18 Self-Help Skills for Toddlers [with Examples]

During the toddler stage, a time of substantial intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal development, children start to develop essential self-care abilities that are vital for their independence and self-esteem.

Parenting through the toddler years can be a remarkable journey, as this is when your child begins to show their individuality and capabilities in various self-help skills for toddlers. This article will delve into the different types of self-help skills that toddlers can learn, complete with examples.

What are Self-Help Skills for Toddlers?

Self-help skills for toddlers are the basic tasks and behaviors that children learn to do independently, contributing to their overall development. They encompass a range of activities, from dressing themselves to expressing emotions appropriately.

That being said, mastering of these skills signifies stepping stones towards autonomy and forms a foundation for further learning and social integration.

What are Self-Help Skills for Toddlers?
What are Self-Help Skills for Toddlers?

Top Self-Help Skills for Toddlers

Transitioning into the crux of self-help skills, we break them down by category. Here are some essential self-help skills arranged by the developmental areas they support, along with examples of activities toddlers engage in to hone these skills.

Physical Self-Help Skills for Toddlers

In the blossoming stage of physical development, toddlers are keen to manipulate their environment through direct interaction. Here’s how they do it:

  • Dressing and Undressing (2-3 Years)

Toddlers around the age of two start to show interest in dressing themselves. While they may not get everything right—like putting shoes on the correct feet or pants forwards—this trial and error is a significant step towards independence. For example, a child might initially struggle with zippers and buttons but gradually learn to use them with practice and parental guidance.

  • Self-Feeding (1-2 Years)

At this stage, toddlers transition from being fed to wanting to feed themselves. A one-year-old might start by grabbing a spoon and attempting to scoop food, often spilling most of it. By two years, the same child will likely be able to bring the spoon to their mouth with a much better aim, displaying improved hand-eye coordination.

  • Basic Hygiene (From an early age)

From the time they can sit up unassisted, children can start learning basic hygiene. Initially, it could be as simple as wiping their mouth with a napkin. By the time they’re toddlers, they’re ready to start learning to wash their hands, brush their teeth with help, and even attempt to wipe themselves after using the toilet under their parents’ supervision.

  • Toileting (2-3 Years)

The journey from diapers to using the toilet is a huge leap in self-help skills. It begins with recognizing the signs that they need to go and eventually being able to communicate this. The process often involves a lot of encouragement and praise from parents as the child learns to use the potty and, later, the toilet, with steps and a modified seat.

  • Grooming (2-3 Years)

Through grooming, toddlers learn the benefits of self-help skills for toddlers by starting to take pride in their appearance and gaining autonomy. They will start to imitate the grooming habits they see in adults. For instance, they may want to try brushing their hair or teeth independently. Though the initial attempts may be clumsy, with time and practice, they can perform these tasks with increasing precision.

  • Shoe Tying (2-3 Years)

This skill often comes later in the toddler stage, as it requires fine motor skills and coordination that are more developed. Parents can help by teaching the “bunny ears” method of tying shoelaces or encouraging practice with lace boards before moving on to actual shoes.

Emotional Self-Help Skills for Toddlers

Toddlers with emotional self-help abilities may comprehend and manage their emotions as well as perceive the emotions of others. Emotional development in toddlers can be seen as they start to navigate the sea of their feelings with increasing sophistication:

  • Identifying and Expressing Emotions (1-2 Years)

Toddlers begin to understand and label emotions such as happy, sad, or angry. A child might say “me happy” when they are enjoying playtime or may express frustration by throwing a toy when they cannot complete a task. Parents can help by naming these emotions and validating their feelings.

Emotional Self-Help Skills for Toddlers
Emotional Self-Help Skills for Toddlers
  • Developing Coping Mechanisms (2-3 Years)

When toddlers experience negative emotions, they start to develop ways to cope. For example, toddlers might hug their favorite stuffed animal when they feel scared, take deep breaths, or seek out a parent for comfort if they’re upset. This self-soothing is critical for emotional regulation.

  • Understanding Empathy (2-3 Years)

As toddlers interact with their peers, they may offer a toy or a hug to a crying playmate, demonstrating an emerging ability to empathize with others and respond in a caring manner. This budding empathy is crucial for their social development and lays the foundation for healthy relationships in the future.

  • Fostering Independence (18 months-3 Years)

A toddler’s desire to do things themselves showcases their developing self-care skills and independence. Whether it’s selecting their own outfits or trying to pour their own milk, these actions reflect their burgeoning sense of independence. As parents, you can foster this growth by providing them with safe opportunities to try new tasks and offering choices within limits.

Social Self-Help Skills for Toddlers

Social self-help skills involve a toddler’s ability to interact harmoniously with others. Social milestones become apparent as toddlers engage more meaningfully with peers and adults.

