Motherhood Hack: Activities for encouraging independence

May 4, 2017


I definitely leaned towards the side of being a helicopter parent when Gabriel was little. It was mainly out of fear. Fear of messes, fear of catastrophe, fear of  any harm coming his way. Since my hands are no longer as free as when I had one, I have slowly learned how to accept these little independent initiatives as opportunities for them to come into their own. It’s also been a good exercise for me to understand I am not in control of every situation. I have noticed that when given the chance to try something new, they start to make choices on their own and become more confident about trying new things.

When they grow up, and are on their own I hope they are confident in who they are and the decisions they make as well as being able to bravely determine right over wrong. Since I now have children in all different stages, and 4 out of 5 are experimenting with new ways to be independent, this topic is on my mind quite often. I thought I would share some ways I am encouraging independence in our home, but I would love to hear your ideas as well! Let me know your favorite books, blogs, or resources on this topic!


Example: My 8 yr old son Gabriel started asking if he could make his and Veronica’s lunch every day to be a help to us in the morning. As much as I knew this meant messy peanut butter all over the kitchen counter and a chance he’d pack two carbs and no fruit, we said yes and he has proudly owned this role ever since. We affirm him for it regularly too knowing it makes him feel like he is taking care of his sister and helping his parents.
Activities: giving him a backyard mission to explore and report back on, challenging him to set up an obstacle course, getting his baby brother up from nap time, chores like unloading the dishwasher and keeping his room tidy. (Side note: Last year Gabriel asked to learn to skateboard on his own and I just kept envisioning a trip to the ER, but with Gabe’s encouragement we let him go for it. This gave him an incredible amount of confidence that wasn’t there before!)


Example: My 6 yr old daughter Veronica loves to help in the kitchen. This requires more time and patience on my part than I want to give sometimes, but if I get her involved she always beams with pride. She loves the one on one time with me and follows up with lots of bubbly words of love.
Activities: Supervise her changing her baby sister’s diaper, letting her help me pick out produce at the store, setting the table for dinner, letting her mix and match and get creative when getting herself dressed (even if the socks are mismatched;)).


Example: My wild 3 year old Max loves to fix things, but often its the wrong place and time so we give him “fix it” jobs around the house to make him feel like he can use his toolbox and help make something better. Sometimes its busy boards Gabe makes him from spare wood planks, or letting him take out and put back  batteries into toys. He struts around with extra pep in his step afterwards.
Activities: Watering the flowers, “painting the deck” with water and a paintbrush, magna-tile building, letting him help make his own lunch, practicing getting himself dressed, etc.



Example: My one year old Rocco refuses to let me spoon feed him anymore, and as much as I cringe looking at all the spilled yogurt on his face and hands, I let him go at it. Having said no to many other things he could not do on his own that day, making a contained mess always makes him smile from ear to ear. know it will lead to independence in other areas of learning as well.
Activities for one-two year olds: Letting them brush their teeth, practice putting on bigger shoes or velcro their own shoes, letting them feed themselves out of a bowl, squashing play-do and cutting shapes, watering the garden, feeding a pet, feeding a new baby a bottle, etc.


Resources: My sister Tricia (who has 4 boys!) got me onto montessori learning activities and I have a cabinet dedicated to art supplies and kids activities that encourage exploratory and sensory learning. Wish I would have done this sooner! It keeps them entertained for a long time in a positive way. I started a pinterest board where I pinned several of my favorite learning tools or things I want to try. There are also great websites with resources such as this one or this one.

I love having control over things in my life and having things clean around me. So this type of parenting does not come natural to me whatsoever, but as my children continue to teach me, my expectations of perfection are not what they in fact need. Order and organization have its place and purpose and they keep our household going! I just don’t want my desire for constant order to overtake their ability to grow into their strengths and overcome fears. I don’t think there is one way to do things as a mother. Every woman is as different as the next, just as every child. I am thankful to learn from mothers before me, and I continue to learn from my peers as well. So please let me know if you have other ideas of fun activities to encourage independence over the summer with them!

P.S. Many of you pointed me to this article which is a fascinating read that relates to this topic!




