Discovering independence is a natural part of growing up and as a parent, it is our job to ensure that our kids grow up to be self-reliant, independent adults.
Here are some fun ways to encourage independence in young children:
1. Free Play Time Makes an Independent Toddler
Being allowed to play freely and without much instruction or direction is a great way to let a child explore options, exercise choice and act on his own. Free play means letting a child deal with the blocks or the paint book on his own.
If you’ve been deeply involved in your child’s play activities, this means stepping back a little and seeing what he’d do when left on his own. Sure, he may make a mess of the paints or topple over a tower just as soon as he constructs it, but let him see that.
Instruct if you have to but don’t direct.
2. Fun Decisions to Build Independence
Headed to the mall for some ice-cream? Ask your toddler which one he’d like instead of automatically picking out a favorite. Give her choices when dressing up for school. Offer options during reading or craft hour. Learning to make simple decisions is a big thing for a preschooler. So, make sure you use opportunities to let them make a few decisions every day.
3. The Helpin’ Out Game to Boost Confidence
Toddlers love to help. Mine is a constant companion when I’m hanging out the laundry to dry or in the kitchen baking. Helping an adult makes toddlers feel all grown-up. It may take a bit longer to finish a task but it gives a child the sense of confidence that he needs to try bigger and more complicated activities independently.
4. Play the Patience and Praise Card
It can be frustrating for a parent to watch a toddler struggle laboriously over his shoes or the buttons on his shirt. You may be tempted to jump in and do it yourself or worse, yell “Hurry up!”
Don’t. Instead, play the patience card and if possible, factor in extra time when getting ready for school. Offer to help if you can see your li’l one getting frustrated but don’t just do it yourself.
Praise is another fun way of encouraging kids to be independent. My daughter, after watching the Potty Tots DVD, exclaims, “I did it!”, each time she goes to the bathroom independently. We high-five and I can actually see her glow with pride. Use fun ways to praise your child for small but significant acts of independence.
5. Books and Toys to Increase Independent Behavior
Finally, books, toys and DVDs are a great way to encourage independence. I Can Do it Myself by Diane Adams and I Can Do It!: A First Look at Not Giving Up by Pat Thomas are two great books to read with your preschooler and encourage them to try anything new or seemingly difficult.
How do YOU foster independence in your toddler?
The Potty Tots are participating in the Walmart Get on the Shelf Contest. They’d LOVE to reach more parents and kids all over the globe and could really use your help! Just like American Idol, You can vote for them as many times as you want everyday!VOTING is March 7th- April 3rd.
Post by Prerna Malik, the resident Potty Tots blogger and mama to a Potty Tots Fan.
Photo Credit: Abigail Batchelder