Skip to main content
Scottish government logo

As your toddler turns 3, they’re likely to be more independent than ever, and may want to go off on their own to explore – so you’ll need eyes in the back of your head! As they get older, the more you can do to encourage them to do things for themselves, the better – this will really help them when they start school. You can find more fun games to help them prepare for school here and on the NHSGGC website.

Jump to a section in this article

Tips to help 3-4 year olds develop their skills and independence

Tip #1: Help keep fingers busy

At this stage your child will start to use their hands and fingers more accurately, so try giving them toys like blocks and puzzles to help them develop their skills. Making things together using glue and scissors will also help them practise.

Read more

Tip #2: On the ball

At this age they should start to get a bit better at co-ordinating their eye and hand movements, so this is a great time to play some ball games with them to help this. Our page of ball games to play with your toddler has some suggestions, and you can find more ideas on the NHSGGC website.

Read more

Tip #4: Encourage independence

As your child starts nursery, now’s the time to encourage them to be more independent and do things for themselves, like put on their shoes or tidy away their toys.

Read more

Tip #5: Kitchen helper

Father and son cooking together and chatting

You could also give them simple tasks to do in the kitchen, like putting toppings on a pizza or stirring a cake mix – our page on cooking with the kids has more ideas.

Read more

Tip #6: Got rhythm

Photo of a toddler beating a pot as a drum

This is when your wee one will start to develop a sense of rhythm, so it’s great to share a variety of different music styles with them and see what gets them moving!

Read more

Tip #7: Time to focus

As they grow up, children’s ability to focus improves, so if they’re really interested in something, like a game or puzzle, they can give it their full attention. You can help by giving them time and space to concentrate when they’re doing tasks.

You can find more tips to help your child become more independent on the NHSGGC website.

Read more
Back to top

Tips to help 4-5 year olds develop their skills and independence

Tip #1: Tool tips

By this time your child should be much better at using their hands and using tools like spoons and forks and pencils and crayons. You can help them with this by encouraging them to use cutlery when they’re eating, and by giving them lots of opportunities to draw and paint with different materials.

Read more

Tip #2: Finger painting

Encouraging your child to draw with their index (pointer) fingers is a good way of helping them improve their co-ordination. You could try giving them different materials to work with, like paint or shaving foam – you can spread this on a tray or on the bathroom mirror at bath time. Getting stuck into messy play is also good for helping them express themselves.

Read more

Tip #3: Fun with playdough

3 year old child and dad playing with play dough

Kneading, rolling, cutting and making things out of play dough is also great for helping little hands and fingers get strong and skilful – you can find a recipe to make your own play dough on the BBC website. And believe it or not, making different shapes from play dough, like circles, squares and triangles, is great practice for learning to write!

Read more

Tip #4: Lots of praise

At this age your child loves to be praised, so make sure you give them lots of encouragement when they try new things and attempt to do things for themselves.

Read more

Tip #5: A chore a day

Encourage their independence by giving them a small task to do every day, like hanging up their coat, putting their shoes away or helping to unpack the shopping.

Read more

Tip #6: Any time is story time

Mother and child reading a story together at bed time

Reading to your child is another great way to help them improve their speech and language schools and get ready for school. Our pages on helping your 3-5 year old with their speech and language have lots more tips.

Read more
Back to top