Nurturing independence in toddlers + preschoolers

Imagine living in a home where every time you need something you have to ask your spouse.

Thirsty? Find your husband and ask him to stop what he is doing and go to the big cabinets where all the drinking glasses are out of reach and fill the glass up with water from the sink which is also too tall for you. 

Hungry? Again, go look for a more capable person who can suggest things to you because you have no idea what the grocery inventory is or how to prepare what you want to eat. 

Feeling tired and want to relax on the couch with a book? Maybe this time, the person who does everything for you will give you instructions and encourage you to take your already tired self into your room so that you can “grab your cozy stuff” only, grabbing your cozy stuff really means you’ll need to make multiple trips from your room to the couch. And you’ll have to do this while dragging and pulling pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals that are bigger than you are. 

This sounds like a joke, right? These scenarios would be frustrating to anybody.

But for many kids (and some adults), this is their life every day. 

Sometimes grown-ups just don’t give kids enough credit here because we have forgotten what it is to be a small person in a big world. 

In our home, we began implementing a lot of changes to give our kids independence, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I immediately saw less frustration. 

Independence does not look the same for everyone, but I do want to share some suggestions for you to evaluate for yourself and see if/how they may fit into your home with your family. 

Practical tips to encourage independence in toddlers + preschoolers 

  1. Bring things down to their level: For us, we went room by room and asked 2 questions→ What does my child need/do in here? + Is there a way I can safely make it easier for him? For example, a simple faucet extender or wooden stool could safely make time in the bathroom less frustrating. Clearing out a drawer in the kitchen to fit all of the kid cups + bowl and setting up a little water station with a water dispenser gives him the ability to take care of his own needs when he is thirsty. Something as simple as setting up a few command hooks  + shoe basket at preschool eye level makes getting out the door a lot easier for us. These things will look different for everyone, but I encourage you to go room by room and ask yourself the same questions.  
  1. Set up an easily accessible way for them to take rest as they need it: Imagine how frustrating it could feel to get yourself situated for rest time as a little person. As adults, we are probably used to grabbing a throw blanket, a pillow, a beverage, and a snack and getting it all set up just right. But kids can’t do that as easily because those things are just bigger and harder for them. It takes a lot of energy to just go get a pillow. In our home, I have rest time items easily accessible. Kids can have their own throw blankets in a basket near the couch, rest time books + fidget toys have a small space nearby and snacks and drinks are easy to grab. This also brings a much more enjoyable attitude to the idea of rest because now it rarely begins with a meltdown or frustration. 
  1. Sit down and plan together: I like to sit down with the kids at breakfast and say something along the lines of “Here is what we need to get done today, is there anything you think we should add to the list?” I might even ask for suggestions on the order of the list being completed if I have the flexibility on that day. This is also a great way to model flexibility. 
  1. Set them up to be helpers: Sometimes kids just need to know they are needed. If we put ourselves in their shoes again, it could feel deflating not to be old enough, big enough, or strong enough to contribute to the community you are a part of. This looks so different in each family and even with each individual kiddo. But some ideas for this would be getting kid-sized kitchen tools that allow them to actually help. A wavy chopper or wooden chopper has helped us tremendously with keeping things calm during meal prep time. The kids love to know they are helping our family and it keeps them busy with a meaningful task. Something like a simple broom and dustpan set that they are able to reach and use when you need some help is also another great way to do this. 
  1. The ability to get ready for the day on their own: One of the best mom decisions I ever made for our family was doing capsule wardrobes for the kids. Does anyone else ever feel they are drowning in kids clothes and still finding time to argue about clothing choices with a 3-year-old?! Making the switch to keeping (about) 15 articles of clothing for each child that are all seasonally appropriate, easily accessible, and that also match together helped in a lot of ways. If you have a child that likes (or needs) some extra time taming the hair–an eye-level mirror with hooks for a hair brush + hair ties + headbands can be a fun addition as well. 
At the end of the day, your home is a safe place for your family and how you set it up is totally and completely unique to you. These ideas are just meant to encourage you to look at that place through the eyes of your child who is learning and developing so much every day. Sometimes a frustrated child is a child who just needs to know they can do something–anything– all by themselves that makes them feel important. So let’s get down in those feelings with them and help them see the beautiful, capable, competent, and important people that they are. 

