Fostering Independent Play

I recently wrote an article on how play is a learned trait for children, they aren’t just pre-programmed knowing how to play alone. And another on the benefits of independent play. After preaching all of these great aspects of independent play, I think I owe it to the world to provide a few ways to foster independent play. Here are a few tips. 

  • Schedule independent play. Have a conversation with your child about it and set aside a time in the day for it. 
  • Make independent play predictable and an open conversation. 
  • Set the timer during the scheduled independent play. Start out small with 5 minutes, and work your way slowly to more and more time. 
  • Keep toys organized and available. It’s hard for kids to have a starting point for play if toys are scattered and unavailable. 
  • Keep toys minimal. It’s easier to keep them clean and organized when you are not overrun with too many. 
  • Create curated “activity bins” with all of the pieces and materials needed for specific activities such as a “race car” bin filled with cars, tracks, shops, and people. Or a “baby care” bin filled with baby dolls, pretend diapers, bottles, and maybe even a small bath. 

Most importantly, make independent play FUN! It can turn into a negative process for kids when they are constantly told to “just go play.” They can feel as if they are being shut out and unwanted. When independent play is worked on, enjoyable, and looked forward to, it can turn into a great process that eventually will become something that you don’t have to work hard to have your child practice, it’ll come more and more naturally to them. 

What other ways do you foster independent play in your children? 

The Benefits Of Independent Play

Last week I wrote down some of my thoughts about independent play and how it took time for my daughter to learn how to play. Play is not just something kids do for fun. It’s actual work. It is how their brains put together new experiences and learn to interact with the world. And while I was trying to push my daughter towards more independent play so that I could have a few minutes alone to work on what I needed, there are also many other benefits you can find from independent play. 

  • It fosters imagination. It gives them time to explore a whole new world that has yet to be created. 
  • It aids in problem-solving. When someone else isn’t there helping them solve their problems of blocks not fitting together right or the tower not stacking properly, they start relying on themselves and their own problem-solving skills. 
  • It boosts confidence! Allowing them the opportunity to utilize their own toys and manipulate them in the way they want can create confidence in themselves that otherwise may not be there if there is someone else present playing with them. 
  • Independent play can be a great way to prepare them for school. Working independently is a part of anyone’s education, and learning how to do this through play can prove to be more beneficial in the long run. 
  • It teaches them about alone time. Yes, as a parent you are given a few minutes of alone time to accomplish what you need to, but it’s also teaching your child how to have alone time and use it to recharge or accomplish what they need to. 

The next time you feel bad telling your kids to “go play”, you don’t need to! Allowing them independent playtime can be great for many reasons. Keep your eye out over the next few weeks for my post on how you can foster independent play for your own kids that may not do well with playing on their own. 

Choosing A Montessori School: Is It Right For You?

Let’s talk about Montessori schools! The term Montessori is thrown around a lot, especially recently, it’s become a very popular method among schools, caretakers, and parents. But what is the Montessori method? Here’s a quick introduction. 

Maria Montessori developed her method of learning as an Italian physician in the early 1900s. Her work focuses on children being independent in their learning and that they have a natural tendency for inquiry in learning. With the proper tools and set up, the child can be independent in their learning. The typical tools in a Montessori classroom are wooden, simple, and always at a child’s level.

Her work was never trademarked, so any school or center can tag “Montessori” onto their title and claim they teach Montessori method, but may not actually follow exactly what Maria developed. This is important to remember when looking into a Montessori school! 

A few facts about a Montessori school: 

If choosing a Montessori education, you may have to change your expectations of what school will look like for your children. They most likely will not be sitting in desks at any point in the day, but instead wandering and exploring and learning at their pace. 

Because the Montessori method is not a trademarked learning style, it is important to do research on specific schools to watch how they are learning and what the school’s style is to see if it meets the needs you are seeking. 

The Montessori method was well developed for elementary aged students, but Maria never created a curriculum for middle or high school students. Some schools have taken the Montessori principles and adjusted them to a high school level, creating a Montessori secondary education program, however, they may be few and far between. 

