5 Toys That Foster Independence in Toddlers

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Images via respective owners, compiled by Alison Lee

Toddlers are usually ready to be independent at around the age of two, and clear signs of that are when they are able to leave your side for short periods of time and when their immense curiosity about their environment is apparent.

How do you go about teaching independence? To start, set your toddler up for self-help by giving them chairs they can get on and off on their own, providing them with small cloths or kitchen towels to clean up spills, and providing step stools for sinks to encourage them to brush their own teeth or put away their dishes.

Fostering independence at an early age is a wonderful way to ease children into the world of big kids and eventually young adulthood. Aside from their daily environment, encouraging independence through play is one of the best ways to do for this age group.

Here are 5 great toys that help teach toddlers independence.

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Image via Toys ‘R' Us

Play kitchen

Play kitchen sets are a great source of fun, engaging, entertaining, and imaginative play. This Rise and Shine Kitchen from Step 2 ($99.95) features a realistic refrigerator, microwave, and an electronic bubbling stove. Kids can even click the knobs on the oven and turn on the chandeliers for some bling. The great storage bins encourage kids to clean up after themselves–truly great practice for day-to-day chores to help Mom out.

{ MORE: Toy Safety Tips for the Holidays (and Every Day) }

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Image via Fat Brain Toys LLC

Puzzles

Puzzles are a really good way to allow children to gain independence, as it's the perfect solo-play item. Learning to figure out what goes where and seeing the results of their own efforts? Win-win. These days, there are many types of puzzle games that depart from the traditional jigsaw puzzle, which also encourage creativity, such as the Multi-Solution Shape Puzzle – Bug from P'kolino ($19.95). The multiple puzzle combinations entertain longer and stimulate creative thinking for advanced development, while the creative variations and mixing features fine tune hand-eye coordination and strengthen manual dexterity as they teach children about size and proportion.

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Image via Toys”R”Us

Doctor sets

Giving your child a doctor set is an awesome way to foster independent play AND get them accustomed to all the tools of the trade of doctors, preparing them for their next doctor's visit. This can help neutralize any fears they may have about seeing a medical professional. I like the Pretend & Play Doctor Set from Learning Resources ($39.95), as it features enough equipment for more than one child to play with, and all 19 items in there fit snugly into a clamp-tight case. Among the usual doctor tools (stethoscope, forceps, thermometer, etc.), it also has a pager and battery-operated cellphone!

{ MORE: Is There a Science to Raising Selfless Children? This Doctor Says Yes }

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Image via Melissa & Doug

Household-Chore Toys

Household-chore toys give “good clean fun” a different twist! Toddlers love to help out and get involved, so what better way to encourage that, and independence, than by getting them this Melissa & Doug Let's Play House! Dust, Sweep & Mop set ($29.99)? This six-piece set contains a broom, a brush, a mop and all can be stored in a handy wooden storage stand.

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Image via Posterize at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cardboard boxes

Last but not least, the ever-reliable cardboard box that kids of all ages love. The best part for parents? It's totally free. Save those large boxes when you purchase big-ticket items because they spell hours of fun for kids. Give your toddler a box of crayons and free reign in the box. Or toss in a flashlight, and hours of fun will ensue. They can also play house in there with their kitchen set or household-chore toys. It's a box of imagination and independence!

{ MORE: Teaching Your Toddler to Wait: 3 Tips }

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5 Toys That Foster Independence in Toddlers

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, she traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison is a former blogger (Writing, Wishing), and her writing has been featured on Mamalode,On Parenting at The Washington Post,The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, andDrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists ... More

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