Personal Care and Self-sufficiency
The more you can help your toddler learn to be self-sufficient and able to care for himself early in life, the more time you will have for doing other things together. Be prepared that when your little ones are first learning to do these things for themselves, it can seem to take forever—and can be frustrating if you’re trying to go somewhere. The solution is to slot plenty of time and try to let them do it as much as possible. (Of course, there will be times when you have to do it for them, but they usually don’t like those times so much!)
Learning to protect and take care of their own bodies involves training and practice. Young children need repeated personal health, hygiene, and safety lessons in almost every area of life: washing up; care of teeth, hair, and clothing; cleaning ears (using nothing smaller than a washcloth on a finger); using the bathroom and washing their hands each time; learning how to use buttons, buckles, snaps, and zippers; combing or braiding hair; polishing shoes; dressing; learning how to eat nicely; learning how to cross streets safely, etc.
Social Development (Care for and Consideration of Others)
There are many practical and social skills that small children can learn. Learning these skills helps direct some of their energies into positive pursuits, and makes them feel needed and an important part of a family team or work effort.
Begin teaching children consideration for others at an early age. For example, they should learn to respect other people’s privacy, say please and thank you, say excuse me when they need to interrupt others, learn to greet new people, and to be less vocal when other conversations are going on.
Learning to set the table properly is another part of caring for others. Small children can learn how to prepare and serve food and drinks, such as juice or milk or simple sandwiches. It’s best to use unbreakable serving pitchers, plates, and drinking cups. Have a tea party with your toddler. You can use water, milk, juice, or herbal tea rather than caffeinated tea.
Encourage young children to do good things for others. Work with them to prepare a special surprise for someone they love or who needs some extra love and attention. Children enjoy doing deeds of kindness, as it is very rewarding. Being kind and considerate is learned largely from seeing good examples and from being expected and encouraged to be that way themselves. Children quickly learn to want to do helpful things for others, to tidy up when Mommy is feeling under the weather, to bring Daddy his slippers, etc. Reward them with a large measure of love when they show others kindness and consideration, and praise them and thank them for the good they do. This reinforces good behavior and encourages them to develop good manners.
Excerpted from the book "Keys to Toddlers and Preschoolers", by Derek and Michelle Brooks. © Aurora Productions. Used with permission.