There are

many pressures on parents to engage toddlers in activities that may give them a

competitive advantage now and later in adulthood. The reality is that we may be

inadvertently crafting childhood experiences that inhibit children’s natural inclinations

and welfare—the real traits that will help children thrive as adults.


of over 100,000 college freshmen that have been conducted annually for 50

years have been showing increasing levels of depression and a lack of well-being

in recent years.


than focusing on a competitive advantage in childhood, parents may want to

focus their efforts on raising children who will succeed in an uncertain world

by carving out their own unique pathways to success.

To thrive, children will need to know how to navigate new situations, be flexible thinkers, be self-starters who are resilient, and work with others.

There are

many things you can do as a parent, supported by decades of research and evidence-based

practices, that will help you raise your child to be a ‘doer.’

The good

news? Many of these practices consist of spending positive time with your

toddler and enjoying that time with them.

Here are three

techniques for raising your toddler to be a can-do kid.

Encourage exploration and innovation.


love to explore. They love to touch and manipulate and use their senses. They

like to try things.

Some studies

show that toddlers are essentially “little scientists” who are wired to

hypothesize, test, evaluate, and try again.

How do you

promote these attributes? First, give kids free

time. (We know you are really bummed about this, mama. ?)

With a

little practice, your child will start to figure out what to do with this free

time and, in the process, learn to be self-motivated.


some building blocks, crayons, and Play-Doh. Let them play in the dirt and on

the playground. Take them for walks in the woods or on the beach or even around

the backyard.

Don’t critique or look for a final product. Simply chat with them, ask them about what they are doing, and share their wonder for the world they are exploring.

Your toddler will be

developing the skills needed to cognitively explore and manipulate information,

and engage in divergent thinking—the root of innovation.

Practice optimism and safe risk-taking.

We hear a

lot about overprotecting kids, but learning how to let your child engage in a few

safe (and beneficial) risks can open doors to discovering the world. The trick

is to find the balance between safe and unsafe risk-taking.

Walking side-by-side

along a creek collecting leaves together is safe as long as your child is being

attended. Allowing a child to walk solo along this path is probably not a safe


If your

tot wants to climb a tree, make sure it’s a feasible goal. Scaffold their

attempts and if they slip and fall, comfort them quickly and encourage them to

try again in the hope that they may go a little higher this time.

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Your little one will

quickly learn to take on tasks that are out of their comfort zone and stick

with them through the bumps and bruises. They will measure their success in

effort and gradual progress. There’s your growth mindset, resilience, and grit

right there, mama.

Teach them to understand others.


are developmentally ready to begin learning how to take others’ perspectives

and develop a theory

of mind—the realization that we each have our own way of seeing

the world.

Talk about feelings and emotions every chance you get. Your child’s feelings, your feelings, other people’s feelings, and heck, even your dog’s feelings.

When you read

books together, chat about the characters and what they are thinking and

feeling. When they are playing with other kids, you can begin to help them

understand that their peers have feelings. This understanding will help your

child learn how to manage conflicts.

Help your

child practice having conversations with others—yourself, grandparents,

doctors, friends, or even the person who runs the fruit stand. Conversational

skills may help your tot hone their ability to get along with others.

Let your tot help you

around the house with little chores. These cooperative skills will help your

child to develop empathy and a sense of value for helping others as well as themselves.


your child to these activities as a toddler will promote the 21st century

skills (e.g., creative problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and

communication) that will serve your child well decades from now. Bonus: These activities just so happen to

be what toddlers want to do with their time. Win-win.