8 Everyday Items to Support Toddler Independence
In just a couple of months, my son will be turning 2-years-old. As a parent, I am sure you can relate to the magnitude of emotions this brings. A parent, in reference to children growing up, surely must have coined the term “bittersweet.” Parenting is, without a doubt, the most incredible journey of constant learning, stretching, bending and growing.
This past year, I have witnessed the phrase “help me do it myself” come to life. My son truly thrives when he is able to do the tasks he sees me do every day. He also enjoys playing the role of my “big helper.”
When it comes to things in the home, I am someone who believes “less is more,” however, I have come to find these eight items to be extremely helpful in assisting my toddler on his quest for independence. Now, don’t feel like you need to run out and buy any one of these to achieve the same results… There is certainly room for creative interpretation!
1. Fold-Up Stool
My kiddo has been using this stool as part of his everyday exploration since he was a 1-year-old. With it, he can help himself to kitchen drawers (don’t worry, they are all “safe” for exploring), turn the light switches on or off, grab a book off one of our higher bookshelves and so much more. It’s so fun to watch him use his stool to explore new heights! It’s even light enough for him to fold up and carry from room to room, which he often enjoys doing!
Activity Suggestion: Have a designated junk drawer specifically for your child that’s always refreshed and ready for exploring! Remember to follow the child and connect the items back to their interests. It is important to make this a safe activity for your child, but adding some adult tools and items would be okay too. Some suggested items: cut-out coupons, a key ring with keys, photos, small containers with lids, card sets and even crayons.
2. Learning Tower
I spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating real, nutrient-dense foods. The Learning Tower allows my son to be right there in the action, safely! He helps me do everything from the dishes to meal creation. While up at the counter level, he works alongside me and helps snap the ends of green beans, de-stem kale, and throw sweet potatoes in the food processor. I have noticed recently that he is even more excited to eat the food that he has had a hand in creating. Imagine that!
3. Pouring Pitcher
Do I dare say that my son is a master at pouring? He loves it! Almost daily, we set up a pouring practice station using this pitcher, a teapot, a variety of different sized cups and sometimes a funnel or two. While in deep concentration, he carefully pours one to another, and takes a sip here and there. This is truly an awesome fine motor activity and practical life skill that has allowed him to gain more independence. He also enjoys other independent activities such as watering the houseplants, feeding and giving water to the dogs and dumping his potty into the toilet. ☺
4. Table and Chairs
I love having a table and chair set in our kitchen that is fit for his size. We use this for snack time, arts and crafts, putting together puzzles and so much more. It is really rewarding to see him use this space on his own terms. He’s able to pull out the chair, climb up and sit down without any assistance needed. He is becoming more independent by doing this on his own!
5. Pumpkin Knife & Wavy Chopper
Children are always watching and absorbing our actions. I learned early on that my son has a thing for cutting his own food. He knows he can’t have sharp knives, which makes him want them all the more! Cutting, like many other fine motor skills, takes practice. With a dull knife and/or wavy chopper, we incorporated soft foods first (such as bananas and avocados) when learning to cut foods. Now we practice with a variety of textured foods such as homemade banana bread, cheese and cucumbers. These tools have certainly been a gift that allows him to safely play an active role in preparing his snacks and meals.
6. Dust, Sweep & Mop Set
I often joke that my son is a better cleaner than me! He loves to take a wet rag and wipe down his table, the floors and walls, and even give our dogs a little face wash. This set has been helpful in allowing him to get even more involved in the care of our home environment. He sweeps up his messes, and then grabs the dustpan and eagerly dumps dust into the compost. Who said cleaning can’t be fun and educational?
Activity Suggestion: At the child-sized table, consider setting up a station with a cutting board, banana and a dull knife. Make sure to model for your child the proper way to cut the banana. Then pass the knife and allow for practice while under your observation. Having them clean up with the dust, sweep and mop set when they are finished is another way to practice caring for their environment.
7. Garden Tool Set
Two of my son’s chores are watering our houseplants and helping in the garden. This is another great activity to practice caring for the environment. He takes great pride by slowly carrying the watering can to the plants; carefully pouring the water and even watching the water sink into the dirt. He’s even become quite attached to the plants as he often kisses the leaves before walking away (Ahh- sweetest thing, ever)! I’m excited for spring to come so he can start playing and digging in the dirt!
8. Jumbo Wooden Puzzle Sets
These jumbo wooden puzzle sets have taught my son patience. At first, he would get so frustrated that he would throw the pieces when he couldn’t get them to fit in the right spot. After witnessing this a few times, I began to immerse myself in the process by trying to complete the puzzle set myself and asking him for help. In his “helper” role, he would show such greater depths of patience. Now, he will easily complete the puzzle and patiently work to get each piece in!
Being a role model for my child and allowing him to be more independent has certainly been helpful. Not only are household chores being completed, but my child is also gaining the confidence and patience while completing them. Whether you are the “perfect” Montessori mom or not, we all know that sharing our ideas and practices can help others help their children on the path to independence- one step at a time!
If you are looking for the perfect Montessori additions to your home, consider checking out Montessori Rocks! Marketplace for all of our Montessori product recommendations, including must-read books!
Share with me! How do you encourage independence for your child at home?