Developmental Milestones in Self-Help Skills for Young Children

Instructor: Kristen Goode

Kristen has been an educator for 25+ years - as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, and a university instructor. She holds a doctorate in Education Leadership.

Even though children grow at their own rate, most follow a natural sequence of development in many areas, including self-help skills. We'll look at developmental milestones for self-help skills in young children.

Meeting the Milestones

Wendy is an active three-year-old with a definite independent streak. Wendy's mother has made note of the fact that Wendy has already learned to use the restroom on her own and is now tackling new self-help skills, like brushing her teeth, bathing herself, and getting herself dressed in the morning. At this rate, Wendy appears to be meeting the appropriate milestones for development of self-help skills.

Self-Help Skills

Self-help skills are those skills that are necessary for a person to care for himself and manage his own needs. They can also be seen as an avenue by which a person is able to better himself or solve problems that might arise. Self-help skills can include physical skills such as dressing or bathing, and they can include mental and emotional skills such as knowing when to use the restroom, showing kindness to others, and offering to help around the house. The development of self-help skills is necessary for a child's future independence.

Developmental Milestones

All children develop differently. They each follow their own timeline and meet developmental milestones at a different rate. However, most children do follow a natural progression of development when it comes to self-help skills. In general, children between the ages of 24 months (2 years) and 60 months (5 years) can be expected to meet their self-help developmental milestones in the following manner:

By age 2

  • Self feeding with minimal mess
  • Successfully drinking from glass or cup
  • Able to express when diaper needs changing
  • Able to remove some articles of clothing (shoes and socks)

Age 2 to 3

  • Able to handle zippers and large buttons
  • Expresses need to use the restroom
  • Begins to experiment with putting on and taking off pull-over clothing
  • Self feeding with little to no mess at all
  • Simple chores such as picking up and putting away toys
  • Shares with others when asked to

Age 3 to 4

  • Able to fully dress self with minimal assistance
  • Able to bathe self (with possible need for assistance with hair)
  • Fully trained to use the restroom (may need assistance with clean-up)
  • Brushes teeth (may need some assistance)
  • More complex chores such as making bed, putting away dishes, putting away laundry, etc.
  • Shares with others out of desire to be kind or avoid trouble

Children can begin brushing their teeth around age 3.
brush teeth

Age 4-5

  • Independent in the restroom (including clean-up)
  • Independently bathing (little girls with long hair may still need assistance)
  • Independent in dressing self
  • Tying shoes
  • Brushes teeth independently (but may need help doing a complete job)
  • Chores might include vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, folding laundry, etc.

Children can help mop by age 4-5.

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