Raising a toddler to grow up to be a confident and independent individual requires a strong foundation to be laid right from the beginning. Parents may be tempted to hand-hold or guide their child through every walk of life, but there are a few everyday things that you can do differently to encourage the independent spirit in your toddler.
Supervision-Free Time With Independent Play Bins
Give your little one an opportunity to explore and play on their own, but in a way that makes you feel safe. With an independent play bin, you can select appropriate toys that your toddler can play with safely, including a bottle of water and a small snack for your baby to have whenever they feel thirsty or hungry on their own. Simply create this play bin and set them free for an hour or so. Watch and be amazed at how well they play without missing their mommy or daddy.
Potty Training At The Appropriate Age
An important aspect of feeling independent is taking control of their own bodily functions. Start your kid’s toilet training journey at an appropriate age, and teach them to recognise how to sense an upcoming nature call. You can start as early as 9 months to show them how grown-ups use a toilet instead of diapers. Learning aids like books are a great way to introduce this information effectively. Teach them the hygienic way of using a toilet, flushing and washing their hands at the end. Before they start school, they will be confident in managing the process on their own. Praise them for each milestone and each correctly done step in the process.
Trust Their Abilities
You may feel like handholding them through common activities during the day, however holding trust in their capabilities, especially their physical abilities gives them confidence. So next time while climbing up the stairs, check if your little one is up to walking on their own instead of being carried in arms. Hold their hand till they are confident, and once they’re good to go on their own, just walk closely behind them.
Focus on building a strong foundation of independence. And being able to do their own chores around the house is an important skill in this regard. Teach them some home skills like how to do their own laundry, how to prepare some easy-to-cook dishes (you can start with no-heat recipes), how to organise their room, wash the utensils and take out the garbage. Give them a share of work around the house and let them take charge of it as their duty. Do remember to praise them for a job well done.
One Decision Every Day
Children may express several wishes throughout the day, however not all of them might be well thought out decisions. Be it a preference of their outfit of the day, choosing the lunch menu, picking the board game for a family fun night, or whatever else you can think of. When you let them make a choice, explain to them the consequence of each of their options. Once they make their decision, don’t question or overrule it.
Speak For Themselves
“Oh my! He’s grown up so much since we last met. How old is he now?” We are often met with such questions about our kids, to which our prompt reply is, “He’s just turned three.” How about we let our toddlers answer questions that relate to them? Next time, you can try, “Do you want to tell Aunty how old you are?” This will encourage them to speak more and gain an understanding of how conversations are made. Involving them in these conversations will make them feel independent and confident about themselves.
Encourage Play Dates
It’s practice time! Initiate the idea of playdates with other kids their age to see how your kid conducts themselves when they interact with the world outside their home. They may have difficulty sharing their toys, they may have conflicts, or even get into small fights. But as long as you feel everyone involved is safe, try letting them figure out their own equations and resolve their own conflicts. Avoid running to their rescue unless your judgement says they genuinely need help.
Express Their Likes / Dislikes
If your child says they don’t like to eat potatoes, don’t dismiss this expression immediately. Acknowledge their likes and dislikes, and ask them more about it. “What did you not like, is it too spicy for you?” or “Oh, you don’t like potatoes? Tell me, what is your favourite vegetable?” If you want to discourage the habit of wastage, you can say to them, “It takes a lot of hard work to prepare these potatoes. Can you eat them today? We will prepare your favourite vegetable tomorrow.” These are simple examples of how to acknowledge your child’s feelings and encourage them to express their likes and dislikes.
Let Them Make Mistakes – And Correct Them
Did they spill paint all over their activity table? Don’t scold them, discouraging them from handling their own art supplies. Rather, hand them a mop and ask them to clean up well so that they can continue painting that masterpiece.