self-help skills

Before I Go to Kindergarten #3: Self-Help Skills for Young Children

Before going to kindergarten, preschool, daycare, or playschool, it helps if we encourage some basic self-help skills for young children, like the bathroom!


Being independent in bathroom needs is one of the biggies for young kids.  Some programs will have separate washrooms or restrooms, but in larger centers there could be ones used by other kids too. If old enough, check if your child can go the bathroom alone, when needed, and can take care of wiping needs. At home, kids don’t always close the door, but this could be a concern in programs. Reminders to wash hands and flush are pretty standard.

Kids can be hesitant about telling someone they need to visit the bathroom. While some kids have twitches, posture, and wiggles that make it obvious they need to go, others don’t. Is your child comfortable telling someone and asking for help, if needed?

Although at home, another family member may complain if a child takes too long, generally the bathroom is a private, quiet space and kids can spend the time they need. That might be an issue in a school or care center. There are no Boys and Girls signs on the doors at home either so kids know which bathroom to use. Not all boys have seen the urinals that are common in larger washrooms and restrooms.

Considering how important and necessary, no wonder this school made a video about bathroom expectations.

Another somewhat related self-help skill is knowing the correct names for body parts, including the private ones. Some adults are uncomfortable or embarrassed by children’s use of these words, but it’s vital they know them for their safety. Being able to use the accurate names increases children’s resistance to abuse. We need to discuss with kids the differences between private and public spaces and behaviors.

Next to these, independence in dressing is a minor concern. What are some other important self-help skills for young children?

(For the entire checklist, visit the first post’s Before I Go to Kindergarten infographic .)

Kindergarten Readiness & Early Learning Basics: Asking For Help

Parents and caregivers often ask what young children need to know before kindergarten; this is the 11th in a series of blog posts on kindergarten readiness and early learning basics. No matter the age of your little one, this will give you a general picture of what to do as your child’s very first teacher.

Imagine being just 4 years old or maybe 5 and in the brand new space called school for the first time. Chances are high that there will be some things for kids that are new and different. When kids encounter these unknowns they may need some help. Do they know how to ask for help? Children need to know that it is okay to ask for help and how to do it.

Asking is a lot more complicated language-wise than just telling, so as parents and caregivers we need to teach children how to ask. When we notice kids struggling with something and obviously needing help we can just give them the words. For example you may say to your child, “You are really trying to reach that book but you need help. You can ask for help by saying: Can you help me reach that book?” This sounds so basic, but I know from experience that sometimes 4 and 5 year olds at school do not remember how to ask.

Besides giving kids the words we use, we also need to model asking for help. We need to walk the walk and talk the talk ourselves. Explorations Early Learning had a super post on this same topic:

Care-giving and parenting are tough jobs. They require abundant focus and emotional labor. At times, these jobs can seem overwhelming. If you need help, resources, assurance, ideas, direction, information, or any other kind of support ask for it…. A side benefit of asking for help when you need it: it teaches the children in your life that they can do the same.

Children learn from seeing parents and caregivers asking for help. By giving kids the words to use and the example of ourselves asking for help, they will develop another strategy and skill ready for when they go to preschool, daycare and kindergarten. Helping each other is another way of connecting. Does this information connect for you and your child?

10 Tips for Helping Kids Start Kindergarten: #5 Self-Help

Kindergarten readiness needs to include much more than academic concerns. Before your child’s first day at kindergarten or preschool, and even if your child has already started, there are some basic points to check in the area of self-help skills. Helping your child be independent in taking care of bathroom needs is very important. Most programs for young kids have small bathrooms, but just in case, kids needs to have experience in big restrooms and washrooms, too.

girls-608x404Can your child go to the bathroom alone and take care of wiping needs? Most kids need reminders to close the door, flush and wash hands– and that’s okay. Some kids have a not-so-subtle pee-pee dance which makes it easier to check if somebody really needs to go for a washroom visit. However, not all children are comfortable letting the teacher know s/he needs a bathroom break. There can be other issues, too. Some kids don’t like the door closed, or they can’t figure out the handles, or they don’t like so many people in the bathroom, especially if it’s a big room.

boys-608x404For some children, the bathroom at home is a quiet, private space and they may take considerable time to use the restroom. School can be different. Going over bathroom issues is very helpful. Set aside some time to check your child’s confidence and independence level. Because of security and safety issues, lots of boys are used to using the women’s restroom with their moms. Some of them may not have seen or used urinals. This might be something to check. And, practice what the words Boys and Girls look like, not just the picture symbols. Just in case. Schools do not use “Men” and “Ladies” on the restroom doors.

Most children need reminders to wash and dry their hands. Some will need more than reminders, they’ll need checks: “Are you sure you washed?” And they may require prompts: Hmm, just in case, give those hands another wash. Germs can hide. The point is can your child wash and dry hands independently, rather that does. Schools sometimes seem like germ factories, so good hand washing is important.

This video from an elementary school is quite well done and may help you and your child. Who knew that kindergarten readiness could include this kind of learning?

Kindergarten Readiness – Z=Zippers

Today’s topic was suggested by the owner of a very popular daycare center. Thank you, Sharon Larkins.  While z is for zippers, it’s also for velcro and elastic and other fastenings that make life easier for little ones. Part of kindergarten readiness is being independent in basic self-care skills. Pants that have tricky zippers make using the restroom more difficult. … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Z=Zippers