You may find that while encouraging independence in toddlers, you deal with fewer toddler tantrums and help them build valuable skills. In toddler parenting, that’s a win, win, win!
I’ve been a toddler mom and have struggled through the exhaustion as a stay at home mom. I think the words mom and tired are synonymous, right?
I have Hashimoto’s and a range of issues thanks to getting a bit older. Sometimes I think I got the short end of the stick on mom life which is why I feel it was important I encourage my kids’ independence as much as possible. Sure, I like to be a little lazy, too, but I keep telling myself the earlier I promote independence, the easier I’ll make my life in the long run.
I may have also learned that when not encouraging independence in toddlers, they can act like little terrorists when they want to do something themselves and aren’t allowed.
My son went through a phase where he would plop himself on the floor and throw his head back. With both of my kids, I had to deal with being hit (or kicked) or the full on tantrums if they were dead-set on doing something themselves. So, I do my best to help them with their independence in safe and healthy ways. At the very least, I show them I want them to do things independently, even if something isn’t within their abilities at the moment.
5 Ways to Promote Toddler Independence
Following are 5 easy ways to foster independence in toddlers and help reduce frustrations. By letting go of the idea that things will be perfect, you and your tot will find a few more moments of peace. And, you’ll be teaching him/her some valuable skills they’ll need as adults.
My favorite part about a toddler learning his independence is the pride we both experience when he is capable of doing something on his own.5 things you can let your #toddler do when he's proclaiming his independence #toddlermom #momlife Click To Tweet
1. Toddler Chores
Both my kids really enjoy helping mommy with chores. I know this phase won’t last. One day, they’ll be grouchy teenagers who’ll roll their eyes at me when I suggest they complete their chores. For now, though, I encourage their independence by giving them age-appropriate chores. I have a wonderful list of easy toddler chores that not only promote toddler independence, but help teach them responsibility.
Bonus: Including children in daily chores allows mom to get more done and can be a bonding activity. Plus, you can keep track of their achievements with a DIY dry erase toddler chore chart so they can visually see how much they’re doing.
2. Allow them to dress or undress themselves
My son loves putting on and taking off his own socks, but he’s had trouble with the process. For Christmas I purchased EZ Sox, which have loops to help him pull on his socks more easily. This has reduced the frustration he’s experienced with being unable to put on socks. Now, he’s generally able to put on and take off his own socks. Plus, he learned to take off his jacket about the same time. Wardrobe meltdowns became fewer once he found more independence.
Bonus tip: Allow your tot to try something before offering assistance. When you see him/her struggling, ask if he/she would like help.
3. Give them choices
When feasible, give your toddler (appropriate) choices. In order to combat some feeding issues, I allow my toddler to choose what he wants for lunch. This isn’t a free-for-all, however. I usually stick to two options that I’m willing make (like turkey or grilled cheese sandwich). I may even let him choose sides (fruit or berries). I maintain control of a semi-healthy toddler lunch, while still giving him some independent control over what he’s willing to eat. Unless he’s stuck in irrational toddler mode, this often means I don’t have to deal with a tantrum over having made the wrong lunch.
Bonus tip: Choices can be extended to books, outfit selection, or an activity you’re willing to do. Giving choices reduces tantrums.
4. Self Feeding
As a mom of two kids, I understand our desire to have clean hands and faces. But, more often than not, food struggles have risen out of my kids’ desires to feed themselves. I’ve had to let go of the notion that we’re walking away from the table as clean as we came to it. If your child expresses an interest in self-feeding, let them do so in whatever way they’re comfortable. Encourage the use of utensils, but if your toddler wants to pick up food by hand, don’t fight them. You don’t want to further promote any reason for your child to become a picky eater.
Bonus tip: Offer food cut in cute shapes using a FunBites food cutter to make food easier to pick up. Serve on an EZPZ mat which may help food stay on a plate instead of on the table.
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5. Personal Hygiene
I don’t know about your kids, but both of mine have loved washing their hands and brushing their teeth. Encourage your toddler’s independence when they express an interest in any personal health activity. Make sure your children are exposed to your own personal hygiene routines so they know this is a grown up activity they need to do.
Bonus tip: Have a step stool in the room(s) they’ll be brushing their teeth and washing hands the most.
Additional Tips for Encouraging Independence in Toddlers
Embrace the Mess: Acknowledge that messes are inevitable when toddlers learn independence. Offer washable clothes and easy-to-clean areas for messy exploration. Focus on the learning process, not perfection.
Offer Open-Ended Activities: Provide toys and materials that encourage creativity and open-ended play. This empowers toddlers to make choices and explore independently. Examples include blocks, play dough, water, and sensory bins.
Break Down Tasks: Large tasks can overwhelm toddlers. Break them down into smaller, manageable steps they can accomplish independently. Offer guidance and support as needed, but allow them to complete each step.
Celebrate Efforts: Praise their attempts, not just the finished product. Encourage them to keep trying, even if they make mistakes. This builds confidence and fosters a growth mindset.
Offer Parallel Play: Engage in activities alongside your toddler without directing their play. Observe, offer words of encouragement, and join in when they invite you. This allows them to explore independently while feeling your support.
Set Realistic Expectations: Remember, independence is a journey, not a destination. Start small, be patient, and adjust your expectations as your toddler grows and develops.
Use Humor: Laugh it off when things get messy or frustrating. Keeping a lighthearted attitude can de-escalate tantrums and make learning independence more enjoyable.
Incorporate Safety Considerations: Ensure activities are safe and age-appropriate. Supervise closely, but gradually give them more space as they demonstrate responsibility.
Tailor Tips to Your Child’s Personality: Not all toddlers learn the same way. Observe your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and adapt your approach accordingly.
Remember, fostering independence is a journey, not a destination. There will be messy moments, frustrated tears, and maybe even a stray sock or two flung across the room. But by embracing the process, celebrating small victories, and offering consistent support, you’ll be nurturing a confident and capable little person. Share your own tips and experiences in the comments below, and let’s empower each other on this journey towards raising independent toddlers!