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? 

Play Is A Learned Trait: It’s Not Always Natural For Kids

Play, play, play! 

If you throw the word “play” up in the search bar of this particular blog, you’ll find a plethora of articles on children and play. 

Here’s a full page with my play articles somewhat organized.

But there’s another point I want to touch on when it comes to play. This article comes from a time a few years ago when my oldest child  was almost two years old. I was trying to make dinner and the typical battle of trying to either keep her busy in the kitchen, or distract her with toys outside of the kitchen ensued. I generally love cooking, but have such a hard time with it when I have a kid standing right at my feet demanding attention! 

I kept saying the same thing over and over to her- 

“Go play! Please! Go find some toys and play!” 

This battle continued for days and weeks on end. Nothing ever worked! 

I started researching online ways I could get my daughter to play on her own, and there were some great ideas out there. However, I read one piece of advice that I so badly wished I would have saved so I could reference! But the article stated this- 

Play is not something that just comes naturally to every kid, it’s a learned skill they all need to develop over time. 

It was such simple advice, yet it was still advice that changed my whole perspective! I was a great parent at pulling out a sensory bin or whipping up a quick color match activity. However, I was never a parent that pulled out the blocks and showed my daughter how to build. Or drive the toy cars. We never played pretend with the baby dolls or made the plastic animals move. If no one ever showed her how to play with the toys, why should I have expected her to know what to do with them? 

Over the next several weeks we spent time down on the floor together building towers and rocking babies to sleep. And then it was a slow transition to “invitations to play” where I would leave out a small set up to spark my daughter’s imagination and I would let her take it from there. 

Eventually, she learned the skill of play, and making dinner became so much easier! We continued to practice playing together and she continued to practice it by herself when I needed the time to be alone. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start in the right direction. 

My hope is that if you’re struggling with getting your child to play by themselves as well, this article can be eye-opening for you as well. 

Tell me in the comments how you helped your child learn the art of play! 

Early Childhood Resources All In One Place!

Hi friends! A lot of my posts lately have been focused on early childhood and how we can foster this education as parents and teachers. It’s been my focus simply because it’s my daily life right now. I spend the majority of my day fostering the learning of a one-year-old and a three-year-old, so naturally, it’s where my thoughts have been centered.

Because I have been throwing this content at you so much, I felt like it needed a place where it’s all corralled for you for easier searching. Lo and behold! My early childhood page!

You can find the link to this new page here!

Featured on the page are sensory bin lists, tips, and recipes. Some thoughts on raising independent kids. Really great articles on PLAY. And bonus material on emotions in kids and using Myers- Briggs and Enneagram to understand your child better.

This list and page will be ever growing as I continue to create new content in this scope of ideas, so check back later for more articles. You can find this new page on our top banner under “blog”.

What I’ve Learned Teaching Preschool

I’ve been teaching my daughter and her little neighbor friend preschool since mid-April. At first, it was very consistent and every day, but now we’ve tapered off since the world is (somewhat) opening up again and we can leave our homes again. We have been using Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool curriculum and love it! You can read more about my review here.

Today I want to share a few little nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned from teaching on a preschool level. This age and curriculum are somewhat out of my realm, my dream teaching job would be 3rd-4th grade, but I’ve learned a lot teaching this age and learned to adapt to this different age range. 

More play. Less instruction. I knew this before, I live by the phrase “play is a child’s work.” However, sometimes when we put the label “teacher” out there, it’s easy to fall into teacher instruction mode. I found that the less I was involved and the more play that took place, the more learning that came. 

Sing. Sing all of the songs. I’m not a singer!! I know a lot of people say this, but I’m REALLY not a good singer. Guess what? They didn’t care. They just wanted songs. They craved the repetition and beat and learning a new tune. Sing the songs, and sing them loud and silly. 

Consistency is important for them at such a young age. We had our schedule that we did every day (laid out by Playing Preschool), and the days we strayed from it, left something out, or switched it up slightly, the whole lesson was hard for them. Be consistent. 

Not all kids grow up with a #teachermom and do activities like poke toothpicks in an apple, and that’s okay! Our cute neighbor boy that joins us for preschool was doing the apple poke activity. It promotes counting, spacial awareness, and fine motor skills. After he had put two or three toothpicks into the apple he looked at me and asked, “Why am I doing this?” while my daughter sat next to him happily poking her toothpicks because an activity like this is fairly normal in our household! Gave me a good laugh!

