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Teaching Your Toddler Self-Care


As a child gets older, you can help him or her gain independence in new and exciting ways. In the toddler stage, this means simple tidying and grooming tasks like picking up toys and brushing teeth. Here are some tips for helping your child build self-care skills at this age:

Focus on routines

The habits we develop in childhood are likely to stay with us our entire lives. This makes the toddler years the perfect time to start building healthy routines. Break tasks into simple steps, and do those steps in the same order each and every time. For example, if you're teaching your child how to wash his or her face, separate it into many parts. Your child can retrieve the washcloth from its place, then bring it to you. You moisten the cloth, then he or she washes and hangs the washcloth to dry.

As your child gets older, you can add different steps to the routine. You may eventually feel comfortable letting your child get the cloth wet on his or her own, or helping to turn on the water. Little adjustments in the routine allow you to build onto old habits to teach new skills.

Avoid comparisons

No two children are alike. This means you should never expect your toddler to be at the exact same stage as his or her playmates. It's easy to hear stories about how your neighbor's daughter is already tying her shoes and start to feel anxious about your own child's development, but fight the urge to compare. Different children have different strengths: Unless your pediatrician has concerns, your child is fine.

Teach by doing

Toddlers are still figuring out language, but they have an excellent grasp of mimicry. This is why showing your child how to do something is one of the best ways for you to teach him or her a task. If you can, give him or her a way to try it out as you're going along. For example, if you're solving a simple puzzle together, show how two pieces fit together. Take them apart, and have your toddler try. This same principle can be applied to nearly any task.

Make it a game

Kids are all about fun, so they're sure to be interested in anything you can turn into a game. One simple way to do this is to add songs or a rhyme to a particular activity. Even just framing something as a game and bringing an excited energy is likely to help them stay involved. Moreover, since kids learn well through play, this is the perfect way to help new tasks stick in their memories.

Don't forget: Accomplishment is a vital part of play. If your children are learning something tricky or complicated, they might get frustrated and give up. Instead of teaching these kinds of tasks from beginning to end, start by teaching them the very last step of the process. NY Metro Parents suggests using this method to teach children how to button up a shirt. First, have them give the button the final tug, then have them pull it halfway through, etc. This method of building up from the end lets them finish the task, which keeps them engaged.

Be a good example

If you're trying to teach your toddler the importance of washing your hands, but you skip the sink whenever you're in a rush, you're sending mixed signals. Kids pay attention to what their parents do, and if you set a bad example, they're probably going to follow it. What you say is not nearly as important as what you do in this formative stage. Keep an eye on your own habits, and make sure you're sticking to the rules you expect your child to follow.


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