It’s almost alarming how quickly your gurgling little bundle turns into a walking toddler, who’s led by curiosity and who greets each new day with a grin of growing teeth! As our babies become the little people they’re destined to be, encouraging elements of independence helps not only mom and dad, but your toddler’s development too. Being able to do things for herself, by herself, teaches your child how to deal with failures and stress (in relatively minor situations), as well as growing her sense of self-esteem. It gets her ready for life as an older kid, and adult. So, without pulling the mat right out from under her, teach your tot to be independent by encouraging her to do things on her own.

1. LET’S GET DRESSED!

Getting ready for an exciting day at the park or at playschool is no longer entirely a parental task. Make it easier for your toddler to get dressed for the day with no-fuss clothing and easy-to-use shoes. Buy slip-ons or shoes with Velcro straps to make footwear easier and put the fiddly buttons on shirts to one side for now. Let your toddler take her pick from a set of outfits each day, and soon she’ll be making your morning routine a little easier. Be prepared for some outrageous outfits, but remember this – she’s only young once, so why not let her be a little flamboyant? As long as she’s dressed appropriately for the weather, it’s okay that she’s wearing three sets of prints and her wellies (for the fourth day in a row).

2. CHOOSING TOYS FOR PLAYTIME

Decision-making is a vital component of independence. The more your toddler gets to practice making decisions for herself, the easier she’ll find making choices when she’s older. Let your child select one or two toys from a range you set out for her (focus on three to five toys to choose from – any more and the act of decision-making could be a little overwhelming). When you’re purchasing toys for your toddler, head towards the more open-ended play items—building blocks, dollhouses, and figurines are great little imagination starters, that can have multiple purposes.

3. LET’S EAT!

By now, you’re past having to pretend that the spoon is an airplane that carries cereal across the table to your tot’s waiting mouth. Encourage more independent

eating by offering your child a variety of healthy finger foods like blocks of cheese, slices of carrots, and other toddler-fist-friendly items. Settle her in with her healthy dinner or snack and, finally, you can eat your meal at the temperature you like for a change.

 4. CHATTERBOX

In all likelihood, your house has a constant soundtrack. The noise from television programs, kitchen appliances, and, more importantly, your toddler’s attempts at speaking form a daily chorus that makes your house feel like a home. Encourage that chatterbox by talking to your toddler throughout the day. It doesn’t matter if her responses amount to complete gobbledegook. Intonation, phrasing, and word pronunciation are most common, and easily, learned through conversation. Be prepared for many giggles though, as your toddler will find you hilarious throughout these conversations. You can also help her language development by regularly reading to your child. Read as much as you can with and to her, even if you’re just perusing a picture book together. Point out the interesting elements of the pictures and chat a little about them – and don’t be surprised when your child starts attempting to repeat words you’ve said.

5. INDEPENDENT PLAY

Most one-year-old children can play on their own for up to fifteen minutes

without needing assistance or a playmate, so let her enjoy some alone time too. You may even find that she chats or sings to herself as she plays. From about the age of one, you can start integrating solo playtime into your daily routine and enjoy sitting down for a bit while your child explores her imagination and learns a little more independence. Set your toddler up with her chosen toys in an area where you can still keep an eye on her while you have a cup of tea or fold some laundry. Start with small increments of time where you step back and let her play on her own, and enjoy a little peace and quiet while you’re at it.

6. EVERYBODY, CLEAN UP!

The end is in sight – you are no longer solely responsible for picking up the day’s toys. In fact, you can make it part of playtime each day to clean up and pack away toys into the toy chest or stack things away as they should be. Bring a little song into the activity for an added element. We promise it’ll be worth it. Integrating cleanup activities into your playtime routines is important, as this not only helps you keep your home neat and tidy, but also lays down the foundations for personal responsibility in your toddler. Integrating your child into the routines of your day, whether it be cleaning up, doing grocery shopping, or even making dinner for the family each evening, goes a long way in helping her develop both mentally and linguistically.

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