charge of their bodies.  Allowing your children to do more themselves also shows your child that you trust them and believe in them.  This will help develop healthy self-esteem.

Making the effort to work on these skills at a young age take time and are not easy, but will have a huge impact on their growth and development.


Ways to encourage self-help skills for toddlers

  • Visual schedule of the steps involved.
  • Reward chart: Use this in the beginning stages so your child sees what they have completed.
  • Small steps: Breaking down the task into smaller steps.  This helps them master one part before moving on to another step.  This also gives them a sense of accomplishment and makes them want to do more.
  • Routine: Having the same routine will help them learn faster.
  • Consistency: Keep instructions short and simple.
  • Pretend Play: Children can practice these skills with dolls or stuffed animals.
  • Allow enough time: If a child is rushed and not successful they will then be less likely to do this task in the future.  You want to set your child up for success.  Practice getting dressed or eating when you are home and not going out at a certain time


Four main types of self-help skills:

  1. Self-feeding
  2. Independent dressing and grooming
  3. Hygiene and toileting
  4. Helping with daily chores


This article on Age Appropriate Chores for Kids will be helpful.  Children need to learn self-help skills. They can easily see the results of their work and grow less dependant on you the parent.  Here is a chart that you can use for daily chores as well as self -help tasks. Get a daily Chore Chart here.


Daily Chore Chart

This is a helpful list to break down self-help skills by age.  Children develop at different stages.  This is a guideline to go by.  Some children progress is physical development before language development and that’s completely ok.  When one area of development is progress other areas usually stay the same.  Every area of development can’t progress at the same time. Introduce these skills and continue to work on them.  Children learn by imitation and repetition.  So when you are brushing your hair every day give them a brush as well.


Babies to Crawlers

  1. Throw clothes in the Laundry Basket
  2. Wipe face with a napkin
  3. Feed themselves finger foods
  4. Start to use a fork (they may not get all the food in their mouths)

Trying to use a fork


12 to 18 months

  1. Continue to work on the above tasks
  2. Hold toothbrush in their mouth when imitating an adult (you will have brush the teeth)
  3. Start trying to undress (take socks off, take shoes off and pull down plants)
  4. Imitate brushing hair
  5. Starting to play alone (even with you in the room but they are playing without an adult intervening)

Brushing teeth


18 months to 2 years old

  1. Continue to work on the above tasks
  2. Start to pull up pants or shorts (mostly sweatpants or leggings clothes that stretch)
  3. Pull down a zipper
  4. Put shoes away in the correct location
  5. Imitate using a napkin to clean up spills
  6. Take child bowl or plate and put in the sink
  7. Play alone between 15- 30 minutes


3 years old

My Son dressing himself
  1. Continue to master skills above
  2. Dress themselves (It’s ok if shirt or pants are backward)
  3. Get a snack from the pantry (Keep child snacks low for easy reach.)
  4. Use a napkin to wipe their face
  5. Put clothes in a laundry basket
  6. Take shoes off
  7. Be able to put their own plate in the sink (use plastic ones)
  8. Should be able to answer “What’s your name?” and “How old are you?”
  9. Start to know what town they live in (Beginning stage of learning their address.)
  10. Play alone between 20 to 45 minutes


4 years old

  1. Continue to master skills above
  2. Put Pajamas on correctly
  3. Pick out clothes for the next day
  4. Brush teeth (You may want to go over to make sure).
  5. Learn how to clean themselves in the shower.
  6. Can put backpack and lunchbox away
  7. Know parents first names (This information is looked over a lot.  It’s important for a child to know their parent’s first names in case anything happens.  Many children just say, mom and dad.)
  8. Play alone for close to an hour


 5 years old

  1. Continue to master the skills above
  2. Dress independently
  3. Brush teeth independently
  4. Clean themselves in the shower
  5. Start some cooking skills (put peanut butter or jelly on bread)
  6. Learn emergency numbers
  7. Know their address
  8. Know their phone number
  9. Help with cleaning up after meals



Children are potty trained at different ages.  Some will be trained by 2 and others not trained till almost 5.  Either way, when your child is in the potty training stage they should learn to wipe themselves, flush and wash hands.  Being fully potty trained may take a long time for some children.  They need to learn how to clean themselves in the bathroom as they are learning to use the potty. Look for signs of readiness including pulling down diaper, hiding to poop and wanting to sit on the toilet.

Self-help skills in children

Importance of Independent Play

During each age, you see that their ability to play by themselves should increase. Independent play is an important part of development. They need to learn and explore on their own. This builds creatively and critical thinking skills. Try to encourage a little bit of independent play each day. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are in a different room, it just means that you are not guiding what your child is playing with.

Free play does not include time on screens or using technology.  It’s when a child is playing with toys and household items.


Self-help skills happen at different ages

Self- help skills are unique to each child.  Things happen over time and may vary with each child.  They will even vary among siblings.  One child may be quick to get undressed and another might really pick up using a fork. These are guidelines of age-appropriate self-care tasks that you should be working on. Allow children to try and fail is part of the learning process.  Giving your child the opportunity to learn these tasks is what’s important.


I’d love to hear what your little ones do at home for self-help skills. Comment below.


You would also enjoy Age Appropriate Chores for Kids and No Sippy Cups

P.S. Wait don’t leave without your cliff notes version of this self- help list. Print out your self-help guide today for an easy reference. 

Child and Dad brushing teeth. Teaching self-help skills


  1. Deimile says:

    These are all great lists. I’m a Montessori mom and I can’t stress enough how important these skills are! For as much as it might be messy at times, it makes mom’s life easier in the long run:)

    1. ExploreKidTalk says:

      Thank you so much! I appreciate that. Feel free to share the page with your parents. Sometimes it helps to hear suggestions from another source. I have tons on the site that would relate to that age group.

  2. Sara says:

    So much easier when your child does things for themselves for you as a parent and so important for them and their self esteem.

    1. ExploreKidTalk says:

      This is so true. By helping themselves children grow and learn independence.

  3. Marjie Mare says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

  4. shauna stoddard says:

    I love your list. I did many chores with my kiddos when they were little and it has helped them in being responsible teens! Awesome Job.

  5. Max says:

    Thanks for sharing these self-help tips. My motto is it’s never to early to start training children on life’s skills. Children are quick learners and great imitators. I love how you break down tasks based on their ages, very helpful.

    1. ExploreKidTalk says:

      Thank you. I agree. It’s never to early to start teaching self-help skills.

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