You’ve probably noticed that your toddler wants to try things out on their own more and more. They want to dip their hand into a cup of water and slap it on the table. They insist on opening and closing the cupboard doors, giving the pet a treat, and pushing the lever to open and close the garbage lid.
As much as you may be excited for this newfound independence in theory, it can be tricky in practice. All of this means a shift in the dynamics of your household. They used to nap contentedly in the carrier while you walked around doing laundry, checked your email, and generally took care of things. Now there is more mess, everything takes a lot more time, and tasks just don’t get done the way they used to.
The key to cutting down on frustration for both of you is to redefine what it means to “get things done.” Toddlers want to spend time repeating everything they do over and over again, undoing and redoing, without any measurable results. The thing you are “getting done” right now with your toddler is simply supporting their learning. It’s a long game.
HERE ARE SOME MANTRAS TO MAKE TODDLER TIME SMOOTHER FOR EVERYONE:
Try not to do anything for your child that they can do on their own
It takes more time and a lot of patience, but let them try. Your toddler is more capable than you might think, especially when they’re given the chance.
Freedom to explore now makes a big difference later
Research has correlated the amount of freedom children have to explore with their later cognitive abilities.
Having plenty of chances to engage with the real world without restrictions, like digging around in (safe) drawers and cupboards, feeding themselves, playing in a pile of rocks outside, or squirting their own toothpaste, is excellent for your toddler’s brain. You are allowing your child to build the capacity to problem-solve.
Repetition is learning
A toddler’s version of repetition is not the same as ours. Every time they repeat something, it’s actually a new experience for them, another layer of exploration and knowledge-building. They want to spend time reading that same book over and over again, or opening and closing a cupboard door without any measurable results.
Break the “react and control” cycle
Your toddler’s exploring can occasionally get them into something harmful, messy, or inconvenient, so do what you can to get ahead of it. Also realize that their brain is craving real-world experiences: they want to be involved with whatever exists around them and use their developing senses to understand what things are and how they work.
Proactively create safe and interesting ways to include your child in what you are doing. For example, you can let them peel banana slices and drop each one into an unplugged blender for a smoothie.
Give your toddler choices
Your toddler wants to do things on their own, but most of the time, you are still making the choices for them. Find times when they can make a choice. For example, if it’s snack time, you might say “would you like applesauce or yogurt?” and hold each option up.
When your toddler is focused on “let me try it,” their brain is able to develop a more sophisticated understanding of how the world works. Letting go of just a little control can be freeing for both you and your toddler.
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