Your Child's Self-Help Skills

Eating, toileting, washing, grooming, dressing, and undressing are daily tasks that your child masters as she grows. Small children show an interest in learning these skills, but they need your patience, help, and encouragement. Keep your expectations in line with what your child is capable of at each stage of her development.

The Very Young

Your toddler can follow general routines such as those at mealtime and bedtime. She exhibits some day-time bladder control and shows interest in the potty, but may not take action when seated on it. She washes her hands but hates to wash her face.

Although she can sip through a straw, manage her spoon, and hold her cup--often throwing it when she's finished--she will need your help at mealtime as she gets tired. Do not expect her to sit through an entire family meal.

Your toddler likes to remove clothing and can put on simple garments. She can step into and out of shoes and will probably cooperate as you dress her.

Because your toddler learns by imitation, show her how to practice self-help skills by breaking them into small steps. Your toddler's eye-hand coordination and small motor skills are not yet well developed, so she will require a long time to complete each job. Give her plenty of opportunities to practice. Do not redo the task yourself. Either applaud her efforts or offer suggestions.

Your Preschooler

Your child announces her bowel movements and begins to achieve day and night dryness. She still needs help washing herself.

At mealtime, your preschooler has increased control of utensils, uses both hands to pour from a small pitcher, and delights in serving herself. She may be able to sit at the family table if she's allowed to leave when she's finished eating. She can undress completely, do her own buttons, and may want to choose her own clothes.

As Your Child Grows

Your older preschooler gains more control over bowels and bladder. After washing her hands, she still needs help drying. Able to feed herself with fewer spills, your child now holds a cup by its handle. She still prefers undressing to dressing, and needs help with zippers, back buttons, and shoelaces. She may not cooperate while getting dressed.

As she approaches kindergarten, your child can go to the toilet without any help. Though curious about others, she may demand bathroom privacy for herself. She can dress herself, knows which shoe goes on which foot, but may still have trouble with shoelaces. She skillfully handles her fork and spoon (but not knife). With some supervision, your kindergartner can wash her face and brush her teeth. She is eager to join in simple housecleaning chores and begins to learn the importance of keeping things clean.

FisherPrice Parenting Guide CDROM