If you have chosen a Montessori program for your kids, how did you come to the conclusion that it was the right choice? 

Cover photo from thetot.com

Why Is Helicopter Parenting Bad?

I’ve written a few posts now on helicopter parenting and how I have been trying to avoid being one. You can read them here:

Helicopter Mom Part 1

Helicopter Mom Part 2

But maybe we need to clarify the why behind these helicopter mom posts. Why is this a parenting style I am avoiding and trying to lean more toward independent kids? 

A helicopter parent is someone who stands over their children making every decision for them and directing their lives. A lot of the motive behind a helicopter parent is to prevent their children from experiencing failure or getting hurt. However, doing so can actually do the opposite. 

The side effects of being parented by a helicopter parent are depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, high stress, fear of failure, low self-confidence, and more. By never letting your child fail, you are sending the message that failure is not okay, therefore, bringing on all of the depression, stress, and anxiety that comes with the inevitable failure in life. This only grows more and more into adulthood. 

To see more about the side effects of a helicopter parent, check out this video. 

What does a helicopter parent look like in each stage of life? 

As a toddler, it’s a parent standing right behind your child as they climb a ladder, even putting their hands and feet in the exact places they need to go to find success. 

As a child, it looks like a parent changing their child’s teacher because they don’t seem to learn well with their current teacher. 

As a teenager, it’s a parent that chooses which friends their children can spend time with. 

As an adult, it looks like a parent that pushes certain colleges to attend (typically based on the closest location to home) and tells the child what the best area of study for them will be. 

How can you change your parenting style to be less helicopter parent? 

Step back and watch your child climb the ladder. Observe their method of movement and don’t step in unless absolutely necessary. Remember that a short tumble may be exactly what they need to learn the correct method for using the rungs. 

Let your child stay in the classroom of this teacher, and give them ways to learn with the style the teacher is using. Teach them how to work with different personality types, then pull them out of the classroom if matters seem to be worsening and you have tried multiple approaches. 

Have conversations with your child about the value of good friendships and what a lasting effect they can have in life. Teach them to identify good vs. bad friends and let them decipher their friend choices on their own. 

Ask your child what their goals for their adult life look like, see what their ambitions and dreams are. Have conversations about what college looks like and means to them, and help guide them to whichever school seems to be the best fit for them. 

By changing the way we interact and teach our children, it will lead to more independent and efficient leaders of tomorrow. 

Featured Photo: Kayla Wright

Swim Lessons Taught My Kids More Than Swimming

In the spirit of writing blog posts about independent children like I have been recently (you can read more of the posts here), I wanted to talk about one more way I’ve worked hard to give my kids independence and let them explore the world freely. 

This time, it was with swim lessons. I placed my children in ISR (infant swim rescue) lessons at the ages of 10 months for my son and 2.5 years old for my daughter. They were both able to self-rescue and swim by themselves in the water after a few weeks of lessons. Here are some of the educational benefits I’ve found from placing them in these lessons, beyond just swimming and floating.

They learned they can do hard things. It’s hard to learn something so scary and different, especially in an environment like a swimming pool where you can feel so vulnerable. But once they mastered it and felt more confident in the water, they both realized that they worked hard to accomplish something really hard, and that’s absolutely worth noting. I saw them be less fearful and more willing to try hard things later.

They gained confidence in themselves. Because they learned something hard, they grew in confidence. Not only in the pool, but in other activities and learning environments. 

They learned to problem solve. By practicing problem-solving in the water, I watched them apply it at the park on ladders and slides, at home in their play, and everywhere else they needed problem-solving skills. 

They gained respect for water. They didn’t just learn how to swim and go run into any body of water they saw. They learned that water can be dangerous and fun, all at the same time. They learned to respect the nature of water and the consequences that can come with playing in it. 

Giving my children the tools to be independent in the water without floaties or other swimming devices gave them more than just the ability to float on their back, it gave them multiple life lessons they will carry with them. It gave them another tool to grow into independent human beings, who are free to explore the world around them.