Trying to figure out how to get your kids to play independently? In todays post, we talk all about the benefits of encouraging independent play and a few steps you can take to make it happen.
If you work at home keeping your kids busy can be quite a task. Even if you don’t work at home, but just have things you need to get done, it can be a daunting task.
You don’t want them sitting in front of a screen all day. But the constant complaints “I’m bored” gets old quick.
You can’t give your child all the answers and you can’t be their playmate every day. That’s not what they want and it’s not good for them either.
Your job is to teach them how to think creatively about their own playtime. To let go of control and help them find new ways to have fun on their own.
There are tons of benefits of independent play.
Benefits of Independent Play:
Independent play offers tons of benefits for both you, and your child!
Learning to be content playing on their own will help them to build confidence in their abilities, boost their self esteem and give them the ability to find contentment on their own.
All of these are essential skills to raising well developed children.
It Builds Confidence
When you give your child the space to tackle problems and challenges on their own, they’ll find their power.
Each new accomplishment they achieve will give them the confidence to believe in themselves and their own abilities.
Play is the biggest way a child learns. While there are positive things technology can provide for your child, learning through play gives them a completely different understanding of the world around them.
The benefits of learning through play are:
- Expand their attention span
- Help them to retain more information
- Strengthen their body awareness
- Encourage creativity and problem solving
Independent Play Encourages Creativity
When children play on their own, they start using their own imagination instead of relying on a prebuilt notion.
It helps them to problem solve, tolerate uncertainty and work together with other children.
It Reduces Stress
Much like you, your child needs quiet time. Playing independently gives your child time to reflect on their own thoughts and to tap into their inner selves.
All while giving you time to take care of your own responsibilities.
How to Encourage Independent play
Now, getting your kids to play independently requires a lot of patience and a bit of practice. It won’t happen overnight.
But these steps will help!
Take these steps at a pace that works well for both you and your child.
Encourage children in short amounts of time at first. These changes are hard for children and they can get overwhelmed with too much at one time.
Depending on your child’s personality and their age, try starting with small, 10 minute sessions and work your way up.
Here are some of the do’s to encourage independent play:
1. Stay Accessible
If you are near your child, they’ll be less stressed and more cooperative. Children find comfort in knowing their caregiver is close by.
This is especially helpful in anxious children. Reducing their anxiety or stress lets them focus on the task at hand, as in playing.
Check in on them frequently and let them know they can come to you if needed.
2. Create a Good Play Space
Creating an age appropriate play space allows your kids to explore freely and safely.
For babies and young toddlers, having a safe, enclosed space where they can’t hurt themselves is vital for both of you.
For older kids, make sure to have a variety of toys too choose and comfortable areas to sit and play.
3. Decrease Distractions
Consider not having a T.V. (or tablets) in the play space. It’s not that all technology is bad, it’s just very distracting.
Also, limit distracting them by telling them how to play. Let them get creative and use their toys as they see fit.
Tucking their toy cars into bed and reading them a story is totally ok, and a fun way to learn. You’ll be amazed and the creative things they come up with on their own.
4. Brainstorm Together
When coming up with solo play time, as your child to help you brainstorm a list of things they could play on their own.
This will help get them excited about the things that they could do. And give them a starting point for their play time.
Things like playing cards, jump roping, building with blocks or legs, playdoh time, puzzles. There are tons of fun things they could do.
5. Provide Age Appropriate Toys
It’s fun to bring out toys that are more complicated, but this can cause a ton of frustration for both you and your child.
They’ll need guidance and instruction on how to use them. Instead, make sure all the toys in their play area are age appropriate.
And don’t forget to get creative with the “toys.” Children can be very entertained with just a couple of large cardboard boxes.
Pick games and toys that are suited for your child’s age and development.
6. Prevent Overstimulation
It’s easy for kids to get overwhelmed quickly with too many toys. Instead, consider a toy rotation system to keep things interesting.
When my kids where very little, I piled all their toys in one pile. I then grabbed 4 boxes and started dividing the toys into the boxes.
Every few days I’d switch out the box. This helps prevent the “what to choose” dilemma for them, and also provided a refreshing change up that got them excited to explore the “new” toys again.
7. Provide Incentives
I don’t like the idea of “bribing” but offering a reward to their effort can have a huge positive benefit when learning to play independently.
Make sure to praise your child when they do a good job playing on their own. Then give them a reward afterward.
Mine where most encouraged by sharing a special activity together after their solo play was over.
8. Make Quality Time a Priority
Giving your child extra attention before their independent play can be very effective.
Read a book together while snuggling up and then offer to let them look through it on their own.
Help them build a big tower with the blocks before asking them to try to build one on their own.
It helps satisfy their needs for your time and attention, and allows them to play more freely afterward.
9. Routines are Essential
Children thrive on routines. Consistency and structure allows them to know what’s coming next and to feel safe and secure in their daily activities.
Incorporating independent play into your daily schedule gets them used to the idea that it’s simply part of the day.
Try to make it at the same time each day, like after lunch or before nap time.
They’ll get used to managing their own time while you’re able to have your own time to do household chores, do a bit of work or simply read a book.
10. Remain Flexible
Flexibility is vital to survive parenthood. There will be times when you need to adapt.
All children go through stages when they need more time and attention. This is especially ture during times of big change or stressful events.
Being able to roll with the punches can make life easier on you and your children.
11. Make Playdates
Playing with other children completely counts as independent play. Make play dates with other kids in your neighborhood and help them make friends.
It teaches them that there are all sorts of ways to play while also helping them to develop their social skills.
Helping encourage your child to play independently makes parenting way easier and more effective. Take your time and be patient with yourself and your child.
Progress is always progress, even if you feel like their are slide backs at time.
Finding the balance between spending time with your kids and giving them the room to play by themselves is rewarding for both of you.
And don’t feel guilty for not playing with your child all the time. With time your child will feel confident playing on their own.