Pregnancy and baby

Teaching your child the everyday essentials

How can I help my young child to hold a pen? (6 to 30 months)

Media last reviewed: 10/04/2013

Next review due: 10/04/2015

When children play, they're learning what they want to learn. Often these will be things you want them to learn, too.

Sometimes, though, your child may need some extra help from you to learn the necessary skills they'll need throughout their lives. For example, these skills can be learning to use a potty, how to wash and dress themselves, what not to touch and where it's not safe to run.

Tips for everyday life with kids

The following suggestions can make life easier for both you and your child. 

Wait until you think your child is ready

If you try to teach them something too soon, you'll both end up getting frustrated. If you try teaching them something and it doesn't work out, leave it for a few weeks and try again.

Don't make it into a big deal

Your child might learn to eat with a spoon very quickly, but they may still want to be fed when they're tired.

They might use the potty a few times and then want to go back to nappies. 

Try not to worry – this doesn't mean you've failed. It won't take them long to realise that they want to learn to be grown up and independent.

Keep them safe

Children under three can't understand why they shouldn't play with electrical goods or breakable objects. It's easier to keep things you don't want touched well out of their way.

Be encouraging

Your child wants to please you. If you give them a big smile, a cuddle or praise when they do something right, they're much more likely to do it again. This works a lot better than telling them off for doing something wrong.

Be realistic

Don't expect perfection or instant results. If you assume everything is going to take a bit longer than you thought, you will be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't.

Set an example

Your child wants to be like you and do what you do. Let them see you washing, brushing your teeth and using the loo.

Be firm

Children need firm, consistent guidelines. Once you've made a decision, stick to it. For example, if you start potty training but decide your child isn't ready, it's fine to give up and try again a few weeks later. But a child who's in nappies one day, out of them the next day and back in them the day after is bound to get confused.

Be consistent

For the same reason, it's important that everyone who looks after your child teaches them the same things in more or less the same way. If you and your partner or you and your childminder (or nursery or nanny) do things very differently, your child won't learn as easily.

Match your circumstances

Do what's right for your child, you and the way you live. Don't worry about what the child next door can or can't do. It's not a competition.

Further information

Preventing accidents at home

Katrina Phillips of the Child Accident Prevention Trust explains how to make your home childproof and prevent avoidable accidents.

Media last reviewed: 19/03/2013

Next review due: 19/03/2015

Page last reviewed: 09/01/2014

Next review due: 09/01/2016

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Media last reviewed: 11/03/2013

Next review due: 11/03/2015