I Can’t Do It!

Toddlers want to do for themselves. It’s how they develop the language, social, emotional, sensory and physical skills that will allow them to function more and more independently as the years roll on. However, allowing a toddler to complete a “big boy/girl” or “grown-up” task can result in frustration for the child and in cleaning up, re-doing, etc. for the grown-ups involved.

In the video, 40-month old Sam attempts to pour his own juice. I deemed it an appropriate time to let him try since the bottle of juice was light and relatively empty (We all know what a large volume of liquid, especially sticky juice, spilled all over the place is like to clean up, right?!). I encouraged him with my words to go ahead and try. I suggested he try a different angle (Hey, a chance to throw in a new vocabulary word!) in order to guide him through the process. His 6-year old sister Stella offered to do it for him, since she has mastered (mostly) the art of pouring liquid out of a bottle or carton into a cup. But, in the end, Sam decides he doesn’t have the skills in order to do the job without making a mess or with having it not go to his plan. He confidently screws the cap back on the bottle after deciding that is the best decision to make in the situation.

The important piece here is that Sam does most of the deciding for himself. We allow him the chance to think it through, “eye” whether he can do it or not, decide if he wants to take the chance of “failure,” and use his words to express his thoughts on the matter. There is no point in forcing him to do it, since in the moment he was able to develop language, social, emotional, sensory and physical skills even if he did not develop his sense of confidence. He will learn to pour out of a carton/container somewhere down the road in his development when he feels more ready. For all I know, it could be tomorrow, since the first step in his learning process went so smoothly and without stress.


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