Kindergarten Readiness/Transition Series
(Information for Parents)
We hope you are enjoying the Kindergarten Readiness Email Series!  
As a reminder: The Kindergarten Activity Section is going to focus on one of the following 7 Areas:  Self-Care; Language and Communication; Social/Emotional; Fine Motor; Gross Motor; Math Readiness and Pre-Reading/Literacy.  This one focuses on Self Care.


Self Help Inc CFCE Staff
Kindergarten Article



Reading: What Happens in Kindergarten?
Self Care

Ways to Encourage Self-Help Skills in Children

Children have a drive to be independent and do things on their own. This is a healthy part of normal child development. As children grow, they learn to do more and more tasks.

Child care providers can help young children become independent by allowing and encouraging them to take responsibility for themselves whenever possible. It can be faster and less messy to do things for children, but they learn so much from doing things for themselves. When children practice self-help skills such as feeding and dressing themselves, they practice their large and small motor skills, gain confidence in their ability to try new things and build their self-esteem and pride in their independence.

There are four main types of self-help skills:                                                                         

  • Self-feeding. The best way to build independent feeding skills is to learn the normal developmental stages of self-feeding. Encourage children to practice feeding themselves from infancy on. Begin by offering older infants finger foods. Introduce a spoon and fork and give children plenty of time to practice. Let children be as independent as possible during mealtimes. Give them the tools they need to be successful. Consider bowls that attach to the table, child-sized utensils and small cups with handles and spouts (such as measuring cups) for pouring. Encourage children to try for themselves but provide help and encouragement when needed so they don't get frustrated.
  • Independent dressing and grooming. Encourage children to dress and groom by themselves; just provide minimal assistance. Begin with older infants and toddlers by encouraging them to help pull socks on and off, pull up pants after diapering and help put their arms through sleeves. As children get older, encourage them to dress themselves but help with challenging steps such as zipping and buttoning.
  • Hygiene and toileting . Look for signs of readiness for toileting. Encourage children learning to use the toilet to climb on and off the toilet seat, pull clothing up and down, and wash their hands independently. Also teach children how to brush their teeth after lunch and snacks. Be ready to provide support and help if they need it. You can find more suggestions at Keeping Children's Teeth Clean in Child Care  and Hand washing in Child care. Encouraging children to take care of everyday hygiene routines and to use the toilet independently helps them learn how to become more independent and self-sufficient, and frees up your time to help children with other activities.
  • Helping with daily chores like table setting and picking up toys. Encourage children to help with clean-up early on. Give toddlers responsibility for placing napkins or utensils on the table. Encourage children to begin clearing their own plates when they are old enough to carry them without dropping them. When children are involved in regular chores starting before the age of 4, they tend to be more independent in early adulthood than children without the experience of helping out.

Self-help skills are worth the time and effort in a child care program. The secret to success is to give children age-appropriate experiences and provide the appropriate supports to help children be successful. Child care providers can offer opportunities for children to develop self-help skills and give them ample time to work on these important tasks. Remember that adults are important role models. We model self-help skills; children learn a great deal from watching us.





Kindergarten Activity Section

Skill: Self Care Skills  

Encouraging self-help skills is an important step to preparing your child for kindergarten. "It's amazing how many kids come to kindergarten not knowing how to hang up a jacket." It might be quicker for you to do it, but "independence is critical for helping your child adjust to school."  Teachers expect children to:

  • Get coats on and off and hang them up
  • Follow simple two-step instructions such as "take off your boots and put on your sneakers"
  • Go to the bathroom and wash their hands
  • Blow their nose and cover their mouth when they cough
  • Fasten and unfasten simple buttons and snaps
  • Eat neatly and pour into a cup
  • Open up a juice box and get the straw in.

"Some children are so dependent on their parents that they expect the teacher to do these things for them," says Hughes. "But when you have 20-plus kids in the room, it's hard to worry about wiping noses!" However, tying shoes is a developmental skill that often doesn't come until the first grade. If kids can't yet tie their shoes, teachers suggest sending them in slip-ons or sneakers with Velcro fasteners.



How to Teach Young Children to Learn Self Help Skills 

As early as six months, children begin trying to do things for themselves, such as hold the bottle or pull off their socks. As they develop, it is important for children to develop those self-help skills that will aid in their self-sufficiency and maturity, according to Penn State University. The drive for independence is a natural growing process that must be tempered with steps to ensure the child's safety.

Teach Children to:
  • Wash hands before eating, after toileting and playing outside
  • Use toilet as development allows, including flushing and wiping
  • Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue
  • Use grooming supplies, such as a toothbrush and comb, help bathe self
  • Eat independently, using utensils and cup as abilities allow
  • Clean up own spills and messes with paper towel, sponge or child sized broom
  • Put own garbage in trash container
  • Help make bed
  • Choose clothes from two choices; dress self, at least partially
  • Put dirty clothes in laundry basket, clean ones in drawers or on low hooks
  • Get personal toys and books from child height shelves
  • Play with toys, such as puzzles and blocks and put away after play
  • Keep track of favorite blanket or stuffed toy
  • Help with simple toy repair, like taping torn pages in a book
  • Cooperate getting into safety seat or belt
  • Cooperate with medical care, like taking temperature
  • Help put items in child care cubby  


Kindergarten Resources

 Books for Preschoolers

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Corduroy by Don Freeman
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin 

Contact Us
Self Help Inc./CFCE
780 West Main Street
Avon, MA 02322
Phone: 508-559-1666 x128 


Self Help Inc./CFCE is funded by the MA Department of Early Education's Coordinated Family and Community Engagement grant.