I want you to know that I understand how hard it is to brainstorm some of these ideas on your own–especially when you feel you’re riding the struggle bus in the toddler + preschooler frustration department. So if you’re feeling a bit stuck here and want to join the conversation, come  have a seat at our table, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s figure this out together.  


Self care is a a pretty popular topic these days. And like many topics, there’s plenty of disagreement and controversy within Christianity on the benefits and/or dangers of self care.

Some argue that as Christians we’re called to a life of service and sacrifice, which means self care is entirely selfish and antithetical to Christian living.

While I understand the Biblical argument behind this, Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends, etc. I think in practice it requires healthy boundaries that are often nuanced and specific to unique relationships and situations.

We are not called to sacrifice our mental, emotional, or physical health for our family. A woman can easily wear herself so thin that she develops depression and/or anxiety and at that point she is likely to become emotionally neglectful to the most important relationships in her life. Add to this vitamin and nutrition deficiencies that leave her feeling depleted and fatigued, and there is very little of herself left to give to anyone.

Women are inherently worthy of self-nurturing and rest because God designed us for rest. He modeled rest in the creation narrative, resting on the seventh day. He required it in the giving of the Law, expecting His people to sabbath on the seventh day. He modeled it in the person of Jesus Christ, taking time away from His ministry and relationships to be with His Father. In Jewish culture, the day begins with rest, not productivity! We must switch our mindset to recognize that we do not have to earn rest - it is a gift and part of God's created order.

The problem we have today is that we live in a profoundly individualistic fear-based society that leaves many women feeling like they cannot trust anyone. For mamas in particular, they often wrestle with a fear of having no one to watch their little ones while they rest. Womanhood, and motherhood specifically, is now removed from the tribal and community-centric cultures humanity enjoyed for thousands of years. Western women are expected to do the work that used to be done by multiple nurturers and generations within a community, as well as balance home life and work life.

Taking care of ourselves in today’s Western culture is necessary because we’ve abandoned ancient ways of doing life that supported and nurtured mothers more effectively.
Taking care of ourselves in today’s Western culture is necessary because we’ve abandoned ancient ways of doing life that supported and nurtured mothers more effectively. (Of course with that we’ve also abandoned some pretty horrific abuses of women too.)

For the Christian woman, self care is the choice to faithfully steward your emotional, spiritual, and physical health and well-being for God’s glory and your good.

We can do all the self care things available on Pinterest, but if we aren’t doing soul care, we will continue to find ourselves worn out, stretched thin, and overwhelmed.

Incorporating soul care into self care will help us nurture our whole person. Instead of focusing on pampering yourself, focus on nurturing yourself. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a gratitude walk in nature. Enjoy a hike or walk outdoors and focus your energy on gratitude. When your mind wanders bring it back to the present and offer thanks for the opportunity to breathe clean air.
  • Meditate on Scripture. Find an app or YouTube channel that will play Scripture and soothing music, and take a few moments out of your day to meditate. (The Abide App is one of our favorites)
  • Give up trendy self care for actual self care. This may mean choosing to sleep an extra half hour instead of taking a long bath, or choosing nourishing foods rather than a cappuccino. Make the choice to prioritize the things that restore your body.
  • Laugh. “A joyful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22). Find ways to really and truly laugh. Find a stand up comedian that you enjoy and take time to watch it. Or reach out to the people in your life who make you laugh and plan a lunch or dinner date.
  • Turn on praise and worship music and don’t clean. Dance and sing along, or sit and soak in the words and music. Allow yourself to enjoy just worshiping, with no multi-tasking allowed.