Encouraging Independence in ToddlersBeing a parent is more than just feeding, cleaning and clothing a child. We need to equip them with skills to make them increasingly independent as they grow older. Little children are unable to do things by themselves, fortunately they are quick learners who grow and develop very quickly. They are highly motivated to try and to do things by themselves, they just need a very patient teacher.
The struggle during this learning phase is very real for both toddlers and parents. Toddlers need time and opportunities to learn and practice their skills before they master them. There will be numerous times where they spill things on themselves or on the floor or table, they may even fall and hurt themselves, hopefully not too badly before they achieve success. Whereas parents need to resist the urge to help them out, “rescue” them, or just do it for the toddler to reduce the mess or to save time or prevent them getting hurt.
An important parenting tip for parents of toddlers is to remember that falling down or bumping their heads is part of the learning process, as is spilling and dropping things as the children keep doing the same activity over and over they learn and soon become competent and confident and ready to try something new.
Another parenting tip for 2yr olds is to encourage independence in toddlers, this goes a long way in building their self-esteem and shows them that you trust in their ability to do that task.
Here are a few tips to help you encourage independence in your toddler
- Keep them informed –
Children respond in a positive manner if they know what is going to happen next or what is expected of them. If you just switch off the TV and ask them why their toys are all over the floor, there is bound to be a tantrum. Instead try telling them at breakfast that you would like them to try out some big- boy/girl jobs like putting their plate and cup in the sink when they are done with their meals and remind them to do it after every meal till they remember to do it themselves. The same can be done for putting the toys away when they are done playing.
- Look for opportunities to increase their independence –
Asking your toddler to help you empty out the grocery bag or getting them to put away the onions and potatoes by themselves is a wonderful and safe way to get your child involved and do things independently. Other tasks like helping to load the washing machine or putting the clothes to dry are real household tasks that will give them a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that they have actually helped out.
- Take things slow and prioritize –
It is unrealistic to expect your 2yr old to do multiple tasks independently, let them handle one task, master it before you move on to the next.
- Give them enough time–
At 2 yrs, young children are still developing their various skills and hence it takes them much longer to process and then then carry out the task expected of them. It is better to start 15 minutes earlier if you know it takes your little one that much time for them to clear up their toys before going out to the park.
- Be flexible, get creative –
Sometimes your little one may not want to do the chores assigned to them, you can get creative by playing a race to see who picks up more toys or play basketball and throw the dirty clothes into the laundry hamper., maybe even play peek a boo as you fold away the laundry. Make chores fun.
- Don’t focus on perfection –
Perfection at this stage will only lead to frustration, and will discourage your child from even trying. Allow them to make mistakes and accept that they won’t be able to do things properly, there are going to be mishaps and spills. Let your child know it’s okay and you can even discuss how to do better next time. Calmly show them how to clean up the mess while assuring them that it happens to everyone.
- Be generous with your praise–
Children love doing things to get their parents’ attention. So if your toddler is taking the initiative and doing things on their own, be vocal with your praise, focus on what they did right, not what they didn’t do for e.g. say, “you put your plate in the sink by yourself, that’s wonderful”, don’t focus on the fact that they left they cup behind instead say “I bet tomorrow you’ll be able to out the cup away too”
- Circumstances matter –
If your child is tired at the end of the day, sick, or maybe adjusting to some change like teething or a growth spurt, it’s natural for them to regress a bi. It’s best not to force your child to do their chores but depending on the situation you could do it for them ‘just this once’ or help them with it, that way they still feel like they are doing things by themselves.
- Offer acceptable choices –
Asking your child to choose between multiple things will only prove disastrous. Your child may end up choosing or doing something that you don’t approve of. Instead of asking them “what would you like for a snack?” which may end up with them choosing something unhealthy or sugary, try giving them a choice between two acceptable options. For e.g. you can allow them to choose between an apple and a banana, you could also ask if they would prefer going to the park or playing outside with the neighborhood children. You are still teaching your child to be independent by allowing them to choose.
As tough as it might be to encourage independent activities for your toddler, being persistent and patient will go a long way. The spills and mishaps won’t matter as much when you see the joy on your toddler’s little face as they proclaim “I did it!” All too soon you’ll find a lot of small chores off your hands as your little “big-kid” will gain confidence and will be able to manage on their own.
At Eurokids, we believe in helping children do things by themselves. Our school day has freeplay corner time which encourages independent activities for toddlers. The children have the freedom to choose the activity they would like to do and proceed at their own pace. Other activities during the school day include teacher instruction and guidance while the children are encouraged to do things on their own. Click here to find and visit a center near you.