by Cora Tormaschy
As toddlers grow up, they often get used to adults doing everything for them, whether it’s zipping their coat or buttoning their shirt. Toddlers are curious by nature, and so you have probably noticed them watching you do these tasks that you don’t normally think twice about. For instance, I was watching my three-year-old niece trying to button her pajama top for the first time when I remembered that we all had to be taught how to do everyday tasks such as that one. It is easy to forget that little everyday tasks take A LOT of concentration and energy for little fingers, but it’s a very important stage of early learning and development.
Self-care tasks that toddlers can start learning to do themselves include:
- Buttoning shirts
- Putting on coats or shoes
- Zipping coats or jackets
- Removing shirts or pants
- Getting dressed
- Combing hair
- Washing hands
- Brushing teeth
- Using a tissue
All of these tasks require fine motor skills including hand-eye coordination and small muscle control, which are important for physical development and general health habits.
Research shows that children learn by doing, so encourage your child to start tackling those everyday tasks. Young children get excited any time they can help, and especially when they succeed at something they haven’t been able to before. Children can get frustrated when they are struggling, so be sure to offer positive encouragement rather than offering to do it for them. Use phrases such as “You’ve almost got it!” or “Try one more time!” We often forget to give toddlers time to learn tasks and do it for them when we’re in a rush, so be patient. It may take more than a few tries before your child succeeds or asks for help.
Once a child begins to get the hang of one thing, always encourage him or her to do the task alone. Slowly introduce additional tasks so the child doesn’t become overwhelmed. It was a great feeling seeing my niece smile when she got her first button all by herself. It’s the little things that make for proud moments! They might be small tasks, but they are big accomplishments.