  • Sharing and Cooperation (2-3 Years)

During playdates, a toddler may initially struggle with sharing a favourite toy. However, with encouragement and practice, they start to understand the value of taking turns. For instance, a parent can use a timer to allocate equal playtime with a toy between their child and a friend, teaching sharing and cooperation.

Social Self-Help Skills for Toddlers
Social Self-Help Skills for Toddlers
  • Understanding Boundaries (2-3 Years)

Learning and respecting boundaries is part of developing self-care skills and independence, helping toddlers understand their limits and the limits of others. Toddlers learn that certain things are not allowed, like hitting or biting. They might need frequent reminders and consistent consequences, but over time, they start to respect these boundaries. A common scenario is a toddler being reminded to use “gentle hands” with pets or peers.

  • Building Friendships (18 months-3 Years)

At this age, children’s friendships are often formed based on who they play with regularly. Shared activities, like building a block tower together, allow them to develop a bond. Parents can help foster these relationships by arranging playdates and guiding the children through cooperative play.

Cognitive Self-Help Skills for Toddlers

Cognitive self-help abilities are linked to a toddler’s mental processes of comprehension and problem-solving. Toddlers’ cognitive talents are seen in their problem-solving ability and comprehension of their surroundings:

  • Developing Problem-Solving Skills (2-3 Years)

Through problem-solving, toddlers experience the benefits of self-help skills for toddlers as they learn to navigate and understand their world. This skill is seen when toddlers try to figure out why a toy isn’t working. Maybe the toy car won’t move because it’s upside-down, or a shape doesn’t fit through a sorter because it’s the wrong hole. Through trial and error, they learn to solve these small problems.

  • Following Instructions (18 months-3 Years)

Toddlers begin to follow simple, two-step directions, such as “please pick up the ball and put it in the box.” This indicates they can listen, understand, and act on what’s being asked, a crucial cognitive skill.

  • Developing Curiosity and Exploration (Ages 1 – 3 years)

A toddler’s curiosity might lead them to explore how water spills from a cup or what happens when they mix different colours of playdough. This exploration is fundamental for cognitive development and can be encouraged through open-ended play.

Practical Self-Help Skills for Toddlers

As toddlers develop, they display a budding competence in contributing to their environment through practical tasks that involve the execution of daily routines and an understanding of safety by:

  • Doing Basic Chores (2-3 Years)

Engaging in basic chores is a practical self-help activity for toddlers that instils a sense of responsibility and belonging. Simple chores like putting toys back in the bin or helping to set the table are suitable tasks for toddlers. It teaches them responsibility and gives them a sense of contribution to the family.

Practical Self-Help Skills for Toddlers
Practical Self-Help Skills for Toddlers
  • Understanding Safety Rules and Practices (2-3 Years)

A crucial part of developing self-care skills and independence involves learning safety rules and practices. Children must learn basic safety rules, like knowing they must hold an adult’s hand when crossing the street or not touching the stove. Parents play a key role in repeating these rules and explaining their importance to ensure they stick.

  • Navigating Technology (2-3 Years)

Many toddlers can navigate a smartphone or tablet with surprising skill. While screen time should be limited, appropriate use of technology can serve as an effective cognitive self-help activity for toddlers. For example, a toddler might tap on an educational app to play a game.

Parental Involvement in Enhancing Toddlers’ Self-help Skills

Parents are the anchors of a child’s world, and your involvement is crucial in nurturing these self-help skills.

By creating an environment that encourages exploration and learning from mistakes, parents can significantly contribute to their child’s development. This involves providing age-appropriate tools and materials that stimulate curiosity and learning. Celebrating small victories is equally important as it boosts the child’s confidence and motivates them to take on more challenging tasks.

Parental Involvement in Enhancing Toddlers' Self-help Skills
Parental Involvement in Enhancing Toddlers’ Self-help Skills

Parents should guide and support their toddlers through these tasks without completely taking over. Additionally, setting up playdates and facilitating social interactions with peers and adults can help toddlers learn important social skills and behaviours. Through these strategies, parents can effectively enhance their toddlers’ self-help skills.


Developing self-help skills for toddlers is a crucial part of growth and development. These skills help toddlers become more independent and boost their confidence and self-esteem. As parents, supporting and encouraging your toddlers as they learn these new skills is important. Each toddler is distinct and will rapidly acquire these abilities. So, remain calm, give plenty of encouragement, and above all, relish this thrilling phase of your toddler’s growth! Learn more about UNIS Hanoi’s magical Early Years Childhood Centre and how we will your child build up a solid foundation for them to embark on their school journey.

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UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Hanoi is ever-evolving, but one thing that remains is our passion to nurture and equip students to be agents of change for a better world.
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