With guidance and support, toddlers can begin to explore and develop their self-care skills
Toddlers putting on coats

At A Glance

Young children rely on their caregivers to meet their basic needs. As they grow, children may seek opportunities to take care of themselves. While we want children to feel safe and trust that we will always meet their needs, we also want to support their developing self-care skills. We can do this by encouraging them to take responsibility whenever possible, especially with self-care skills. We can also gradually shift away from doing things for children (e.g., blowing their nose) to modeling and encouraging children to use their developing skills.

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at how you can support toddlers' self-help skills

Support Independence

Note where children are and what they can do. Then, provide hints and questions that allow them to do as much independently as possible, like this educator does while the child works to put on the vest.

Use Visuals

Visuals, like this handwashing chart, lead children through steps to help them complete tasks as independently as possible.

Encourage Self-Care

Allow and encourage children to take responsibility for themselves whenever they can. Note how this educator gives children the tools and the support they need to clean up their spills.


Please, Baby, Please

Written by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, this story spans the day of a toddler who has their own ideas about how to get daily activities done.
Please Baby Please Book Cover
Up Up Up Down Book Cover


Up, Up, Up, Down

Written and illustrated by Kimberly Gee, this book shows a toddler and their caregiver getting ready for a busy day while encouraging child participation in routines.


Learned Helplessness

As young children begin to build self-care skills, negative experiences can cause them to develop learned helplessness. This article from Parent Map explores ways to overcome this behavior and support self-care.


Self-Help Skills at Home

This article from the Extension Alliance for Better Child Care shares ways educators and families can help young children become independent by encouraging various self-help activities.


Culture and Caregiving

This article from Zero to Three explores the influence of culture on caregiving and how we can work respectfully and effectively with all young children and their families to support self-help skills.

Activity Cards for Toddler Classrooms

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, these activity cards provide simple and fun ways to foster self-care
Activity card - Scrub-a-Dub - Regulate Move
clean toys


Cleaning tasks can be a fun way for children to help take care of toys and the learning space.

Activity card - Self-Care Songs - Regulate Move
Sing Songs

Self-Care Songs

Sing songs and rhymes to support children’s self-care skills.

Activity card - Set the Table - Regulate Move
set the table

Set the Table

When children help set the table for meals, it makes them feel involved and grows their independence.

Get Dressed

Weather Dress-Up

Encourage children to use their self-care skills as they pull on clothes and fasten zippers, buttons, and snaps.


Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of the Core Skills