You Can Do It! 5 Ideas for Teaching Self-Sufficiency to Your Toddler

On your baby’s first birthday, he or she officially becomes a toddler. It’s a bittersweet moment for most parents. While you’re proud of your little one and glad to have 12 months of experience under your belt, your infant is now, in essence, a little-big kid. In short, this means they’re going to want more independence. Don’t cue the violins so fast—some self-sufficiency between the ages of one and three is actually a good thing! 

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As moms and sisters, we’ve seen it for ourselves—young children who are able to create experiences and solve problems on their own will become more confident and learn how to handle a variety of challenges. Independent discovery also inspires them to learn more about the world than they can from our second-hand knowledge. Plus, it gives us moms and dads time to take a much-needed break! As a super parent, you’re probably already teaching independence on a daily basis. If you need more activities, check out the ideas on our list. Trying a broad range of self-sufficiency exercises may help you become more comfortable with them growing up a little bit. Best of all, your courage to let them develop will also allow them to find their own self-worth and happiness!

1. Explore Chores

The earlier your child learns the importance of cleaning up after themselves, the more commonplace it’ll be to do chores later in life. As soon as you begin teaching them about duties at home, frame each task as a positive experience. Ask your partner and any older siblings to do the same. If your little one thinks chores are bad or boring, they’re just as likely to resist as any teenager or adult. At this age, tasks should be simple and fun, while explanations about the importance of cleaning left to a minimum. You’ll have plenty of time for that later!

Have your toddler help you feed the pets, place a piece of clean trash in a wastebasket or fold her training pants. Or encourage her to help you pack her bag for daycare. If you’d like, you can sing a song together. Compliment your child for a job well done. As they get excited about and master certain activities, you can make the chores more complex.

 Ideas for Teaching Self-Sufficiency to Your Toddler

2. Discover Independent Play

While it’s important to play with your toddler, you can give them the space they need to stack blocks alone or chat to their stuffed animals. As long as they are having a good time, feel free to let them continue without interruption. Your little one will learn that independent play is interesting and they’re fine without you. Trust us–you’ll find it much easier to get the bills paid or the laundry done!

Some children are used to playing with moms, dads or siblings. If your toddler protests about going solo, participate along with them until they’re fully invested in their toy or project. Step away for a moment or two and then return again to interact or make a comment. Extend the time by a minute until you can spend some time monitoring them while doing your own thing.

3. Visit with Family and Friends 

There’s no one like mom and dad—but close family members and friends are important to toddlers, too. An extended network of loved ones and trusted adults make your child feel loved and wanted. As your child builds relationships with people they care about, they can become mentors, supporters, and babysitters. 

If you find that your son loves spending time with his grandpa or your daughter is taking a liking to her aunt, set up a regular play date. Schedule self-care time, go on a date with your partner or get some shopping done. In the meantime, your kid will make family memories and learn more about himself. 

4. Wait Before Trying to Help 

As parents, it’s tempting to solve all of our child’s problems. Since we’ve met their basic needs since they were in the womb, we still want to rush over to open every package, soothe every whimper and turn every frustration into pure joy. This time, go against your gut instinct and give your child a moment to figure out their puzzle or handle a disagreement with their playmate. Observe and trust your little one’s ability to use their motor skills or communicate. 

You may be surprised at just how much they can handle. Be proud of them! After all, they learned it from you. In the event that they have a meltdown or don’t want to behave, it’s okay to intervene. Make a mental note of what went wrong, how you can solve the challenge and what you can do to encourage your son’s or daughter’s self-sufficiency next time. 

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5. Create Daily Responsibilities 

Along with learning how to clean up, toddlers are ready for a few day-to-day responsibilities. Of course, you won’t be asking much. Create a simple chart for your fridge or a wall in your child’s room. Write two to three simple daily tasks, like “Help Mommy Get Me Dressed,” “Brush My Teeth with Daddy” or “Take My Nighttime Bath.” Put a checkmark next to the completed activity and congratulate your tiny achiever for a job well done. 

Remind them of the importance of their responsibilities for keeping themselves healthy and happy. You can say something like, “Every time you brush your teeth, you’re taking care of yourself. That’s a good job.” Feel free to reward them in the evening with their favorite bedtime story or an extra nursery rhyme. 

Helping Your Toddler Navigate the World 

It’s not easy to see your little one grow up, but you’re doing the right thing in giving them purpose and responsibility! As with any solo activity for children this age, don’t forget to keep your toddler in your sight at all times. Even the most intelligent or well-mannered kid can quickly get into trouble if they touch the wrong household item or get too confident about their abilities. The road to becoming a big kid won’t be without any bumps, but the journey is amazing. As you see your son or daughter achieve more and more, you’ll be glad you gave them the chance to be independent and flourish.  

Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on teaching self-sufficiency to your toddler and found it useful. You can find more tips over in my parenting category.

rachel bustin


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