Independence and Interdependence for Young Children

Benchmarks of Independence/Interdependence


Infant/Toddler student by age 3 can/will:

Early Childhood student by age 6 can/will:


  • dress themselves (shoes, pants, zippers, etc.).
  • use a tissue when reminded.
  • avoid common dangers.
  • show manners while eating.
  • say birth date and parents names.
  • know 911 and when to use it.
  • stay on the sidewalk.
  • eat neatly and use napkins.
  • dress appropriately for the weather.



  • display a wide variety of emotions.
  • separate easily in a familiar environment.
  • take pride in their achievements.
  • attempt to comfort others.
  • resist change and have difficulty with transitions.
  • resist help and insist on doing things for themselves.
  • verbalize emotions before resorting to physical displays.
  • comfort others in distress.
  • transition to a new activity at the request of an adult.
  • sacrifice immediate desires for a delayed reward.
  • leave a provoking situation.

Grace & Courtesy/ Social Expectations

  • play with one or two other children.
  • engage in cooperative play or circle time.
  • say please and thank you.
  • interrupt appropriately.
  • begin to obey rules.
  • greet people.
  • interrupt appropriately and wait for others to finish speaking.
  • obey rules without a supervising adult present.
  • explain consequences.
  • display appropriate behavior for a situation and follow social norms.
  • initiate appropriate conversation topics.
  • contribute to group conversation.
  • begin to work and play without disrupting others.


Examples of Guiding Language

  • The most important aspect of guiding language is explaining the child's feelings so they have language to explain how they feel in the future. "I see you're sad." "I see you're angry."
  • Never force a child to say he is sorry. Explain how he has caused hurt and tell him to ask the injured/upset child what he/she needs to feel better. If they will not ask, then you ask. You can then assist the child in doing what the injured/upset child has asked.
  • Remember to talk through a situation, and don't ask why. Ask "Did something happen?" or say "Tell me more." Why is not a question they can answer.
  • Make limits and rules clear and consistent. When there is a problem, refer to the rules as the reason they should not have done something. This way there is no blaming on either side.
  • Say things like:
    • Would you help me with ... ?
    • How can we ... ?
    • What do you think?
    • How do you think...feels?


Remember, it’s OK if

Your Infant Child

Your Toddler Child

Your 3 year-old

your 6 year-old

  • does not share.
  • tests you at mealtime and bedtime.
  • acts impulsively.
  • explores everything.
  • wants an adult present constantly.
  • enjoys being the center of attention.
  • does not share and defends her possessions.
  • displays shyness with strangers.
  • resists change and has difficulty with transitions.
  • fights for control and resists you.
  • is “clingy.”
  • only plays with one child at a time.
  • says “mine.”
  • does not share.
  • talks loudly.
  • is demanding.
  • only plays with one or two children at a time.
  • resists change and has difficulty with transitions.
  • experiences extreme emotional fluctuations.
  • gives paradoxical responses or is inconsistent.
  • insists on doing things independently.
  • resists help.
  • takes pride in achievements.
  • behaves inconsistently.
  • asks why.
  • feels upset when others break rules and seeks justice.
  • develops an interest in culture.
  • requires more and broader social interactions.
  • experiences many other changes.