Baby Development: Autonomy

Learning to be independent is an important stage in a child's development. As your child grows, he'll learn to do more and more things for himself, like getting dressed or helping himself to his cereal in the morning. Although it can be difficult to watch your child learn to be independent, achieving independence is an important step in his or her personal and social development.

When will my child become independent?

As a baby grows, he becomes increasingly independent

In general, children start doing "adult" things soon after their first birthday. Progress is rapid, even spectacular, around 18 months. The child will still need your help and attention for several years. By the age of 4, the child will probably have acquired the basics of autonomy: dressing himself, brushing his teeth, washing his hands, eating and going to the toilet by himself.

How does a child develop autonomy?

Your child won't make any real progress in terms of independence until he's able to walk. However, you will notice some signs of this desire for independence! At around 8 months, your child begins to understand how objects work, and sometimes already uses them effectively, for example when brushing his hair or talking on his phone.

Soon after, he understands how to drink from a glass with a spout. Before long, he'll be able to hold the glass by himself, first with both hands, then with just one at around 24 months. At 11 months, he'll stretch out his arm or leg to help you dress him.

Autonomy really takes off in the months following his first birthday. At 15 months, he recognizes himself in the mirror and no longer tries to touch the "other" baby in it. At 18 months, like most children, he goes through the "no" phase: it's his answer to everything! For him, it's a way of asserting his individual character.

Developing baby's autonomy

Their ability to be independent develops as they become aware that they are a separate person. Over the next three years, your child will be able to :

  • Use a fork and spoon Some children want to use cutlery as early as 13 months, but most acquire this important skill by 17 or 18 months. By age four, your child will probably be able to hold a fork or spoon like an adult, and will be ready to learn how to behave at the table.
  • Remove clothing: Although it's not easy at first, it's an essential stage in your child's development. It takes place between 13 and 20 months. By 27 months, your child will certainly be able to take off his shoes on his own.
  • Dressing: at 20 months, your child can put on loose-fitting clothes, but it will be a few months before he can put on a T-shirt, and a year before he can dress himself.
  • Brushing your teeth: Your child will probably try to help you brush his teeth from 16 months onwards, but he probably won't be able to brush on his own until he's 3 or 4.
  • Hand washing and drying: This skill develops between 19 and 30 months. You can also teach them earlier, in addition to potty training.
  • Jar: Most children aren't physically ready to go to the toilet until they're 18 to 24 months old, and some take up to a year longer. To find out if your child is ready, see if he can pull his pants up and down on his own, and if he knows when to go to the bathroom.
  • Preparing the table : some children can grab a bowl of cereal when they're hungry, even at the age of three. But for the vast majority of our children, mom or dad will continue to look after them until they're 4 or 5.

The next step for your child

Children become independent when putting on their shoesAs the months and years go by, your baby will become increasingly independent. Soon, he'll be able to tie his shoes, take a shower or a bath. Soon, he'll even be able to do the laundry, cook and drive a car.

Your role as a parent

As is often the case, it's important that you encourage your child. Every time they try a new skill with varying degrees of success, show them how proud you are of them and encourage them to try again.

Don't be in a hurry: it's important that children have enough time to try things out at their own pace. Don't force them to do it because they should be ready at their age.

Parents encourage their children's autonomy through play

Be patient: when your child learns to wash his hands, he may "flood" the bathroom for a few days, just as he may spend the day in an old sweater, leaky pants and flip-flops when he learns to dress himself. Relax, the more your child practices, the better he'll get.

Supervise your child as he experiments with new things independently. Set limits and explain them clearly. Tell them it's always too dangerous to turn on the oven or cut meat on their own. Your child may not like it, but he or she will understand.

When should you be concerned?

Every child and infant develops skills at his or her own pace, some more quickly than others. However, if your child shows no interest in independent activities by the age of two, you should discuss this with your doctor or pediatrician at your next appointment.

Premature babies generally don't catch up with other babies until they're 2 or 3 years old.

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