Help Me Help Myself: How To Nurture Your Two-Year-Old's Independence

As I've said before, I'm a bit more free-range or hands-off in my parenting approach. That's what I've settled on, at least, as a survival mechanism. And, in part, because my own toddler has led me to give him a bit more freedom.

One of the core tenants of the Montessori educational system is freedom: freedom of movement, freedom of interest or choice. Generally, it's quite a self-guided learning model. Part of what draws me to it (and I'm by no means a Montessori devotee, I just think it's interesting) is this way they encourage children to explore their world; to be curious about things as they are, without needing loads of external stimulus to maintain their interest. Trust me, my toddler definitely wants more freedom of choice. If he had his way, he'd have marshmallows for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

This floor bed is inspired by Montessori learning and encourages freedom of movement and choice. via The Little Things

Without going too hard-core into the Montessori culture or school system, I'd like to encourage its principle of independence. Here's how I currently incorporate greater independence into my two year old son's day. (Well...at least this is how I try. Not every day is perfect!)

Step Stools

Honestly, the humble step stool is a God-given gift to toddler parents everywhere. My son is often curious about what I'm doing up here - usually cooking or working - and he wants to see for himself. Of course, I can't hold him while safely cutting vegetables for dinner. So, in comes the step stool. I snagged one for $10 at Menard's that is tall enough for Shep to climb up, turn on the faucet, and wash his own hands. (Of course, I have to put the steps there for him, but this is progress!) Helping him feel involved reduces tantrums when nothing else works.

Learning Tower

Ok, this one is *kind of* a spin-off of the whole step stool thing. But since we actually have a learning tower, I figured I should include it. Yes, that's right! I sent my father-in-law a few Pins on DIY learning towers, and he built one for Shep as a Christmas gift. It's made of gorgeous car siding (and matches Grandpa's ceiling!) has wheels for convenience. The upside to the learning tower is that it's a lot more stable than a step stool. Because Kevin added a safety bar in the back, Shep has a railing surrounding him on all sides, and solid wood up to his waist. It's like his own personal scenic overlook, and he loves it. If you are handy with a drill and saw, this DIY is easy - and safe!

Help Clean

Toddlers can actually help you clean - and they want to! Via Today's Parent

Today, while Stephen and I were scrubbing the cabinets, Shep wanted to be under foot. Instead of getting frustrated with him, or letting him get into something unsafe, I diverted his attention. I filled a spray bottle with water, grabbed a sponge and a rag, and threw it all into a bucket. Then I asked my toddler to clean the fridge for me. Child labor - heck yes! Also, he's enthusiastic and very much wants to mimic us - especially when we're working together as partners.

Get Dressed

Check out this toddler-sized dressing area! via Jewish Montessori Mom

This one is still a bit out of reach for us, but we're working on it. Tonight, Shep figure out how to get his Pull Ups down over his butt by himself! It's only a matter of time before he figures out how to do it in reverse and can pull up his own pants. I let him practice for now, because he wants to try. And then he asks me for help when he's got both legs stuck in the same pantleg.

Oh, my poor mama heart! How did this even happen? That tiny baby they laid on my chest is now putting on his own shoes! My heart is breaking as I realize those tiny days are long gone. My heart is bursting with pride.


Are you a Montessori parent? I'd love to learn more about it! Tell me why I should do it, too! @pi3sugarpi3 on Twitter and @sugarpi3honeybunch on Insta

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