HOW do I get my child to play independently? The BIG question, right?! Life is busy and we all need a little bit of time in the day where our kids can be independent so that we can get a few things done!
BUT, more important than getting things done, independent play is super beneficial for a child’s development. Unstructured play encourages creativity, helps children develop a sense of self, provides the the opportunity to practice problem-solving, and MORE!
Independent play is a BIG DEAL and as mamas, we have a role in helping to build and encourage this style of play!
Here are a few tips for encouraging independent play:
DAILY ROUTINE – This might seem odd, BUT a consistent flow to your day can actually really help encourage independent play. Take a peek at your daily routine and see if you have times in there where your child has unstructured independent playtime. If not, ADD IT IN!
RELATED: Our Family Daily Routine
CONSIDER YOUR SPACE – Look around, does your child have a space that they can actually play in? This means taking a look at your space and setting it up in a way that is easily accessible for your child. Some things to think about are if your child is able to get to toys/supplies on their own, is there a small open spot for playing (think rug on the ground), consider no screens or screens off, and is it a child-safe place?
TOYS/SUPPLIES – What type of toys are accessible for your child? During unstructured independent play I highly encourage open-ended toys or toys that a child can use in multiple ways. DITCH the programmed toys and think more puzzles, blocks, dolls, dramatic play sets, loose parts, etc. Make sure the stuff they can choose from is stuff they CAN DO!
CHECK OUT THIS POST: Toys To Love
KEEP THEM CLOSE – Remember independent play means the child can play alone, this doesn’t mean they have to be alone. Keeping their play space nearby can help littles feel secure and happy. Just remember as they play, let them engage on their own, don’t interrupt, let them find their rhythm.
MODEL PLAY – I know this sounds odd, BUT in the early stages of encouraging independent play, modeling can be HUGE! During what would be unstructured play, grab something to play with yourself, interact, talk out loud, and just model what playing could look like.
EXPECTATIONS – Your CHILD CAN PLAY INDEPENDENTLY. Believe that and cultivate that attitude. Your tone of voice, encouragement, and consistency will help build your child’s independent play stamina.
And let go of the guilt!
Independent play is pretty amazing. Our kiddos need a little unstructured playtime each day – without input from the adults in their life ( we tend to change play). This doesn’t mean always or all day, but little pockets of time for them to just play and imagine on their own is pretty awesome for them and YOU.
So the next time you do see them immersed in play, sit back, enjoy your coffee, and just watch and listen. I think you’ll be pretty excited to witness all they are doing and learning.