The toddler years should be some of the most enjoyable for you and your child. Every day, your little one grow by leaps and bounds… walking, talking, laughing, singing, assisting, and gaining new life experiences. Your toddler now has favourite foods and toys, as well as their own likes, dislikes, and opinions. Despite all of this progress, this age group is sometimes referred to as "terrible" because children may exhibit challenging behaviours. Here are some tips for encouraging independence in toddlers…
Let Go Gradually
Giving your toddler independence can be difficult, and it takes time. The goal is to help your toddler grow, thrive, and become independent but in their own time.
It's hard to let go as a parent no matter your child’s age but fostering their independence is so important to their development. However, the process must be gradual. If it happens too soon and too quickly, toddlers will find independence frightening and will likely withdraw or cling desperately.
Teach Your Toddler To Voice Their Own Opinions
- Let your toddler know you have opinions by answering the TV when someone talks nonsense or if you hear inappropriate language or conversations
- Encourage your child to speak up. Set aside some time each day to sit down and talk about your day. Invite their opinion and give them time to respond in their own way.
- Answer any questions they may have and explain things in simple terms.
- If possible, have a family meal together. If your toddler wants to join in on your conversation, always listen. Never dismiss their ideas, instead say something like ‘'That's a very good thought, but...' is a good way to help them learn.
Let Your Toddler Have Supervised Independent Time
- Your toddler can draw at the table while you cook or play at your feet while you call a friend when they are two. The key is to interact with your toddler every minute or two; a word, a smile, or a blown kiss will suffice.
- By three, your child should be able to walk short distances to the local shop with you. Walking is beneficial for their health and is necessary for learning road safety. If your toddler notices you looking before crossing the street, it will become second nature to them as well.
Give Your Toddler Simple Tasks
- Put away the toys. Make a game of it - put on your toddler's favourite track and see if everything can be picked up before the music stops.
- Help put away clothes. You can ask your little one to put their clothes away in their wardrobe, for example their socks.
- Help you tidy around the house. Maybe task your toddler with putting away the crisps from your weekly shop, or even helping you plump up the cushions on the sofa.
Let Your Toddler Feed Themselves
- As soon as your toddler can pick up tiny objects with their finger and thumb (around 6-9 months) let them feed themselves with, little bits of banana, cooked carrot, grated apple etc if you are following the baby-led weaning method.
- Give them a spoon to hold when feeding. Getting a spoonful of food from dish to mouth is a messy business and takes time to master. By three, your toddler should be able to feed themselves with a fork, but will still need you to cut some food.
- Let your toddler hold their cup or bottle even though you control it - gradually pass the control over to them.
- Toddlers who practice fine finger skills master these tasks sooner. Give them a fat crayon and a piece of card to scribble on. Look for toys which encourage placing, such as sorting boxes and tray puzzles.
Help Your Toddler Learn How To Dress
- Zips, buttons, straps, and hooks are difficult for toddlers to operate; instead, choose clothing with elastic waistbands, velcro, or that slips on with zips and buttons partially closed.
- Lay out clothing in the order that it is worn, from left to right. It's not necessary, but it helps you practise the direction your eyes must move when reading.
- Arrange clothing so that the child lifts it correctly - trousers front up (so they can sit down and put them on), jumpers and dresses front down.
- ls if you can find them. It is extremely difficult for a toddler to get their heel into a sock heel.
- Show your toddler how to burrow into the arms of their jumpers and T-shirts before swinging them over their heads. Avoid having a tight neck.
- Assist your little one when they put on their shoes, but let them fasten their shoes by themselves when possible.
Essential Tools For Early Independence
A Sturdy Step Stool
Designed to make it easier for little ones to get to those hard-to-reach places; the Shnuggle Step Stool can help your toddler when potty training, and allows them to reach the sink or help out in the kitchen. Giving them the confidence to become more independent as they grow.
Table & Chairs
A table and chair that is the perfect height for toddlers can be used for snack time, art and crafts, putting together puzzles and so much more. It can be rewarding seeing your little one use their own space - they should be able to pull out their own chair, climb up and sit down without any assistance needed, becoming so much more independent.
Child Sized Cleaning Set
Need a helping hand around the house? You can buy a child sized cleaning set which will allow your toddler to get more involved and take care of their environment. You can teach your toddler to sweep up any mess, grab the dustpan and dump any dust into the bin or compost. Who said cleaning isn’t educational?
Jumbo Wooden Puzzle Sets
A jumbo wooden puzzle set can teach your toddler patience. At first, your toddler may get frustrated and may throw puzzle pieces when they can’t fit them in the right place. If this does happen, offer them help which will teach them patience.
Encouraging independence starts early - earlier than most parents realise is even possible. Encouraging the independence is the most important thing, all toddlers will develop at their own speed and time and its important to not worry too much if they can’t quite master a task straight away or it takes them a little longer. Just continuing to offer them encouragement and helping them along the way is all that's needed. Allow your toddler to help if and when they can - but prepare to be blown away by when they make those steps to greater independence. After all, they do grow up so quick!