Toddlers are starting to understand the world around them, and they’re curious to keep exploring and learning. You have likely noticed that your toddler wants to do everything on their own, whether or not they can.
Independence is a vital life skill. A toddler who learns independence will have greater confidence, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills in the future. Here are some things to should know about toddler independence.
A secure environment is key
As an adult, you’re used to taking risks and making mistakes, and then trying again. However, toddlers lack the life experience to manage risk in this way. To mitigate this, give your toddler a secure environment where they can indulge their curiosity and take risks that won’t harm them.
When your child is trying to do something that may be dangerous, your first instinct is to tell them “no.” However, this can have a negative effect on their confidence, and is stressful for you. Instead, you can ensure that the home is as toddler-proofed as possible, so that your child can explore their horizons without risk of serious injury.
Allowing your child to explore their creativity in other safe, controlled environments is possible, too. For example, Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center in Sugar Land provides hands-on experiences for children to learn.
Set clear rules
As part of exploring their independence, toddlers will try to bend or break rules. However, as a parent or guardian, you know there are non-negotiable rules designed to keep your child from serious physical harm. Remind your child of these non-negotiable rules, such as holding your hand when you cross the street, and be consistent.
Also, explaining to your child that these rules are in place to keep them safe will help them understand, and give them all-important structure.
Allow your toddler to choose between limited options
Giving your toddler freedom to make some choices is a good way for them to practice independence, but you don’t want them to go overboard. If you narrow down the options available to your child, you’ll keep them from becoming overwhelmed or the situation from getting out of hand.
For example, instead of asking your child, “What do you want for lunch today?” try asking, “Do you want a tuna salad sandwich or a chicken wrap for lunch today?”
These small choices will give your child important steps towards independence, while the ultimate control over the situation remains with you.
Allow your child to experience consequences
Toddlers are often too excited about a new experience to think things through, or sometimes they don’t yet understand cause and effect. Talking with your toddler about the consequences of their actions is good, but sometimes a hands-on example is best.
For example, if your toddler is insistent on putting their shoes on the wrong foot, they’ll soon realize how uncomfortable it is. Sometimes, letting your child experiment and make their own mistakes is more helpful for developing independence. As always, be sure that this experimentation takes place in a safe environment.
Toddlers are growing, and beginning to understand that they are individuals with their own interests. Finding small, safe ways for your child to develop their independence can help them to become successful later in life.