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?