Take advantage of your toddler's budding independence and eagerness to do things on her own! Show her how to accomplish simple tasks and foster self-reliance and responsibility at an early age. Here are a few ideas:
1. Eating by herself “Some toddlers start wanting to use utensils as early as 13 months, and most children have figured out this all-important skill by 17 or 18 months,” said BabyCenter. Once your child starts to show interest in her spoon and fork, don’t fight it. It may be messy and it may be frustrating at times to watch her struggle, but this is how she learns!
2. Washing and drying hands Most kids will be ready to wash their hands on their own by 18 to 24 months (with mom and dad’s supervision until he’s more competent and able). Have a step stool near the sink and some fun soap and hand towel within reach for your kiddo. Wash your hands together and show him how to scrub thoroughly. Learning to wash his hands should come before or as soon as potty training starts as well.
3. Tidying up toys You can already teach your child how to clean up her toys at toddler-age. Instill this habit into your little one and that’s one less chore to worry about. “With younger toddlers, it's better to wait until the end of the day to clean up everything at once,” said Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You're Expecting.
Remember to make it fun (turn it into a game: sing a song or see who can pick up toys faster). It helps to have just one or a few boxes or bins where toys can be dropped inside instead of shelves where they have to be arranged.
4. Pouring a cup of water Mom Mars Medina, a former Montessori teacher and school owner, shared that her daughter could already pour herself a glass of water at 18 months. Pretty impressive! The secret was in having everything within her child's reach and at an appropriate size, she said. So, they had a small pitcher and a low table just for her little one. Try it during mealtimes with your child.
5. Undressing, and later on, self-dressing “Around 18 months of age, and sometimes even younger, toddlers will start undressing themselves because it doesn't require as much skill,” pediatrician Dr. Kenneth Polintold Parents. Taking off his shoes, socks, and then pants can be the first step. Teach him where all these go (the laundry bin and the shoe rack) when he's undressed them too. Then, at age 3, he'll be able to dress himself into simple clothes (without buttons or zippers)!
6. Brushing his teeth (sort of) It will be a while before your child can be left to brush her teeth on her own. Even at preschool age, she may not be able to do a thorough job of cleaning her pearly whites. But, you can set the habit already starting at 16 months, said BabyCenter. Guide your child through the motions and let her try brushing on her own. Then, takeover to finish up (and make sure everything’s cleaned).
7. Simple housekeeping chores Things like placing trash in a trashcan, wiping up small spills, watering plants, and feeding fish can already be done at around toddler-age. In fact, if your child sees you doing them, he’ll show interest in doing them himself too. Such was the case for mom Cherdyn Mojica who bought a mini-sized watering can, mop, broom, and dustpan for her 18-month-old daughter. (See her story and where she bought the tools here.)