3 year old independence

Recently my three year old has become a lot more independent. He is simply able to do a lot more for himself - from reaching things to toileting, feeding to dressing himself. He delights in doing things without help - often insisting loudly, "I can do it myself!" And he is asserting himself with his older brothers, too. In recent months some friends have asked me whether he will be going to nursery, and I have been considering it. I have heard friends say how independent their three year old has become 'since starting nursery' and I worry that my boy will be missing out on some crucial and foundational educational process if I do not enrol him in September. The interesting thing is observing that three year olds become more independent. Could it be that this happens because of their stage of development - with or without nursery? My little son and I have talked about whether he wants to go to nursery or not. He has strong opinions. We have visited a number of local nurseries together to check out the opportunities on offer. One of them had an awesome pirate ship climbing frame which my son thought was a great attraction. But none of them have blown me away. In fact none of them really seem to offer anything better than home - and some of them, far less. In some, I have surveyed the crowd of little faces looking up to greet us and just felt sad. Sad that we parents are told repeatedly that these 'settings' are the best places for our tiny children, that we come to believe they are better separated from us, that this is necessary for their development. I'm not convinced. I know that there are many situations where parents need to put their children into childcare, and I know too that there are many super nurseries where staff work hard and children are well looked after. My three older sons all went to nursery and had many positive experiences there. But we ought not to be led to believe that this is the best and only course for us as parents. We have decided my smallest son will not go to nursery. He will just continue learning, playing and growing at home with his older brothers. Some people might say that choice is a luxury and whilst, in some ways, I know that I am fortunate to be at home with the boys, it is just that - a choice. Whether our children are in nursery or not, as they grow in independence, we can all find ways to give them more of ourselves, our time, our attention, our company and conversation, to build those strong relational foundations, that sense of belonging, from which small children can step out and explore the world. Whether our children are at home or at school, giving them more of ourselves - especially when we are all tired and grumpy - is continually the greatest challenge of all.

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