I once watched a 2-year-old work for 5 minutes trying to get his coat off. He did this repeatedly each week. Sometimes he was successful and presented me with a coat ball. Sometimes he came to me, contorted and in need of help. But, after a few weeks of trying, he was able to walk in the door, strip off his coat, and hand it to me in a smooth motion.
Now I teach kindergartners. They don't demand independence in the same way as their younger siblings. But they do want to do things themselves. So I let them. Here are three ways to allow and encourage independence.
Let kids try things for themselves, with little or no input. This is sometimes difficult for me. After all, I put out materials with an idea in mind. And I just want to share my wonderful insights with them. But letting them try and experiment sometimes yields interesting results. If kids ask me what to do, my response is usually, "What do you think we could do?" Their ideas give great insight into their thinking...and often expands my thinking as well.
Give opportunities for them to do it themselves. Let kids do what they can. For example, names on things is important. So I ask, "Do you want to write your name or do you want me to do it?" I try to set things up so kids can automatically do it themselves, without any assistance. The painting smock is always within reach by the easel. The child can put it on himself...or ask for help if needed.
Expect kids to do things themselves. At the end of each day, we need to stack the chairs. I'll just tell a child, "Please stack your chair" and he does. When we make a mess with an activity, I'll hand a child a sponge or the sweeper so he can clean up. I expect a child to draw his own pictures - if he struggles or says he cannot, we talk about how a thing looks and what he would need to do to draw it. Expectations are important...and can build confidence.
Support independence. Offer assistance as needed. Let kids do whatever they can for themselves.