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Learning Independence

October 28, 2020 | Kristen Jordan

Since early on in the school year, we have been working to help children grow in their independence in many areas: getting their own materials, using language to share things with friends, solving problems, creating drawings and paintings, counting and building.

But another place where they are growing in independence is during snack time!   Children have been working hard to learn to open their own snacks. Many snacks are challenging to access! 

Early in the year, there were many requests for help with opening or closing snacks, or putting containers back into bags.  Now almost all children are working on or able to do these tasks on their own.



Another place children have really been working hard and where they are becoming more independent on is putting on their gear!

We teach children strategies for tackling their snack or putting on their jackets.  Sometimes it can just be the slightest detail that they need to know or change in order to do something independently. 

“Use your pincer fingers and hold really tightly right here to open that cheese stick.”  

“Hold it right here and here and then pull really hard!” 

“Put the tab right in this spot and then hold tightly and pull with the other hand as you pull the zipper up!”

“Keep your eyes on what you are doing!”

The work of putting on a coat can be very tricky and there are many steps involved. We teach the children to do the flip! You may have seen it or heard about it at home.

First, make certain that the coat is ready by making sure the sleeves are right-side out. 

Then, lay it flat on the floor. Make sure the tag or hood is near your feet (otherwise the flip will result in an upside down jacket!) 

Next, carefully put your arms into the sleeves (while holding your shirtsleeves with your hands).  

Lift up, slide your arms in, and FLIP it over your head!

Then comes another tricky part: zippers, buttons or snaps! 

There are so many steps to remember!

Of course we help when children need it but the general rule is “Try three times by yourself before asking for help.”  And then, we ask children to raise their hand to let us know they need help and to say words to request exactly what it is they want help with: “Will you please help me open my snack (or zip my coat, or close my backpack…).” Being able to express one’s needs clearly and articulately is a lifelong habit that we are working toward.

The children really like being able to do these things on their own.   “Ms Gluckow, I did it all by myself!”  There have been many cheers for successes in opening snacks, putting coats on, and snapping and zipping this year!

They children are really are proud when they can do these daily tasks alone.  Not only are they developing independence when they zip, button, snap or open a challenging container, but they are also working on their fine motor strength and control.  And don’t forget that they are also developing persistence and patience, and gaining an understanding of sequencing and attention to details. 

We encourage you at home to let your child try to open snacks or put on his or her coat on and fasten it independently as well!  If they’ve tried 3 times, then offer help (after they’ve asked for it of course).  And really praise the hard work!–the “almost got it” as well as the full success!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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