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  • Writer's pictureAlison Wimmer


Teaching Independent Drinking

To start you can use a small juice cup or even a shot glass with just small amounts of liquid. It is nice to have a small pitcher (think creamer size) at the table so you can easily give more and as he gets better at it and begin to pour his own drink (great hand/eye coordination activity).

Also you can give him with a small towel/rag/sponge to wipe up anything that spills on the table. I can see how it may be difficult at first when a child is used to a sippy or other type of cup with a lid. Using a cup takes more patience.

Maybe try sitting down with him with your own glass of water and model holding the cup with two hands, tilting the glass, taking small drinks and setting the cup gently on the table.

Using applesauce or some sort of watered down vegetable that he loves (think tomato soup) works best to teach at first, since the water takes longer to get to his mouth.

Independent Dressing skills

Start by teaching him to undress, taking pants off is easiest when laying down, it takes the energy cost out of the activity. Same with socks and shoes.

Children typically learn to undress first. Let them help at night before bath time or bedtime


Lay the clothes out in the right way, shirt first then pants, then sandals or socks and shoes.

Many children will benefit from a quick lesson on how to put their clothes on. Explain where the tag belongs, which hole your legs go in/arms go in, etc.

Give verbal cues when needed. Keep your wording and directions short and consistent. Use Backward chaining. This is the style of teaching where you provide assistance throughout the steps until the child can complete the last step independently.

Example: putting on a shirt – Start with just a simple t-shirt and you help with putting arms in holes, head through the hole, and the child pulls down the shirt independently. Once the child masters the last step, advance to them completely the last 2 steps independently, etc. until they have mastered the entire skill.

Teaching Independent Eating

One of the best ways to teach a child to eat by himself is to let him watch others do it. This will encourage him to do it on his own. Make this activity more interesting and fun by sitting him down in the high chair with the family at mealtime and watch the fun. Encourage her to mimic you or her siblings. For example - pick up a noodle and put it in your mouth, and watch him do the same. While taking a spoonful from your own plate, encourage him to do the same. Make it an elaborate process and he will begin to enjoy eating by himself.

Getting children to eat by themselves can be a slow process and needs a lot of time and attention from the parent. But once they learn how to do it, you will be happy seeing how easily they put the food in their mouth.

Plan a balanced meal for him and have a fixed mealtime every two to three hours. This way they get the right nutrition and practicing something with more frequency makes it a lot easier to learn.

Understand when your child gets hungry and give them food at least 15 minutes before that. If you put the food in front of them a little late, he will already be cranky.

Have two bowls of food -- one with food for spilling and another bowl with which the child should feed independently. Make him sit on the high chair. It’s okay if there is a mess because that is how he will gradually learn to eat well on his own.

Don’t be impatient. Read a book or tell a story, while he is eating. It will keep him engaged.

Teaching Toileting Skills

If you are wanting to try toilet training your child you should look at the following points and see how they relate to your child.

The first stage of potty training begins when your child shows the following signs of potty training readiness:

Uses three word phrases

Expresses an interest in using the potty

Notices when diapers are wet or soiled

Can pull pants up and down by him or her self

Stays dry for about two hours at a time

Expresses the need to go potty (or indicate that he/she just has)

Expresses an interest in cotton underwear

Has predictable bowel movements

Shows an interest when other family members use the toilet

It is generally best to have the child start training on the toilet rather than using a “potty chair” or special seat. This avoids having to transition from one method to another. If the child is small, you may want to face him or her towards the back of the toilet so they will have more stability. In some cases it may also be necessary to unhook the flusher so they do not flush repeatedly.

Training should happen when the child can be at home and there are few distractions. It is a good idea to have the child in cotton underwear or boxer shorts.

Start by increasing the amount of fluid intake. Determine the best schedule by looking at your child’s “input vs. output”. Generally every 45 minutes to an hour is optimum.

Initially, you can have the child sit on the toilet until they are able to “go pee”. Simply talk to him or her about what they are going to do rather than reading with them or otherwise occupying their time. Once the child has gone, take them off the toilet and tell them “good job!” but do not “throw a party” as this can “backfire”.

Once your child has the idea that they will sit until they “go”, the process will be much faster and the time spent sitting will drop significantly. Until such time, it may be necessary for you to put him or her on the toilet as much as every hour depending on their fluid intake.

Hand washing/drying and dressing/undressing should be up to the caregiver or parent until the child has had at least one week of successes and dry pants. Once you are ready to add the other steps, do them one at a time.

Nighttime dryness is easy to accomplish once you have established that the child is not to “wet” the cotton underwear. You can then put the underwear under the diaper and use a baby sound monitor for nighttime. When you hear the child stirring you should take them in to the toilet without turning on lights or talking to them. After they have “gone” put them back in bed and leave the room. It will not be long before they will be able to “go” on their own or “hold it” until they wake in the morning.

While this method may work for many, every child is different.

We recommend you contact Alison to decide if this is the best method for your child prior to starting the process.

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