Life With A 2-Year-Old
Anyone who has a 2-year-old is probably familiar with their fierce desire for independence. Even though it is often easier and quicker to do things for your toddler, it really is worth the time and patience to let them try tasks on their own. They may surprise you with their abilities, and their sense of pride from doing something without your help will be rewarding for both of you!
Plus, as a mom of older kids too, I can tell you that teaching your kids to do things for themselves is an essential part of raising a larger-than-average family. Doing everything for everyone is simply not sustainable.
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These are simple, common jobs that arise in a two-year-old’s daily routine. But to your two-year-old, these tasks are important opportunities to become more in control of themself. This helps your child feel proud and confident that they can contribute to the progress of their own day.
By allowing your toddler to try some things on their own, you are giving them some independence rather than your child having to battle you for it. And I don’t know about you, but this mommy doesn’t want any battles.
Things to Let Your 2-Year-Old Do On Their Own (or with just a little help!)
#1 Peel a clementine. You will probably need to start it for them. This is a really great fine motor activity!
#2 Peel a banana. As they get older and you feel they might be ready, try letting them slice it into circles with a child-safe knife.
#3 Clear their dishes from the table after eating.
#4 Comb their hair. If your child has difficult-to-manage hair, this task might be too much for them. If it is, use another way to give your child a role in doing their hair. Maybe they can help spray detangler, add a barrette, or choose the style.
#5 Put on their shoes. Slip-ons like Crocs are great because they are easy for a young child to get on. A trick to help your child learn which shoe goes on which foot is to draw a tiny fish on the toe or heel of each shoe so they are facing eachother. Teach your child that the fish should be kissing.
#6 Put on their own underwear and pants. At this stage, pull-on elastic waistbands on pants make this easier. Since so many kids’ clothes are tagless now, I like to draw a star or heart with a permanent marker where the tag would be so my toddler can learn to get his clothes on in the right direction.
#7 Buckle themself in their booster seat/high chair at mealtimes. Things like buckles, latches, and hooks are a fun motor challenge for kids this age. Have you seen busy boards for toddlers that are full of these items? It’s the same idea, but a real-world example. So if your child is able, go ahead and let them buckle themself at the dinner table. Of course, you should always double-check to make sure they’re in there securely.
#8 Get on and off the potty. Lately, if I put my little guy on the potty, he will usually climb off and then climb back on just so he can do it himself. In our house, my son uses 2 different toilets in the house, so we got this stepstool for each one so he can reach on his own. When he’s older, we will be able to re-purpose the stools in the kitchen or pantry.
#9 Brush their teeth (after you have your turn first to get all the “sugarbugs” off)
#10 Put their toys away. It helps if you put picture labels on containers to help them learn what goes where. You can make your own labels by using the free version of Canva and printing out pictures. As an alternative, you can photograph your actual toys, print your photos, and use those as your labels.
#11 Wash their own hands. This is a really important skill to teach your toddler in
today’s world. All you need is nontoxic soap (a bar instead of liquid is good if your toddler has trouble limiting their pumps) and a towel for drying. My kids love foam soap, so I make my own to save money. If there’s a risk of the water getting too hot, you can turn the hot water supply off under the sink they use.
#12 Feed the dog/pet. Get a scooper and teach them how many scoops they need to put in the bowl. It’s great counting practice!
#13 Carry the mail from the mailbox to inside. Watchfully accompanied, of course.
#14 Wipe up spills. Next time your kiddo spills some applesauce on the floor or drops their milk and it splatters, try giving them a cloth and teach them how to clean it up. Accidents happen, so teaching them how to respond calmly and clean it up is full of benefits.
#15 Zip zippers on jackets, pajamas, etc. All kids are different as far as when they are able to start a zipper and zip it on their own. Even if you start the zipper for your child and they pull it the rest of the way, they will have a sense of new accomplishment.
#16 Pick out own cups and bowls. I like to have a low drawer in the kitchen where I keep all the kid dishes, so they can reach in and choose their own.
#17 Drink from a cup without a lid. Make sure you have a kid-sized cup that little hands can easily hold. As an added bonus, creating the lower lip seal is a good oral motor skill to be working on at this age.
#18 Carry their own snacks/water/activities on outings. An extra-small backpack or bag is perfect for this. My son loves to pack his water bottle and a bag of Goldfish into his backpack before we go run errands. We also keep a small book and this Mess-Free color-with-water book inside in case he needs a quiet activity.
#19 Put some of their own laundry away. At our house, we keep the potty-training underwear in a low drawer in the bathroom so he can pick it out himself. He loves putting the freshly washed ones into the drawer on his own. You can also use matching clean socks as a great same/different activity.
#20 Make their bed. Teach them to pull their blanket up when they’re not in bed and let them arrange any stuffed animals and their pillow. Remember, you’re not striving for perfection, here. It’s all about the pride in taking care of oneself.
Managing Difficult 2-Year-Old Behavior
A two-year-old’s constant battle for independence makes for a challenging phase of parenting, to say the least! So try to take a step back, recognize it, and give your little person jobs to do and let them handle some things without your help. It will make for a smoother, more cooperative day with fewer meltdowns (from both of you).
And at the same time, you will be building toward the ultimate goal of helping your child become a confident and capable individual.
Read more here on 5 Strategies For Parenting A Strong-Willed Child.
Want To Up Your Parenting Game?
The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel, M.D. is an excellent resource for parents who are trying to raise their kids intentionally.
This book really helped me understand the stages of my children’s development and how that affects their behavior. It’s a huge eye-opener and knowledge is power, especially as a parent of a toddler!
I also highly recommend you check out Dr. Siegel’s companion book No-Drama Discipline.