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Fostering Independence in Toddlers – Practical Tips for Parents

Early Years Educator, Mariana, explores how to encourage independence in toddlers.

A young child and an adult are sitting at a table, engaged in an activity with cards. The adult, smiling and wearing a lanyard, shows the child how to use the cards. The background shows colorful clothes on hangers and various items on shelves.

Why is independence important for a toddler?

Independence plays a vital role in a child’s learning under the EYFS Framework. Allowing toddlers the opportunity to think, explore, and act independently can enhance their development in various areas, such as cognitive, emotional, and social development. Implementing a child-centred approach within the EYFS Framework offers many advantages. It fosters natural self-confidence, self-esteem, and problem-solving skills in your toddler.

How can we help to promote independence?

The Learning Environment

Any child needs an environment that promotes their learning and will allow the child to continue learning experiences even without the presence of an adult. Ensuring that resources are well organised to allow the child free choice of all items and encourage that independent play.

Establishing Routines

Having an effective routine that children can begin carrying out themselves has such as high factor in independence. Ensuring that the child can anticipate the next part of your routine will allow them to feel confident in being steps for those transitions, eg taking themselves to the bathroom when its time for a bath.

Consider your language

Reflect on the way you interact with them while they play or interact in an environment. Thinking aloud with the children will prompt the child to make connections and begin answering their own questions through play.

Learning from others 

Observation will play a big role in grow a toddler’s independence as they like to watch those around them to learn from each other and copy those actions themselves.

Tasks that will promote independence:

There are several tasks and responsibilities that can be given to a child to promote independence within your home. Activities as simple as:

o   Picking out their own clothes

o   Washing their own faces and bodies

o   Watering plants

o   Assisting with cooking and baking

A young boy in a green shirt plays with a wooden toy truck on a playset in a brightly colored room. The room is decorated with various toys, books, and stuffed animals. The boy is focused on his play, with his hand reaching towards the toy set.

Allowing children to take part in ‘adult task’ allows children to have a sense of responsibilities and prompts them to mirror the actions and choices of those around them, ensuring that you are encouraging and praising them for any task completed.

As well as these assisted tasks, there are lots of individual tasks that a toddler can complete to encourage own responsibilities, these would include:


Self-serving within mealtime are so important as it allows the child to make choices on several aspects such as amounts of food, repetition of food, and allows them to gain control over their fine motor skills with tipping and pouring.

A young child with light brown hair, wearing a grey hoodie, stands on a brick patio and uses a white watering can with floral designs to water vibrant blue and red flowers in a wooden planter box against a brick wall.

Dressing themselves

Allowing toddlers to begin dressing themselves through putting on their own coats or own shoes, with support if needed. This can then be extended too then supporting them in their own self-care, such as brushing teeth and washing their own hands before and after mealtimes.

Toilet training

One of the biggest steps that can be taken when promoting independence is allowing children to begin those first steps of toilet training, even though conversation alone, it can really support toddlers to begin that transition.


What are some activties that can support independence?

The activities are crucial for promoting independence as they can aid in development through play. Here are some examples of activities that can be recreated at home:


Toddlers benefit from role play as they can incorporate their own experiences and observations into their play. They can mimic caring for babies (like brushing their teeth or dressing them) or engage in child-centred play where they replicate home situations and adult behaviour.

Puzzles/matching games

These activities encourage independence through trial and error. Allowing the child to try these games alone can boost their motivation to keep attempting and help them build confidence and independence to try without assistance.

Two young children are sitting at a table, enjoying a meal. The girl on the left wears a patterned shirt and is using a spoon, while the boy on the right, in a blue shirt, focuses on his plate. In the background, legs of an adult are partially visible.

Packing belongings

Letting a toddler pack their own bag before going out can give them a sense of responsibility and allow them to choose which items they want to take for the day.


During Storytime, encouraging the child to sometimes describe what they see in the pictures can help them develop reading skills.

Encouraging independence from a young age is very beneficial. It can help foster a healthy relationship with trying new things, staying motivated, and being independent.

Fostering independence in toddlers is not just a desirable trait but a fundamental aspect of their development. By providing opportunities for toddlers to explore, learn, and act independently, parents and educators can lay the foundation for a lifetime of self-confidence and self-reliance. From creating an environment that promotes free choice and exploration to establishing routines and offering age-appropriate tasks, there are numerous ways to support a toddler’s journey towards independence.


Early Years Educator

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