What is your little one’s name?
Tell me and watch the magic happen!
Developing independence is a natural stage in early childhood development. However, as parents, care-givers and educators, there are certain things we can do to enhance independent thinking and ensure that our children are raised with a growth mindset that will benefit them well into the future.
So, let’s discuss some of the top strategies for developing independent thinking within our little ones.
1. Step Back
This is probably the hardest thing to do but the most important when it comes to raising independent thinkers. Naturally, when you see your child struggling, your instant reaction is to run to their aid. We do it out of love and affection but if we do this every time, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn. So, next time they are finding it hard to put their shoes on or get stuck at the top of the climbing frame, stop and think. Coach them with words instead of doing things for them. Provide them with the steps to success and let them figure out how to squeeze their feet into their shoes or wiggle their way down to the ground safely.
2. Freedom to Explore
Giving children the freedom to explore safely and allowing them to decide what they would like to do with their time is key. Too often as adults we plan the day ahead without consulting our children. However, children need time in the day to explore and investigate because this is how they learn. Therefore, try to build in moments to each day where the activities are child led. This means that they decide what to do, they might decide to pull out a favorite toy, to look at books, maybe they will find a completely random object that they wish to investigate. The important thing is that they have made the decision independently and the decision is based on their own preference.
3. Provide Choices
Leading on from the point above, choices are another factor to be mindful of. If possible and appropriate, give children choices. When faced with a decision of two options, children are forced to use their thinking skills and memories of past experiences to weigh-up the pros and cons of each choice. An example, ‘Which route shall we take on our walk home from nursery, the quick route home or the route that takes us past play-park?’ This simple choice offers a lot to consider. ‘The quick route means less walking, we’ll get home quicker, my toys are waiting for me at home, and I’m hungry. But can I miss a chance to play in the park, maybe my friends are there…’. Choices create opportunities to practice decision making which is essential in becoming an independent thinker.
4. Share & Collaborate
A problem shared is a problem halved. Even adults run into problems and when children notice this, why not invite them to share their ideas and help fix the issue. For example, you spill something on the floor - What should I do? You break something - How can I fix this? You’ll be surprised how many opportunities there are in a day to stimulate children's problem-solving abilities.
5. Nurture a Growth Mindset
Children with growth mindsets thrive on challenge. They see ‘failures’ as a chance to learn. They are resilient and persist when things are difficult. Development Psychologist, Carol Dweck, has studied the difference between people with fixed and growth mindsets for decades and has proven that there are direct links to happiness and success, depending on which mindset you have evolved. When raising children to be independent thinkers, we need to think about how to promote and instill a growth mindset within them. One of Carol Dweck’s top pieces of advice relates to how we praise our children. Instead of the generic phrases ‘good girl’ or ‘clever boy’, focus praise on effort not attainment. Some examples, your child is putting their shoes on; instead of ‘Amazing, you put your shoes on!’ rephrase it; ‘You tried so hard to put your shoes! And you did it all by yourself!‘. Or trying to piece together a tricky puzzle, ‘I love how you are moving the pieces around to see if they fit!’.
Raising our children as independent thinkers is ultimately setting them up for a successful future. Confidence, healthy self-esteem and decisiveness are powerful tools in adult-life. So remember, small actions now create happy, successful grown-ups in the future.