Ignore the kitchen mess, go sit on the floor with your toddler and watch their face for signs of interest in a particular item. Encourage them to bring it to the mat on the floor to play with.
Only touch/play with an item just enough to show you’re engaged with them. Apart from that, butt out! Sit on your hands if need be – they want to do stuff! What’s important is you’re supporting them just by being next to them as they explore.
Use prompt phrases, such as: “would that go on top?” or “you’ve built a tall tower”. Reiterate what they’ve done. Offer a commentary without saying: “ooh good girl, you’re so clever”. When they succeed at the tiniest thing they will intrinsically feel elated.
And you’re not telling them what to do or taking over. This is their crucial cognitive development exercise. You don’t need the practice, they do. The more you help, the less they learn. If it’s a block tower they’re building don’t straighten it up. They will figure out when it falls they should be more careful next time. Statements such as: “oh no, look what you’ve done now”, are incredibly unhelpful. Try: “oh, the tower fell down. You could try and build another one”.
By doing this simple thing, sitting on the floor engaged with your toddler, they will feel safe, secure and loved. This gives them confidence to keep exploring and learning, thus laying the foundation for positive life-long learning habits.
As they get a little older and you’re in the habit of doing this with them, encourage them to go build a tower (or another game you’ve enjoyed together), and tell them you will be there right after you’ve tidied the kitchen. You are thereby gently extricating yourself and reducing their reliance on you. But you’re never far away and are still offering positive comments.
Where do parents go for legitimate advice? As a qualified teacher I have access to incredible resources, based on the latest scientific research and backed up by academia. Google is not the whole answer. I offer you a credible, valuable and scientific alternative that is further supported through observation and experience.
Disclaimer: Due to the limit of words statements will not be referenced. Sweeping statements and general comments are not fleeting, throw-away opinions on a subject. They are backed by scientific research and a vast academic resource.