Encouraging Independence: Tips for Parents of Toddlers

Children grow up so quickly and each stage in their life should be joyful. As children transition into their toddler years, they show significant development in language and mobility, which enables toddlers to become more independent. It’s important that parents and caregivers in the child’s life respond appropriately to their toddler’s pursuit of autonomy, because it will determine how they grow and deal with future life events. Instead of making the choices for your child, focus on guiding their decision-making and creating a space for reflection. Here are a couple of ideas to foster your toddler’s independence skills in everyday life:

  1. Simple clean-up tasks: Toddlers are able to put their toys back after playing. You can have bins labeled with a picture of the toy, for example a box labeled with a picture of a car, that way they know all the cars go in that bin. This allows them to understand that each toy belongs in a certain place. Another simple clean up task is cleaning up the plate after a meal. For this, you can have a small trash can where they can throw away any leftovers or plastic wraps.
  2. Provide choices: allowing them to pick out their clothes or pajamas, their shoes, or allow them to pick out a healthy snack; this will empower them to make decisions.
  3. Create opportunities to interact: ask your child to help in the kitchen, simple tasks such as washing fruits and vegetables, pouring milk, or putting the pasta into the cooking pot. While they do this, ask them about the recipe or what are their favorite food is.

Another opportunity for interaction is around bedtime.  Consider asking them to pick a book they would like to read and enjoy that time together.

To avoid disagreements in your daily schedule, please realize you can allow your child independence by focusing on how they want to complete tasks based on their own independent decisions rather than focusing on how to avoid the task altogether.  For example, if your child has difficulty cleaning up before bedtime, you can provide a choice such as whether they would like to start with the blocks or the stuffed animals. Another tip when using choices is telling them what comes next in your schedule. For example, it’s almost time for a bath, so you can ask your child: which toy would you like to take to the bathtub today? This will help smooth a transition that might be difficult because they are picking a toy they like and will make bath time more fun.IngridChavarria

These are some of the many activities you can do at home to encourage independence for your toddlers. If you have any questions or would like more ideas, you may contact me at my office number: 402-821-2151 or my email: ilindalchavarria2@unl.edu. I serve Saline, Gage, Jefferson and the Southeast area.