(I have to apologize for the poor picture quality here. I was shooting into the sun and didn't have the time to fiddle with things to get better shots.)
Our most recent experiment in toddler independence has been setting up a "watering
hole" for Margaret.
I found this plastic drink dispenser at Wal-Mart for $5. I cleared off a space on one of her art supply shelves, placed a little grippy drawer liner under the jug to keep it from sliding around, and set some open cups and washcloths for cleaning up spills next to it. I placed a large bowl on the floor for catching overflow and drew a dot on the bowl directly under the spout with a Sharpie to help her aim the water into the cup.
I'm not gonna lie, this was an annoying mess at first. Girlfriend loves playing in water, so she proceeded to fill up every cup and dump them all in the bowl. Once she got that out of her system, though, she seemed content with using the jug only when she wanted a drink.
All said, it was worth the mess in the beginning to allow her this independence. She now offers me cups of water as I'm going about my day, and she's been pretty good about leaving water-play for the tub, sink, or outdoors after her initial exploration.