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Monday, August 21, 2017

Parenting Preschoolers: opportunities for choice

Parenting preschoolers can definitely be a challenge! With 2 preschool girls to parent mostly alone, the biggest thing I've learned is the importance of choice. One of the best ways to give young children a sense of independence and empowerment is to give them choices. And I've found that with my girls, the more choices they have, the less tantrums they tend to have, and the more agreeable they are when I have to give a directive. But when you know they aren't exactly equipped to make good choices for themselves, it can be hard to think of ways to give them choices! Today I want to talk about some simple, practical ways I've found to give preschoolers more choices on a daily basis.

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A lot of my original thinking behind giving my daughters more choices came from the book Parenting with Love and Logic, which I highly recommend. One of the principles they discuss in the book is finding ways to offer choices where either choice is acceptable (not preferable, acceptable!). Although as parents we often know better than they which choices will make them happier, more comfortable, or bring better long-term benefits, the key is to focus on choices they can make that won't hurt them or anyone else around them by offering options that are all reasonable.

With that thought in mind, here are some of the ways I offer my daughters choices on a regular basis:

1. Clothes

Yes, these are *actual* outfits my daughters wore to school this past year. No, they are not exactly coordinated (although current style trends seem to be more friendly to this sort of mixing and matching these days!), and yes, they are wearing knee-high socks over their pants. But they picked them out themselves, they were happy with their choices, and they were dressed appropriately for the weather and occasion. The key is to make sure they know how warmly and how formally to dress, and then give them free reign! I don't, for example, let them wear their floor-length dresses that their great-grandmother gave them to play on the playground, and I don't let them play in the snow in short sleeves (although they could wear a sweater over it or a long-sleeve shirt underneath!). But I do my best not to intervene when they pick out crazy outfits or wear pieces the "wrong" way- after all, when else can they be as creative with their clothing and get away with it? To be honest, I've gotten a lot more playful and bold with my own clothes because of them!

2. Hair

This is related to the first point, but it's worth mentioning for the girls: let them choose their own hairstyles and hair accessories! I honestly don't have time to do their hair much on school mornings, but when we do have time, especially on the weekends, the girls decide if and how they want to style their hair and pick out their hair ties, clips, or anything else they need. Having everything organized so they can get what they need without spilling tiny little rubber bands all over the bathroom floor is key here- read my post on how I organize everything below:

3. Meals

My daughters have been planning and making dinner once a week since they were about 4 years old, and we all love it. How much you can trust your preschoolers in the kitchen will vary with each child, of course, but any preschool can pick out foods and, at the very least, help with the preparation! Once again, the key to making sure it's a reasonably well-balanced meal is to give parameters- I tell them that to make a "good" dinner, they need to have a vegetable, a fruit, and some kind of "main food". Other than that they're on their own, which sometimes leads to some interesting choices but a lot of fun food adventures!

You'd be surprised at just how much kids this age can actually do in the kitchen. To read more detail about what my daughters do and how, check out this post:

4. Dishes

Even when the girls aren't picking out the food, they usually pick out their plates / cups / utensils. These plastic rainbow-colored dishes from IKEA are the BEST THING EVER, and I also have my "grownup dishes" in different colors from Fiesta. Plus they're much more willing to set the table when they get to pick out the colors of the dishes! ;) To see how I store and organize the dishes to make it easy for the kids to take care of them by themselves, check out this post:

5. A "last thing"

This one was a HUGE revelation for me. When it's almost time to leave the park (or other similar place where the kids are playing), I give them a few minutes' warning. Then when it's almost time to leave, I tell them to pick their "last thing". That means they each pick one more thing to do before they leave. It cuts down SO MUCH on the tantrums over not wanting to leave when it's time to go!

Parenting preschoolers is no easy task- I hope these ideas will make your life a little bit easier! How do you give your littles opportunities to make choices for themselves? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below :) And please stay in touch- sign up here for the Organized Chaos Newsletter and I'll send more timely ideas and helpful resources straight to your inbox!


  1. I love the tips, tools and techniques that you offer. As I search for homeschool info online I continually find myself reading your blogs and I feel confident in the adventures ahead. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Becky- that is so wonderful to hear! I hope you have a wonderful year with your children!