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?
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.