Toddler milestones: Independence

It can be hard when your baby starts spending more time away from you. Equally, it can be worrying if your toddler won’t let you go.  Here’s what to expect from this development stage.

What happens when my toddler starts becoming independent?


As your toddler grows, you’ll notice they want to do more things by themselves. It can seem like they’re being naughty when they don’t listen to your instructions or start saying no, but it’s nothing to worry about. They’re just becoming more independent and want to show it.


One of the main things toddlers insist on is doing something ‘my way’. Instead of you putting their clothes on, they may want to dress themselves – even if they can’t do it properly yet. This is just their way of finding out what they can and can’t do.


What causes this behaviour?

By the age of 2, your toddler will probably be able to feed themselves (although they’ll still be quite messy), be confident walking and talking in short sentences. As a result, they don’t rely on you as much and can also start telling you what they want.


At the same time, they also become more self-aware and able to understand they’re a person with their own body. It’s natural then that they want to test this out by being more independent. This means they’re less likely to follow your instructions which can make everyday tasks like meal times or getting dressed harder.


With a growing interest in the world around them, they may also run away from you at times as they try to explore their surroundings.


What can you do to encourage them?

It’s important to let your toddler enjoy their newfound freedom and allow them to explore. You can do this by:

  • Praising them when they try something on their own for the first time
  • Giving them simple choices – for example what to wear, or giving them the option of this food or that for dinner
  • Allowing them to do things on their own like feeding themselves or helping to tidy away their toys, even if they make a mess of it


Keep your home safe by putting dangerous or delicate objects out of reach. Remember your toddler can’t recognise danger yet, which means they’re more likely to try something without thinking about the risks involved.


Even though it’s tempting, avoid telling them ‘no’ or stopping them from trying something on their own – so long as they’re not in any danger. Don’t get frustrated if your toddler makes a mess or doesn’t do something properly, as this can put them off. They need to learn and practice will improve it over time.


What's if my toddler won’t let go of me?

Most toddlers are less likely to be anxious if you leave them compared to when they were a baby. This is because they’re much more secure and confident in themselves. They also know from memory that you’ll come back to them soon.


For some toddlers it can take longer to let go. They may cling to you or cry if you try to leave them on their own. This can be frustrating if you want them to start socialising with other children.


Try not to worry, as it’s probably just a phase. Build your toddler’s trust and make them feel secure by showing them that you love them. Let them know that even though it’s hard, you’ll always come back.


Find out more about how to deal with your toddler’s bad behaviour

Is your toddler becoming more independent? Share your experiences

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  1. Gladys A Gyasi says:

    Toddler milestones are very interesting.