Why You Have to Let Toddlers Do Things on Their Own

Young children have the need to do things on their own to experiment with their skills and improve their development. Learn more.
Why You Have to Let Toddlers Do Things on Their Own
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 26 February, 2023

Children need to do things on their own in order to be happy. Through this independence, they discover the world around them and are able to develop their skills in a better way. It’s important for parents to understand that the sooner they learn to be independent, the better it will be for their development.

Many times, parents are surprised when their toddler refuse their help because they want to do things on their own. However, this is normal as children grow and begin to gain autonomy. So, why do we have to let toddlers do things by themselves? In this article, we’re going to tell you the answer. Keep reading.

Learn why we should let children do things on their own

All children are curious about everything that happens around them. They observe and try to independently repeat what they see other children or adults doing. This behavior is normal and is part of their development. According to a study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, children are innately motivated to do things for themselves and to help in order to feel useful.

Children are in a continuous learning process, and any activity they see, even if it’s monotonous for us, attracts their attention. Household chores such as folding clothes, dusting furniture, or sweeping may bore us adults, but little ones like to experiment.

It’s important that we let children try to do things by themselves and have new experiences to test their skills and see what they’re capable of. In addition to all this, it allows them to discover the world around them and learn from it.

A mother watching as her young daughter irons.
Children who gain autonomy and do things by themselves have very effective training to start forming their identity.

Reasons why we should give autonomy to young children

Parents sometimes don’t let children do things on their own for fear of them getting hurt. Other times, it’s because we don’t have the patience to wait for them to do things autonomously and we prefer to do it ourselves. However, although children are slower, this is the only way for them to learn to do things by themselves and improve their skills.

A child who is able to do things on their own, as long as they don’t involve any danger, is prepared for the future and can better cope with problems. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of letting children do things by themselves.

Promote responsibility

If we let children get involved in some of the chores at home, they’ll feel part of the family dynamics. What’s more, in this way, they’ll learn to assume responsibilities, collaborate, and work as a team.

As they grow up, little ones will be able to take responsibility for small tasks such as picking up their toys or getting dressed by themselves, and, later on, they’ll be able to perform more difficult activities. When this happens, we shouldn’t prevent them, but rather encourage them to do it. The only thing to keep in mind is that the chores at home must be in accordance with their level of development and age.

Improve self-esteem

Having children do things for themselves and make decisions is a fantastic opportunity to improve their self-esteem. A child who feels capable of doing the things that are set before them will try to do more complicated things, and this will improve their development.

In this way, these children will grow up to be adults who won’t be afraid to face the obstacles that life puts in their way. They’ll be confident that they’re capable of doing anything with will and effort.

An Asian toddler getting dressed by himself.
The fact that children do things by themselves is a way for them to eliminate the fear of failure because they’ll understand that sooner or later, they’ll achieve their goals.

Avoid the fear of failure

Those children who, from an early age, try and do things alone, will become people who accept their mistakes and will understand that these are part of their learning. A child who has faced a task that didn’t work out and has tried again until they succeeded has come to the conclusion that not everything has to work out the first time. Every skill or knowledge requires a prior learning process.

Increase their chances of success

According to an experiment conducted at the University of Minnesota, a child’s acceptance of small responsibilities will have a positive effect on their future. The reason for this is that a toddler who learns to do things on their own early on will gain self-confidence sooner. This will keep them striving for other challenges and will be key to their becoming a successful adult.

Giving children autonomy and confidence

As we’ve seen, letting young children do things on their own has enormous developmental benefits. Therefore, it’s important to give them autonomy and confidence, as long as the activities are adapted to their age and evolutionary development.

Parents will be there to supervise and guide them, but we must let them try to do things by themselves. In this regard, we should avoid intervening in order to go faster or out of fear that they won’t do it right. In addition, we should never scold them when they try to do things on their own and they don’t succeed, but, on the contrary, we should motivate them and encourage them to try again and again.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Warneken, F. y Tomasello, M. (2008) Extrinsic Rewards Undermine Altruistic Tendencies in 20-Month-Olds. Developmental Psychology; 44(6): 1785–1788.
  • University of Minessota (2002) Involving children in household task: is it worth the effort?

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.