Ever since our first daughter was born we’ve been loosely following the Montessori style of education. If you’re unfamiliar with Montessori, it’s basically a form of education which encourages independence in children.
For a long time, I underestimated my toddlers’ abilities. Once I began giving her more freedom, I was surprised by how much she was actually capable of on her own. In Montessori classrooms, practical life activities are very common.
If you want to start encouraging independence in your toddler, here are some easy ways you can get started.
Why Should You Encourage Independence In Your Toddler?
Giving your toddler the chance to be independent and carry out everyday tasks for themselves is a great chance for them to learn by doing. Tackling a task first hand makes it much easier for them to master that new skill.
Giving them a choice also allows them to become aware of their own likes and dislikes. This creates a much clearer sense of self and lets them pursue their own happiness.
Letting your title one tackle something themselves and achieve new things, without your help, builds self-esteem and gives them a huge confidence boost.
Finally, when they undoubtedly fail at something they learn a valuable lesson. Allowing your toddler to fail will better prepare them for stressful situations in everyday life.
How To Step Back As Parents
Nobody likes to see their toddler struggle. It’s completely natural to want to step in and help your toddler when you see them struggle. As parents, we need to learn to take a step back. Here are some tactics to help you.
- Forget about perfect. Don’t expect everything you ask your toddler to do to be done perfectly. Try to see the bigger picture and understand what they have achieved. After all, you can always go back and fix things later.
- Model the task first. Toddlers learn by doing but they need to see how others do things first so they have a frame of reference. Show them how to do something just once or twice and then let them have a go themselves.
- Try half and half. If your child is reluctant to do something alone, make a compromise. For example, say to them “I’ll put your right shoe on and you put your left shoe on”. Before long you’ll probably find they want to do the whole task themselves.
- Step back and observe. Try your best to resist the urge to jump in and help as soon as you see your toddler struggling. There’s nothing wrong with letting them struggle for a short period. You will often find that they figure out a way to do things on their own.
Easy Ways To Teach Independence In Toddlers
Care of self
- Choosing an outfit
I don’t mean you should let your toddler go wild in the closet. Pick out two or three choices and then ask them which they would prefer to wear. If you want to make sure they wear matching clothes just give them the choice between two full outfits.
2. Dressing themselves
My daughter started learning to dress herself before she was even two years old. Sure, it took a lot longer but I was willing to take the time and let her learn. Make sure to buy clothes which are easy, for example zippers are much easier for little ones than buttons.
3. Brushing teeth
It’s a great idea to teach your child from an early age how to brush their own teeth. Make sure you supervise with the toothpaste though, I’ve made that mistake before!
4. Washing face and hands
Letting your child easily have access to a face washer, soap and a small towel will give them the confidence to wash their own hands and face whenever they need to.
5. Setting the table
My two year old loves helping to set the table. I give her one item at a time and she loves putting them in the right spot on the dinner table. She even places knives and forks for each family member.
6. Helping to cook
There are plenty of jobs your little one can help with in the kitchen. Mixing, pouring and measuring are great ways to get kids involved. My toddler can even chop soft items with a blunt knife.
7. Give specific food choices
Don’t say to your toddler “do you want vegetables” instead give them one specific choice. For example “do you want peas or carrots”
8. Pouring drinks
This might seem like a scary prospect but what’s the worst that could happen? If they spill a little water, that’s ok. In Montessori classrooms, kids learn from an early age to pour their own and other drinks. If you want to avoid spillages, start out with a small jug that’s easy to grasp.
9. Preparing snacks
There’s no reason why toddlers can’t choose, fetch or prepare their own snacks. Have a small area that’s accessible to them and leave two or three choices on display. Why not try letting them spread their own peanut butter or jam on crackers with a small blunt knife
10. Clearing the table
Toddlers are more than capable of carrying their own plate into the kitchen. If your workbench or sink is a little high, just have them pass the dish to you.
Chores for toddlers
11. Putting rubbish in the bin
My toddler loves putting rubbish in the bin. At one point, she would actually get angry if I put my own trash in the bin. When your little one opens a snack or creates some form of rubbish, encourage them to go over to the bin and dispose of it properly.
12. Wiping up spills
Sometimes it feels a bit like we’re toddler slaves, expected to clean up one mess after the next. Have some small cloths on hand and next time your toddler spills something encourage them to wipe it up themselves. We even have a child sized mop and sweeping brush that my daughter loves using to clean up with.
13. Putting clothes in the laundry
I leave the washing machine door ajar so our toddler can put her own laundry in there ready to be washed. At one point, at the end of the day, she was obsessed with taking my husbands socks off for him and putting them in the wash. Honestly, you couldn’t pay me to go near his stinky feet but she loved it!
14. Watering plants
Fill a small watering can for them and let them wander around the house or garden watering the plants. It’s a great way to teach young kids respect for the environment.
15. Help to feed the pets
We have a lovely old dog that my daughter adores and she takes great pride in feeding him at the end of the day. We have a big bag of dry food and she loves scooping the pellets into the bowl and placing it on the floor for him.
16. Tidying toys away
I gave up tidying throughout the day a long time ago! Now, I leave the mess and destruction until the end of the day when we all have a power tidy for 10 minutes. My toddler knows that before she goes to bed all the toys must be picked up to keep them safe (and save daddys feet in the middle of the night)
So, there you go, heaps of easy ways you can start encouraging independence in your toddler right now! Just be patient and remember things won’t always be perfect but you’re doing your little one a huge favour and giving them a sense of their own place within the family unit.