Supporting Self-Care at Home

Aerial view of child-sized shoes beside backpack

What It's About

Children’s Self-Care is all about them taking responsibility for themselves when they can. It can look like washing their hands, dressing themselves, and gathering or putting away materials. Self-Care also includes learning how to keep themselves safe and when to ask for help.

The best way to support these skills is to show your child how to do things, let them complete tasks on their own as much as possible, and use visuals and songs to help them remember what to do. 


Here are some ways you can support Self-Care skills at home. Keep in mind that you can change these activities to work for you and your child, based on their current abilities, interests, and what you have available at home.

Take a look, and try out your favorites!

Sing Along!

Make up silly songs with your child to help them remember the steps of your daily routines. This is also a great way to practice rhyming words. For example, “Time to clean up, let’s give a cheer. Put the toy car over here!”

Set the Table

Meals are a wonderful time to work on Self-Care skills. Talk about how you set the table. If possible, have your child help set the table by placing one item at each spot.

Let's Get Dressed

Take time to practice buckling, buttoning, zipping, and tying clothing. This can be done with dress-up clothes, doll clothes, or even just putting on their own clothes.

Step by Step

Create a visual schedule for routines that are hard to remember. Take or draw pictures of your child doing each step of a routine. Label what each step is and then review it with them. For example, “First, I see you wake up. Then you brush your teeth. And last, you get dressed!”

Act it Out!

Use puppets, dolls, or stuffed animals to act out different safety rules or self-care routines. For example, “I am going to get in this car. I better buckle my seatbelt, so I am safe.”

Home Helper

Encourage your child to help around the home. Allow them to help you clean up or give them a task to complete on their own. Make it fun by turning it into a challenge. For example, have your child pick up toys by color or toss their dirty clothes into the laundry as if playing basketball.

Quick Cues for Supporting Self-Care at Home

Some things you might do or say to help strengthen your child’s Self-Care skills

Point Out Self-Help Skills

Name and describe your own and your child’s self-help skills. Explain and show how to do things.  

This can sound like:

“Your pants have mud on them. Let’s get some clean pants to change you into.”

“Uh oh! My hands are dirty, Let’s wash them. Scrub, scrub scrub.” 

“Watch how I use the toothbrush to clean my teeth way in the back.” 

Use Visuals and Songs

Use pictures and/or create songs to help your child remember the steps to complete tasks.

This can sound like:

“There is a picture of blocks on this bucket. We will put all the blocks away in here.”

“I have a picture here to show what is next. First get dressed, then brush your hair.”

“Flush the potty when you’re done, then wash your hands, it’s so much fun!” 

Encourage Them to Do It

Let your child complete as much as possible on their own.

This can sound like:

“You crawled to your shoes. Do you want me to help you put them on?”

“I see you trying to put on your socks. You can do it!”

“How do you want to clean up today? Show me your way!” 

Our Book Recommendations for Self-Care

Engaging stories that support children's Self-Care skills
Up Up Up Down Book Cover

Up, Up, Up, Down

Written and illustrated by Kimberly Gee, this book shows a toddler and their caregiver getting ready for a busy day while encouraging child participation in routines.

Have fun with it:
Talk about how your child helps get themselves ready for the day. Invite them to think of a new self-help skill to try.

Pigeon Needs Bath Cover

The Pigeon Needs a Bath!

Written and illustrated by Mo Willems, this book shows the journey of a silly and reluctant pigeon as it learns to have fun washing and getting clean.

Have fun with it:
Ask your child questions about why and how we wash our hands and body.

More Take-Home Strategies

We’re creating a library of resources like these so families and other caregivers can quickly and easily promote children’s development at home. Be sure to see all the strategies we have available!