Pre-K activities, learning games, crafts, and printables


Encouraging independence - Babies and toddlers - Educatall

Encouraging independence

Activities for toddlers and babies

Use your daily games, activities, and routines to encourage children to develop their independence while having fun.



Diaper changes
Encourage children to develop their independence by depositing their diaper on the counter, a short distance away. Ask children to hand you their diaper.


Before naptime, ask little ones to pick a book or a stuffed animal that they can keep during naptime. You may also ask them to go get their blanket in their individual basket or cubby.


Making small beds
With toddlers, use empty tissue boxes to create small beds for stuffed animals or dolls. Let children decorate the beds. Show them how they can deposit a stuffed animal or doll in the boxes and tuck them in using pieces of felt to represent blankets. If children wish, they can even paint the felt blankets. Felt is an ideal surface for painting.




Show children how they can wash their mouth while having fun. Throughout the week, provide babies and toddlers with messy activities that will make it possible for them to explore their sense of taste.

Here are a few examples:

  • Jell-O drawing (using a mixture of Jell-O powder and water).
  • Whipped cream manipulations.
  • Pudding taste tests.
  • etc.

Following these messy activities, show children how to wash their mouth. Provide mirrors. You may also let them use wet facecloths to wash the mouths of the dolls you have in your daycare.

Variation: Toddlers will really enjoy drawing on their face with makeup pencils (avoid using black and red, two colors that are more difficult to wash off). When they are done, provide wet facecloths they may use to wash their face before starting over.



I am washing dishes
Even young babies will enjoy this activity. After lunch, deposit a large container on big towels. Pour a small quantity of water in the container and add a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Invite babies and toddlers to wash plastic dishes. Older children will also like to dry the dishes at the end of the activity.




Encourage children to participate in cleanup tasks. This is an excellent way to develop their independence while giving them the chance to help you. This will be a game for babies and toddlers. Even very young children can enjoy using a cloth to wipe a table or surface at the end of a painting activity.


I am washing the window
Let children draw on a window using washable paint or markers. When they are done, provide cloths and spray bottles and encourage them to wash the window (with your help).




To encourage children to be independent and help others, sit on the floor with your group. Stretch your arms and pretend you are unable to reach a toy. Ask a child to hand it to you.


The messenger
Young children slowly begin to understand how helping others is gratifying. Show children the picture of someone who works at your daycare, the cook for example. Tell your group that you have a letter or object that you must deliver to this person. Carry a child or have your group accompany you as you go hand the letter or object to the corresponding person. Toddlers can deliver items alone.


My first tasks
Spontaneously involve babies in daily tasks. Here are a few ideas:

  • Hold a baby in your arms and have him/her turn the lights off.
  • Ask a baby to deposit blocks in a box.
  • Ask a toddler to set empty drinking glasses on the table at lunch time.
  • Invite a toddler to help you collect paintbrushes from a cupboard.

Variation: If you have older toddlers in your group, you may choose to have them pick an illustration representing a simple task and have them perform it.




Clean and sort
Deposit two containers on the floor. Each container must be identified with a picture representing the toys they must contain. Select very different types of toys. For example, one container could contain trucks while the other one could contain dolls. Have fun sorting a pile of toys with toddlers. At first, children will need your help and guidance, but with time, you will even be able to add a third container.


Illustrated recipe
Follow an illustrated recipe with your group. Choose a simple recipe containing, for example, three simple steps. Photograph each step and encourage children to look at the pictures to follow along as you execute the various actions. Here is an easy recipe:

In a small bowl, deposit:

  1. One tablespoon of Graham cracker crumbs.
  2. One banana, cut into pieces.
  3. One tablespoon of whipped cream on top.



Hairdressing bin
To encourage independence and develop the fine motor skills of the children in your group, create a hairdressing bin. With very young children, offer brushes with soft bristles. For toddlers, add headbands, a plastic hairdryer, and a small mirror. Include a doll and a stuffed animal that have hair children can comb.


Using a glass like the big kids
Using a drinking glass without spilling its contents requires a great deal of agility. At first, pour a very small quantity of water in the bottom of children's glasses. Make practicing drinking from a glass fun. Use special drinking glasses, ones that have pictures of your group's favorite characters for example. Use different glasses each day (cups, small glasses, tall glasses, etc.). You can even decorate plain drinking glasses using stickers or have children use drinking straws


Feeding little ones
Notice whether or not the babies in your group are able to hold their bottle on their own. Even if you hold babies in your arms when they are drinking, encourage them to hold their bottle themselves. Verify if young children are able to eat tiny pieces of food and if so, encourage them to put the pieces in their mouth on their own.




Picture book
Create a beautiful picture book that includes pictures of the children in your group performing various tasks independently. If the children in your group are very young, photograph children from an older group performing simple tasks. For example, you may use pictures of a child holding his bottle, a toddler washing his/her mouth, a child putting his coat on, etc.


I can communicate
Encourage babies and toddlers to communicate verbally or nonverbally to help them make requests independently. Give children choices and wait for them to respond verbally or by pointing to what they want. For example:

  1. If you have a banana and an apple, show them to the child and ask him/her which fruit he/she would like to eat as a snack.
  2. During a coloring activity, hold two different colors and have a child choose which one he/she wants to use.
  3. Fill a container with animal figurines. Hold a cow and a sheep in your hands and ask a child to choose which one he/she wants to play with.


Chantal Millette
Early childhood educator is not responsible for the content of this article. The information mentioned in this article is the responsibility of the author. shall not be held responsible for any litigation or issues resulting from this article.



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