Social & Emotional Development

How to Raise a Self-Sufficient Child

By: Alexandra Gakos
Dad showing daughter how to be self-sufficient by cleaning a counter
3 minutes to read
Ages 3+
Critical Thinking
Fine Motor Skills
Social Emotional

Self-sufficient children tend to have greater self-esteem, are better able to manage frustration and are less dependent on others, experts say. Check out the following entry-level self-care skills for preschool and grade-school youngsters that can set your child on a self-care path today!

Self-Care Skills for Little Ones

Age: 3+

Skills: Retrieving socks, underwear and pj’s from a dresser drawer or closet; returning folded clothes to a drawer; placing soiled clothing in a hamper; setting and clearing unbreakable plates and utensils before and after meals.

What you should know: Each kid is different and learns at their own pace, and your child may be ahead—or behind—their peers in maturity, independence and readiness to take on self-care. Don’t pressure your child to learn at the same rate as siblings or classmates, but at this age kids can engage in easy self-care tasks that put them on the road to independence.


What to do next: Talk to your child about fun self-care tasks they might like to try—and encourage your child to get started. Keep in mind that some tasks are harder or require more dexterity than your child currently has in place. Match chores and self-care tasks to your child’s abilities. Support your child’s efforts but don’t take over.

DIY Chores for Preschool Kids

Age: 4+

Skills: Picking up toys and games and returning them to storage bins; putting arts and crafts supplies away; learning basic kitchen skills, such as how to peel a clementine at lunch or snack time; setting the table; placing their backpack in a location where it will be ready to pick up and go the next day.

What you should know: It’s important for kids to learn that they should tidy up after themselves and take responsibility for their actions and belongings.

What to do next: Teach your child to clean up after a spill or a mess like muddy boots and shoes scattered all over the mudroom. Demonstrate what to do and how. Encourage with tips, but don’t demand perfection. Over time, your child should be able to do these tasks on their own without prompting.

Looking-Sharp Tasks for the Kindergarten Crowd

Age: 5+

Skills: Combing and brushing tangle-free hair after a bath or before school in the morning; selecting clothes the night before to suit the occasion and weather; taking care of uniforms and equipment for sports and other activities.

What you should know: School-age kids can select clothes, dress themselves, tie their shoes, button coats and take care of their personal space and possessions. Doing so builds confidence and sharpens the decision-making skills they need to move forward.

What to do next: Encourage your child to do all of the above and other tasks independently. A kid who feels secure making small decisions on their own early on will feel better prepared to tackle challenging ones as life gets more complicated.

More Challenges for Grade-School Kids

Age: 6+

Skills: Tending to a family pet (a dog, cat, fish, bird, hamster or gecko) by feeding, walking, grooming, providing water, cleaning the pet’s space and more, depending on the needs of the animal.

What you should know: Make sure your kids understand that in addition to taking on self-care tasks, they are also part of a family that values and needs their point of view, help and participation.

What to do next: Let your child know that sharing tasks at home frees up time for activities and family fun and helps the household run smoothly. Going forward, assign chores or let your child choose their own. Raise them to embrace self-care, while lending a hand and caring for others.

Author Alexandra Gakos
By: Alexandra Gakos