15 Design Tips to Help Your Kids Be More Independent

Are you struggling to teach your kids to be more independent, whether it’s putting on their own jacket or cleaning up their own toys? Sometimes all it takes is a simple design trick to make your job easier. Here are some design ideas that can help promote independence in young kids.

May 14, 2020
By: Mina Hochberg
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Photo By: Curated Nest

Photo By: Curated Nest

Photo By: Curated Nest

Photo By: Curated Nest

Photo By: Curated Nest

Photo By: Ikea

Photo By: © Guidecraft 2020

Photo By: Montessori in Real Life

Photo By: Montessori in Real Life

Photo By: Montessori in Real Life

Photo By: Wes Tarca

Photo By: Charleston Blonde

Photo By: Crate & Kids

Photo By: Curated Nest

Photo By: Curated Nest

Convenient Coat Hooks

Install low hooks — ideally removable — in your mudroom or entryway. This allows you to install the hooks at your kid’s height and adjust them as he or she grows. “We’re against mudroom hooks that are high and drilled in the wall above the bench,” says Erin Coren, co-founder and designer at Curated Nest Interiors. “As pretty as they look upon install, kids are unable to reach them. The end result is a pile of jackets and bags.” Coren installed removable hooks inside these mudroom cubbies.

Accessible Toy Bins

Erin Coren at Curated Nest Interiors suggests using low shelves with easily accessible toy bins to encourage younger kids to play independently. “Use low bookshelves for toys and books with soft bins that are open and easily accessible,” Coren says. “If you have closed bins, it’s out of sight, out of mind, and the toys get forgotten.” Also, keep the toy baskets small to limit the number of toys. Kids are more likely to clean up on their own if the amount of toys is manageable.

Self-Serve Snacks

Young kids derive great pride from serving themselves food. Enable independence in the kitchen by designating a low drawer and small fridge for parent-approved snacks. “As the trend is oversized built-in refrigerators which are heavy and hard for kids to access, it is really difficult for kids to grab a snack or water without adult assistance,” says Erin Coren at Curated Nest Interiors. “In my own home, I put in a low beverage refrigerator with string cheese, juice boxes and yogurts so they can access it themselves.”

Kid-Sized Reading Nook

Encourage independent reading by designing a cozy reading nook with easily accessible books. “Having low seating, such as a structured bean bag, and books nearby, will give kids the ability to pick up a book,” says Erin Coren at Curated Nest Interiors. “A hanging canopy can finish off the space nicely.”

Floor Bed

Floor beds are an ideal option for young kids who are ready to move on from cribs but are perhaps not quite ready to negotiate an elevated bed frame. Putting a mattress close to the floor enables kids to independently get in and out of bed with ease. Designed by Curated Nest Interiors.

Strategically Placed Stepstools

When young kids want to do tasks by themselves but aren't tall enough, it helps to have stepstools — such as these from Ikea — around the house. Place them anywhere that you would like to give kids access to high places, whether it’s the bathroom sink to wash their hands, the bedroom closet to pick their own clothes or the kitchen to retrieve their own utensils and plates.

Learning Tower

Learning towers, like the Kitchen Helper from Guidecraft, are perfect kitchen accessories to encourage young kids to help out in the kitchen. The stable platform and supportive rails allow kids to mix, peel, sniff and taste without losing their balance. “The Kitchen Helper was designed as a practical solution for children to have a way to safely interact in a predominantly adult-oriented space,” says Guidecraft President and Kitchen Helper designer Gary Bilezikian.

Toys on Rotation

If your bins are overflowing with toys that your child seems to barely play with, it might be time to curate your toy collection. Theresa, a lifestyle blogger at Montessori in Real Life, places toys and work materials on a low shelf and rotates out a selection of items every two to three weeks. This keeps the selection new, exciting and ultimately more engaging for her kids.

Functional Kid Kitchen

Theresa at Montessori in Real Life designed this functional kitchen space for her children to independently perform some of their favorite household tasks. The soap and slow-flow water dispensers allow kids to get drinking water, wash hands or clean dirty dishes. A cutting board encourages simple fruit and vegetable prep. The cupboard stores kid-sized dishes and utensils, and nearby is a Melissa and Doug mop and broom set for cleaning.

Organized Entryway

Theresa at Montessori in Real Life organized her entryway to enable her young children to dress themselves for the outside. She installed low hooks for jackets and designated a basket for socks and accessories. The low stool offers a place for kids to sit while putting on socks and shoes. An organized entryway also reminds kids where to put all their belongings when they come back inside.

Designated Desk Space

Giving kids their own designated desk space helps encourage independent work, whether it’s finishing school assignments, drawing a comic or embarking on other creative endeavors. Architecture and interior design by Susan Alisberg of Alisberg Parker Architects.

Smart Bedroom Storage

Lifestyle blogger Jaime Huffman designed a room for her son with the goal of promoting autonomy. “My son, Harper, is 9 years old and has been diagnosed with ADHD,” Huffman says. “When we renovated his bedroom, I made conscious choices that would help him be more independent with his daily tasks.” Huffman purchased a bunk bed with drawers in the steps to store frequently used clothes and blankets, making them easily accessible to her son. Her son also picked out a hamper to keep in the room, which serves as a reminder to keep dirty clothes off the floor.

Pretend Play Area

Set aside a corner in your home for a playhouse that encourages pretend play, such as a play kitchen or this Crate & Kids Snack Shack. Kids will get lost in their own world as they cook up food and take snack orders.

Forward-Facing Books

For babies and young children, display a small selection of books with the covers facing forward, rather than packing a large number of books into a bookcase with only the spines visible. Seeing the book covers makes it easier for young children to select a book themselves — and return it when they're finished. Design by Curated Nest.

Low Play Table

A low play table is an essential piece of furniture for any family with young children. Low tables give kids an easily accessible and designated space to draw, paint and build to their heart’s content. Some parents serve lunch and snacks at the kid table and reserve the grown-up table for dinners. Design by Curated Nest.

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