Encouraging (and Dealing with) Your Toddler’s Growing Independence

independent toddlerKermit the Frog said it best: “It’s not easy being ‘green’.” The same is true for toddlers—there’s a lot to learn and they’re starting from scratch. Just as we celebrate good behaviour in our older kids, the same should apply for our little ones once they’ve reached those all-important milestones.

Baby Speaks!

Whether your child’s first words are the well-wished for “Mama” or “Dada”, the fact that she’s managed to form a word is a huge step—not only does it mean she’s starting to communicate outside of gestures, it’s a sign that she’s starting to understand the world around her. So in celebration of these newfound ‘sounds’, why not pull out the smart phone and make some audio recordings? Once you’ve got an audio collection of her growing vocabulary, you can burn them on a CD and create your very own specialty ‘baby word mix’ to play for her. It’s a fun opportunity to encourage her to continue trying new words, and a great memento to have on hand when she gets older.

Finger Food Discovery

Graduating from the bottle to blended foods is a monumental (if not messy) milestone, but even more fun is the day when your toddler takes his tiny hand and starts discovering the joy of finger food and feeding himself. After all, we spend so much time trying to get them to take things out of their mouth, it’s always great to celebrate when they put the right things in. For this milestone, a celebratory dinner is in order. Once your little one has tried a few different finger foods and seems to be comfortable with the notion, it’s time for a family finger food feast. Pick a bunch of different items—from cubed cheese to fruits or veggies that your toddler can handle—and make a spread across the table. Let your toddler see you trying the different foods (using your fingers, of course) in order to encourage him to try some new flavors. Be sure to toast the guest of honor!

A Step Ahead

First steps are never forgotten (especially given that you’ll be spending the next few months chasing them around), so making sure this milestone is remembered is a must. Once they’ve found themselves stable on their feet, have a little artistic fun. There are a few different ways to enjoy this. One idea includes putting a ream of paper on the floor and taping it down. Then, add some tempera paint to the soles of your little one’s foot and let them walk around on the paper. You can even try a few different colours to create your own work of art to cherish in the years to come. Another option is to frame those shoes that were a part of those first steps. In either case, commemorating the moment will make you smile on those days when you’re wishing they were back in the ‘non-walking’ phase.

Musical Moments

Most toddlers love music, and while they’ll smile, giggle or even clap their hands when their favourite songs come on, that moment when they suddenly start to wiggle to the music is precious. Even more fun is watching the shimmies shift with different songs. Have a daily dance moment with your toddler, trying out different music each time to see what she responds to. Once you’ve collected some of her faves, get a playlist going and put on a show! It’s a fun way for her to get exercise, and for you to film her groovy moves in her very first music video.

I Spy…

It’s great when little ones start to share new words—but it gets even more exciting when they learn how to identify items, whether it’s that delightful digit pointing at a specific image in a favourite picture book, or a finger flailing about as he spies something familiar in his vicinity. Flower. Ball. Car. Teddy. Now it’s not just an item to chew: it’s a real thing with a real name. This new recognition process is definitely one worth celebrating. Keep a special journal on hand and for every new item your child identifies, paste in a photo, magazine pic or draw a simple image of the item and the date that it happened. It’ll make for a fun book you can keep using as he grows his vocabulary, and a sweet reflection piece when your toddler transitions into a preschooler.

Potty Party

The potty training process can be long and arduous, and offer a lot of frustration for parents and toddlers alike. So take out the troublesome element and put a little ‘party’ in the process. Once your toddler has had some time to get used to the potty, set a date to put the pull-ups aside and begin your special celebration. Party hats? Check. New underwear (selected by your toddler)? Check. A decorated bathroom? Check. Turning it into a celebration makes it exciting for her—just make sure that you have a potty session every 1.5 to 2 hours after she’s had a drink. Even if she says she’s fine, it’s worth getting her used to sitting on the potty and giving it a try. Include her favourite doll or teddy in the process—it’s a great way for her to feel like she’s helping someone else learn as well. If there are accidents, don’t let that spoil the fun. After all, there’s always one or two ‘spills’ at every party.

Our toddlers may be ‘green’ when it comes to everyday skills, but those milestone moments are golden, so make sure to celebrate them—new ones will arrive soon enough.