What can a 5 year old do for themselves?

On Tuesday I was running a couple of workshops for parents in a local Primary School around developing children’s resilience. We were looking at how we can encourage children to have that essential ‘bounce back’ factor that enables some to try, try again whilst others give up at the first setback. At the end of one session a Mum took me aside to ask me how she can encourage greater independence in her 5 year old daughter and in the course of the conversation she mentioned that she still feeds her! I was quite taken aback.
There is no reason for this Mother feeding her daughter at 5 as the child has no identified physical or learning difficulties and yet she is still playing mummy bird to her offspring, whilst attending a workshop on resilience. It would seem to me fairly obvious that resilience and independence have some common ground and although not absolutely linked, there has to be some overlap in younger children. a five year old who expects everything to be done for them will hardly rely on themselves to get through when the going gets tough either physically or emotionally. in schools we have more and more children coming to adults to sort out the simplest of problems, relying on adults to fulfill their most simple requirements and expecting adults to provide for all their wants and needs. To some degree schools must accept they have created some of this dependence by constantly repeating and repeating the “if you have a problem go and tell an adult” message but parents too have to look at how much they encourage dependance in their children, because dependent children cause fewer outside problems and help parents feel needed.
schools maybe need to start telling children to try and sort out problems themselves first using certain techniques and expectations and then ask for adult help if their own attempts at justice fall down. likewise parents may need to encourage children to do things for themselves whenever possible and from as early an age as possible and to be prepared to come down heavily on the boundaries when they try to do more than is safe for them to do so.
Independence is only a part of resiliencnof course and a good level of self worth and self belief are necessary too as is a sense of oneself within a caring community in which they play a role and can have positive impact. That of course starts with the family and class and moves out into a sense of wider community as they grow.
in our most recent book ‘It’s Not Fair’ my co-author Alison and I published a list of what we considered children should be able to do by which ages. it has proved extremely popular. Unfortunately as the book doesn’t cover 5 year olds it doesn’t include a list of appropriate skills and abilities so here is my list of what a five year old really should be able/ expected to do.
*Feed themselves using appropriate cutlery though some things
they may need help to cut
*Dress and undress themselves including buttons and zips –
though some, such as anorak zips can be a bit tricky
*Toilet themselves
*Wash their hands after using a toilet
*Tidy away their own toys and belongings
*Clean their own teeth
*Hang up their coats and bags
*Pour milk or juice for themselves
*Make a sandwich or spread their own toast
*Wheel their own bike or scooter if they don’t want to ride it
*Carry their own bag /lunchbox
*Help to lay a table and clear away after a meal
*Wash up simple dishes (plates and cups etc rather than
saucepans or very dirty items)
*Dry up simple dishes
Do let me know other things to add the list!

© Shae Cardenas | Dreamstime.com


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