How to Encourage Development & Independence in Toddlers: 5 Steps
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Toddlerhood is a time when kids try to balance their own independence and their dependence on you.

Sometimes toddlerhood gets a bad rap. After all, "the terrible twos" refers specifically to this time in a child's life, and certainly there are times when your little one's behavior will stretch your patience to its limit. When you're not cooling down tantrums and preventing him from hitting or biting, remember that toddlerhood is also an amazing time for him to grow and learn to be more independent. Nurturing his sense of independence and adventure will make "the terrible twos" more than worth it.


  1. 1
    Give your toddler choices. Take as many opportunities as possible to present choices to him throughout the day, but make sure it is a choice between two options, not just an open-ended question. For example, when it is time to get dressed to go out, ask whether he wants to wear a polka-dot shirt or a striped shirt; don't just ask if he wants to wear a shirt today.
  2. 2
    Play separation games like "peek-a-boo" and "hide and seek." This will help your little one get more comfortable with you being out of sight, which will ease her separation anxiety. When you must leave, make sure that you consistently tell your toddler ahead of time; your absence is much more distressing when it comes as a sudden surprise.
  3. 3
    Be a good helper. Your little one will naturally start to attempt to do things on his own; make sure that he is in a safe environment to do so. When he tries to do something by himself, resist the urge to jump in and do it for him. Instead, give him only as much help as is necessary for him to do it on his own.
  4. 4
    Monitor your child's general level of frustration, and challenge her accordingly. Toddlers generally don't handle frustration well -- tantrums, anyone? -- so she will let you know when tasks are beyond her skill level. Obviously, she's not going to master everything the first time around, so some frustration is inevitable, but the key is to strike a balance: if she's frustrated more often than not, you might be going too fast for her or expecting too much of her. Lower your expectations and see how well she does.
  5. 5
    Plan time to sit and cuddle with your child, doing nothing else. His sense of connectedness to you is like a gas tank -- spending quiet time with him like this will fill his tank until he's comfortable enough to wander off and play on his own. When he needs to refuel, he will come back to you on his own.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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