March 31, 2018

How to Raise a Happy Baby & Foster Independence in a Toddler

It's official, Delainey is a true toddler - melt downs galore, wiggling until the cows come home with silly little giggles involved, constantly gracing us with potty training chatter, pretty much falling and scuffing herself up daily, and non-stop expressing her opinions... she's a full blown toddler, in every way. Most days, no matter the task, she insists she "do it" and only is content when things are being done her way... and for that, I'm equal parts thankful and intimidated.

This little girl of mine definitely has a mind of her own, with such a personality behind it. She's a little fireball and so full of love. She is flourishing and her adoration for being independent is evident, she expresses her emotions easily and freely, and she often shocks me with the amount of knowledge she has. From surprising me with being able to complete new tasks without even being taught how, to saying new words and sentences without prompting, she really fills me with pride and is my greatest joy.

Speaking of awe-inspiring joy, D's really been teaching me a lot about life and parenting lately. I'm a "recovering helicopter parent" and I'm really trying to do my best to help Delainey succeed in life without interfering. Wondering how you can find the fine line between doing too much and too little?

I think it all starts with encouraging manners and fostering independence. That all sounds great... but I bet you are wondering... How do we do that?

Today I'm sharing a few tips on how we've been trying to let D be "independent" while still making sure she's safe. If you have a little wild child, these tips are great ways to make sure your little one can gain independence while also learning.

One of the easiest ways to help a toddler feel like they are independent is with food. I'm not suggesting baby led weaning is for everyone, but it worked for us. D will eat nearly anything and everything and enjoys eating. We don't have a picky toddler, at all... she loves broccoli, chows down on her Happy Tots Yogurt, and goes to town on any and all fruits.

We started with Avocado whenever she was a little over 6.5 months old and slowly introduced more and more foods, once at a time. She loves them all now... and is willing to try any food we offer now! She recently had a veggie roll at our favorite sushi joint and she loved it. How many 18 month olds can say they like sushi?

With that said, one of her absolute favorite foods right now is Happy Baby Yogurt. She loves to "coop" out big bites on her own with her tiny little spoon. She lights up with delight with each bite, partly because feeding herself is the thing she's most proud of in her life and because she adores each flavor we've tried so far - from blueberry to banana & sweet potato!

Whether your packing these babies in a daycare lunchbox or sharing them as a snack, they are the perfect way to make sure your little one is getting the nutrition they deserve! Sometimes we hand one to D and tell her it's her "dessert" and she just gobbles it up... who doesn't love delicious, healthy dessert?

Want to let your little try yogurt for the first time? Find out how Happy Family fits into your toddler's nutrition and grab a coupon here. But one thing I bet you'll be overjoyed to know now - they have NO ADDED SUGAR... that's a definite #momwin, am I right? I'm definitely a fan of these healthy "treats"!

Speaking of being a fan... I'm pretty much Delainey's #1 fan. I love cheering her on and telling her she's doing great with everything she does. The thing is, we are now at the point with her that she's constantly expressing likes and dislikes, even with her clothing... and while I would love to tell her that she can regularly wear bloomers on her head, a backwards dress, tights with holes, and rain boots on her hands (like she sometimes does)... that's just not gonna fly all the time. So instead of fighting her and just dictating to her what she must wear each day, I allow her to choose between a few options...

I show her 2-3 outfits to choose from every morning, all laid out and ready to go... and she chooses which one she likes better. This makes us both happy... she feels heard and acknowledged with her choices and I know she's not wearing shoes for gloves, that's a definite win. I know as the years go by, this fashion battle won't be one worth fighting... but for now, I'm happy that we're both satisfied with this solution.

Another way to foster independence in a toddler is allowing them to take the lead. I don't mean that they are in charge all the time, because that's just not going to end well for anyone. BUT, sometimes allowing your kiddo to choose which direction you walk or letting them go ahead on a walk for a few paces can be rewarding for you both.

Almost any time we go on a walk or to the store lately, D loves to run ahead of us by a few feet, stop turn around, smile, and keep going. She's practically showing off for us on most of our adventures and she eats up that attention. It's an easy way to allow her to make choices and overcome obstacles without endangering her.

From walking through the park and selecting which slide to go down to spending time navigating the busy aisles of Target, I think it's important to let her wander sometimes and while this can be difficult to not police - I've noticed the less I demand D stay nearby, the better she is about just wanting to be there with me. I know some kids are a little more wild and like to get into everything... so maybe start doing this only on a couple of woodsy adventures first... and I'll bet your trips to Publix for Happy Tot items become a little calmer too.

Speaking of calm, I think an often overlooked way to encourage independence is teaching her self-care routines early. From calm breathing while she's upset to teaching her to brush her teeth, I want D to feel like she's capable of and enjoys taking time to care for herself.

We've been encouraging her to brush her own teeth (after we give them a good brush), we do the same with brushing her hair... and when she's upset I work with her to calm her breathing and we talk through how she's feeling. While she's only 18 months old, my hopes are that we are starting healthy habits young and fostering good personal care in all aspects.

Speaking of all aspects of independence, one that we haven't touched yet is cleaning up after one's self. This is definitely a hard one to teach a toddler. D would much rather spin like a tornado and take everything off the walls than to pick up the pieces and put them back where they belong, but we're working on that.

From encouraging her to help throw away pieces of trash, to spending time helping her clean up her books and toys, we are doing our best to teach her to clean up after herself. She's also started to help unload the dishwasher, put away the groceries, give the dog her daily vitamin, and sometimes she even helps water the plants. Some may say 18 months is too young to teach her to do chores... but she loves "helping" out around the house and I love watching her learn a new skill, especially one that teaches her to be more independent!

So tell me, how do you (or did you) foster independence in your toddler? I'd love to hear your experiences with your fireball in the comments below!

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