self-help skills

Can Your Child Ask for Help? Can You?

tara-kennedy-klineToday’s blog, Can Your Child Ask for Help? Can You?, has been inspired by Tara Kennedy-Kline, parenting expert and radio host of Parent Nation.  Tara is also an author and speaker, and more than one million listeners have tuned into her show.

This morning, Tara posted a rant and a question. We might not have an answer, especially because  thinking about it leads to more questions!

It’s so strange to me…as parents, we will not think twice about sending our children to dozens of coaches and teachers and “masters” throughout their childhood who teach them to be better, smarter & more proficient in anything they (or we) deem important, yet to even suggest that a parent seek advice from a coach, teacher or expert in parenting?! “Well that’s just offensive!”

So let me get this straight: Your kid needs years of coaching to learn how to be a cheerleader or throw a ball…but raising the next generation of humanity? Nah…that comes naturally, just do your best and hope they turn out ok.


We all want to do our best, but why do we accept it’s okay to ask for help in some areas but in others, it’s a sign of weakness? Where do these expectations come from anyway? For myself, I find it hard to ask for help when it might look as though I am stupid or incompetent. Why do I think I’m “supposed” to know somethings and not others?

Young children will develop expectations all too soon. In the meantime, for them, the concern is do they know how to ask for help? Remember, they don’t have all the words we have and their language is pretty basic. Being able to ask questions is a critical self-help skill.

child ask for help

One of the most important things we can do is let our children hear us asking for help. They need to hear these words. They also need to know it is okay to do so. Apparently, kids ask about 300 questions a day. It’s so hard to answer them, especially when we have given the same answer over and over. When we do take a minute, kids develop their confidence and trust.

For a play-of-the-day, have some fun asking—and answering, questions. Even if you answer yourself. “Can someone help me find my glasses? Oh, look. I found them. I helped myself. Thank you, Self.” Part of the magic of childhood is based on wonder. “Sky, why are you blue?” Can your child ask for help? Can you? Do you still have the wonder of a child?”

Do you have questions about kids, early learning, and play? Send them to me at:  We’ll find answers.

Parent Wishes #17: Young Children Need Daily Living Skills

Young children need daily living skills; no wonder it’s one parent’s wish for supporting toddlers and preschoolers at home and in early care programs. Coping with daily living isn’t part of IQ (intelligence) but it is part of EQ, emotional intelligence. Feeling capable and confident beats anything else for feeling happy. For kids and adults. Is there any doubt about this child’s joy at making a loaf of bread?


Besides the word No, kids have two other favorities which they say as soon and as often as they can, “I do!” Kids want and need to be able to do things for themselves. How much they do depends on their age and their own personalities, but they like to try.

Cooking with kids is an activity we can do to help kids learn some basic food preparation skills. Using a plastic picnic knife, kids can practice slicing something soft like a banana. Stirring, pouring, and mixing are other kid-friendly actions. Kids can also help wash dishes, unload the dishwasher, set the table, and put away the groceries.

There are some chores kids can do in the rest of the house, like returning clean laundry to the appropriate rooms, wipe off fingerprints with a damp rag, straighten the shoes, and even vacuum. Picking up toys doesn’t seem to have the same appeal because it’s not part of the grown-up world. Sometimes it helps to call it by a different name, like tidying a room. Young children need daily living skills like cleaning and we hope they remember when they are teenagers. communication activities for kids

Outside, little hands like to dig in the dirt, pull weeds, sweep the driveway, and when fall comes, rake the leaves. Water and soap turn washing anything, like cars, decks, tools, and deck furniture into play.

While getting groceries with kids takes more time than just doing it ourselves, and we’re not likely to have a temper tantrum when we bypass the treats aisle, when we have kids along, they have sharp eyes and memories for noticing usual items. They will remind us to take the bottles and cans to the recyclers and help sort out the kinds.

Self-care includes a range of essential skills. While most kids soon learn how to brush teeth, wash hands, get dressed, and take care of  bathroom needs, they require some coaching for choosing healthy foods, and getting enough sleep. Being without parents and caregivers for stretches of time is a challenge for some children. Kids also need to know how to ask adults for help when they need it, and what to do in scary and uncomfortable situations. In many parts of the world, we also include knowing what to do in emergencies, like dial 911 or 999, how to get out of the house in case of fire, and duck and cover during emergencies.

young children need daily living skills

There are so many things for kids to learn. Young children need daily living skills along with social and emotional ones, thinking strategies, physical coordination, language and communication and more. Thankfully, Mother Nature must have looked at this whole package and realized it was quite a burden for our most vulnerable. To make up for it, the brain’s favorite way to learn is to PLAY. The bottom line for helping kids is to make sure they have opportunities and space to play. Could some daily living skills, along with the rest, be part of your child’s day?


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. … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness & Early Learning Basics: Asking For Help

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

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