Leave a Comment

  • These are some great activities, tried and tested. They sound fun and encourage independence, as well as great family bonding time. You’ve got a great system going on!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • I think these are awesome ideas! I love that your 8 year old asked to help make lunches, that’s so cool! I really believe that young children are capable of so much and want a chance to shine, if we let them be independent, stretch, and grow-as hard as it can be for us parents to do that, it is so important. I don’t have tons of experience doing this myself, yet, since my little guy is about 11 months, but looking back to my own childhood, I’m grateful for all the times my parents would expect me to do certain chores and that type of thing. As I look forward to raising my little guy-and any other kids that God may send-I hope to cultivate this independence and growth. One of the resources that I have found extremely helpful for parenting in general and in looking at the importance of independence is the book “Bringing Up Bebe,” by Pamela Druckerman. I read it when I was pregnant with my first, and I highly recommend it-it helped broaden my perspective of just how different parenting can be from culture to culture, and it gave me some really good ideas to implement!

  • A-freakin-men. I just read “How to Raise an Adult,” and am totally on this kick. I don’t have kids yet, but I work in a high school. I see how “over-parenting” makes way for very needy teenagers. I try to empower my students as much as possible, but the truth is that it’s the parents’ responsibility. Your kids’ high school teachers thank you for taking this challenge on 😉

    • Brittany,
      I read this, I’m also a high school teacher, and I so agree! It’s also amazing how quickly kids (can) blossom when you consistently expect independence from them. But yes, the kids whose home lives foster independence and integrity stand out in a beautiful way from those whose experience is different. Keep up the good work! Also, thanks for blogging…took a quick look at your site, and enjoyed the post on friendship!

    • Brittany, you said it! My husband works in a school system and is seeing the differences between helicopter parenting and independence encouragement. It’s so good to be involved and engaged in children’s life, but equally important to allow them to sprout wings too;) I hope I can find the right balance!

  • lizzie g

    so great to see all the independence you’re fostering in them! That was Montessori’s entire vision for peace in the future. (Sidenote, since she was a real life woman (Italy’s first female physician, no less!) her name needs to be capitalized 🙂

    • Oh thanks for that tidbit! I obviously have so much to still learn about Montessori approach, but I LOVE what I have seen and read so far!

  • Anna, I just loved this post. Thanks for writing! I’m not married & don’t have any children, but I am a teacher…and this just makes me so happy 🙂 It reminds me of how God delights in our growth, our overcoming of fears, and how he loves to see us living with a ‘pep in our step’ at each phase of our lives.

    These are all such beautiful ways to build confidence. When a day may come that confidence may be a bit low, hearing ‘just be confident!’ is about the least helpful thing 😉 BUT recalling experiences of independence and confidence from ‘as long as I can remember’ (aka the experiences you and Gabe are providing) will give your kids such wind in their sails. They won’t know life apart from ‘being a part of it’…what a gift.

  • Very nice wrap up of these activities, really appreciate it, thank you!

  • Eileen Dougherty

    I love “painting” the deck with water activity! We have definitely told other friends about that great idea we witnessed when we visited. So brilliant and fun!

  • Maryn Thomas

    This was so helpful!! Love this- thank you!

  • Anna!! This has literally been on mine and Cam’s minds and conversations so much lately. Thank you for inspiring me to finally sit down and write out some of what’s working for us!

    also, this article goes right along with what you’re saying… was such a refreshing read!

    and.. our friends have 5 kids and write an amazing blog with some great resources…

  • What a great post! I often wonder if I am doing enough to encourage independence and resourcefulness, and you have done a beautiful job of giving examples of how this has worked within your family dynamic. Bravo to you for sharing and continuing to seek solutions for your family’s season of life and their development.

    • Thank you Kristen! It is a continual learning process for me! I have picked up so many helpful tips from my sisters who are also raising young ones around the same ages:)

  • Love all of these ideas as well as the thought behind it. My 3 and 2 year olds LOVE to help. It’s so hard sometimes to push aside the knowledge that it will be a messy, long sort of help and let them learn and feel accomplished, but oh so worth it!

  • Anna! I’m catching up on all my favorite blogs {finally} and I love this post! We have a soon to be 2 year old and always on the search for ways to learn independently, build confidence, and learn responsibility. Perfect post 🙂

    • Oh I am so happy it could help! Especially with summer time here I have been looking for more ideas to create a good day to day routine at home:)

Copyright © 2024 In Honor Of Design powered by chloédigital