Between 12 and 18 months, your baby will start to show an interest in looking after themselves and wanting to feed themselves with a spoon or fork. You will already have been feeding them with a spoon since weaning, and they will have observed adults feeding themselves with cutlery, so it is a logical step for them to try feeding themselves with a spoon. Another clue that the time is right is if your baby is feeding themselves with their hands.
At first, this is going to be messy! You can buy large easy clean mats to place on the floor under high chairs and this might be a sensible idea if they are eating in a carpeted area.
Feeding yourself with a spoon introduces all sorts of challenges; picking food off the plate with the utensil, keeping the plate still while scooping, rather than chasing it around their tray, learning where their mouth is and how long the spoon is! All of this requires learning. It will come relatively quickly, but offer encouragement and more than a little help. This is an important milestone for your baby and is an early step towards a life of independence.
Leaving your children with a babysittier can be a nervewracking experience - how do you go about finding a suitable babysitter? The obvious fears are whether your children will be safe left in the care of a complete stranger, and whether they will be settled with someone that they don't know.
If you're lucky, you might have family living locally who you can call on, but failing that there are a number of avenues to explore. Local authorities usually maintain a list of vetted and regular babysitters. You can ask them for details of a professional child minder in your area, and they often come with specific qualifications.
You may have neighbours that you have got to know well enough to entrust with your children and who are willing to stay with them in your home for a few hours. Your children may also attend a nursery or playgroup, and there could be staff here that are willing to do care out of hours.
If you are to leave your children with someone that they haven't met, then it would be a good idea to have an introductory meeting so that your children can get to know the person and recognise that they are trusted by you. The older your children, the easier it is to explain the situation, that you'll be gone for a short time and that this carer will be here to make sure that they are OK.
The first night away is difficult because you'll be nervous, but once youve done it for the first time, you'll find it becomes more natural to leave your children in someone else's care - this is after all what you do when they attend preschool or nursery, and as they grow older, your children will gain confidence and independence through instances where you are away briefly.
It's amazing how quickly little ones grow. Every time you look at them they seem to be doing something new or managing more and more by themselves. Encourage this by letting them take control of some things and helping round the house. Allow little ones to pick their own cutlery and plates from a low cupboard. Encourage them to lay their own place at the table. Or, let them to serve their vegetables themselves with a spoon.
Allow toddlers to choose their own clothes and even get dressed themselves. Rather than having arguments before you're off out in the morning, offer a selection of (suitable!) clothes the night before and lay the clothes out so they're all ready in the morning for your little one to put on.
If you've got pre-schoolers why not let them pour their own drinks with dinner. Offer them a small, half-full jug of water and an empty plastic mug and allow them to pour their own drink. Practice pouring carefully outside or in the bath! But, serving themselves will give them a feeling of independence and pride when the manage it themselves! And, someone willing to do a little bit round the house is always a good thing!
One of the most time consuming tasks of parenting can be dressing and undressing your little ones. Eventually they learn to dress themselves, and what a difference this makes! You can encourage them to learn to dress by making it as easy for them as possible. Deciding what to wear is an important part of the 'independence' of learning to dress. Clearly you want them to make the 'right' choice so that they don't wear mismatched clothes, so leave out a choice of outfits that they can put on in the morning, any combination of which will match. Make sure that the clothes are loose fitting, or at the very least, not tight. Make sure that you are on hand to offer help, but let them try for as long as they want before you intervene. Getting dressed requires a huge amount to learn, but with practice, it comes. Give your kids plenty of praise when they succeed, and just for trying - it's in your interests and theirs that they learn to dress as soon as they are ready for it! What age should you start encouraging them? They should be able to start putting on easy garments as they approach 3 years old, older siblings may even help to start the process sooner as younger ones will aspire to the independence that their older siblings enjoy!
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