Learning letters and numbers isn’t the goal of preschool. Playing is the purpose of preschool, and throwing in the letters and numbers is just an added bonus. I was reminding myself often that just because my daughter still didn’t know that R says rrrrrr by the end of two weeks, it doesn’t mean the two weeks was a fail. We played, we sang, recited poems and painted. So much paint! The purpose of the R unit wasn’t to engrain the letter or sound into her mind, it was to expose her to a new letter, maybe recognize it, and most importantly- to play. 

I think doing this preschool program with my daughter has opened my eyes to what playing for a child truly is. I knew it was important and I knew that’s how they can learn, however, now I realize that it’s not just how they CAN learn, it IS how they learn. It is crucial! 

To you preschool teachers out there, what other tips do you have, or what else can you add to this list? 

My Review On Playing Preschool

A few months back I purchased Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool book to do preschool with my daughter and a little neighbor friend. I wrote a little about the experience here. After a few months of working through the book, I want to write a review to help you decide if it’s the right decision for you. Before I begin, read more about what Playing Preschool entails here.

Pros: 

Lessons are easy to read and organized. Whether you’re an educator or not, there is plenty of information and resources to give you the most success possible. 

We had to take a few weeks off while I worked from home, but it was easy to pick back up again and get started. The lessons are evergreen and can be done at any time of the year. 

Most of the materials were found at home, but mostly because we’ve been doing toddler based activities for a year now. Even if you don’t have all of the materials at home, it’s a worthwhile investment because they are cheap and useful! I don’t know about you, but we go through a pack of construction paper really fast over here! 

Some weeks required more materials such as the cooking unit because we needed a lot of food, but again, nothing crazy expensive and worth the money for the outcome. I went through the supply list of every unit before we got started and made an Amazon Wishlist and shared it with our family members that often like to buy my kid’s gifts so that they would know the books and tools that would be extra useful to us right now! 

The activities do not take a lot of time to set up. I don’t think I ever spent more than two minutes gathering supplies and setting up an activity for the lessons. They are quick and practical! 

The lessons truly are playing. There are no worksheets to print out! It’s all activities to set up for your preschool to explore numbers and letters. There’s a lot of paint and a lot of play! A method I can get behind! 

Cons: 

I loved that each unit had a great book list that really worked hand in hand with each day, but we started Playing Preschool the same time quarantine began, meaning our library was closed! Without the resource of the library, it was so hard to find the specific books she recommended. I did my best to find substitutes (although her suggestions truly are the best books to use). I also tried the free trial of Vooks, but not a single book on the list was found there! You can read my Vooks review here. 

Another solution I found was to buy a few books on thirftbooks.com, they had great prices and free shipping after a certain amount spent! I couldn’t pass up an opportunity at buying new books! We also searched Kindle on Amazon for any free or cheap purchases. Those books obviously aren’t the same as holding a real book, but it did the job! 

The rest I put on my Amazon wishlist for our family members and we received many that way. I also called upon good friends and neighbors to borrow their books. With all efforts combined, I was able to get together all of our books! With access to a public library, this process would not be as difficult as it was for me, but I wanted to share my ideas for others who also may not have access to a library as well. 

The final downside is more on me than on the curriculum itself. I would feel like the entire unit was a failure if we skipped a day or even a single activity. I wanted to get everything in to make sure she understood the concepts being taught. In the introduction of Playing Preschool, Susie the creator of the curriculum explicitly says you do not have to do every activity and it does not have to all be done in one sitting. She suggestions spreading it out throughout the day or splitting it up into two sections if accomplishing everything in one sitting is too much for your preschooler. My type-A personality shone through a lot when I saw each activity as a checklist feeling like I needed to mark everything off. You do not need to do this to have success in the program. 

Overall, I truly have loved Playing Preschool and use it often with my daughter. Even if we are on a break from doing preschool, I can still pull it out and find one or two activities for her to do while I cook dinner or clean the house. It’s great exposure to letters and numbers. My 2.5-year-old has very little interest in her letters and even after a few weeks of playing preschool she can’t name a single letter or letter sound, but she’s still gaining that exposure and teaching her to have a love for learning and reading. Playing Preschool for the win! 

Have you done the Playing Preschool curriculum? Leave your pros and cons in the comments for others to see! 

Cover photo from busytoddler.com

Reading Before Kindergarten- Is It Really Necessary?

Reading before Kindergarten- is it necessary? Is it beneficial? Is it something parents and educators should be spending their precious minutes with the children on? As time goes on, more and more pressure is put on parents to have high academically achieving children and preschools across the nation are meeting this “need” by giving kids an academic-based preschool in exchange for a play-based preschool.  

I’ve been hearing an ad for a local preschool in my area that boasts “We will have your kids reading before kindergarten!” and every time I hear the ad it makes me angry that they are adding to the social pressure put on parents for having a reading four or five year old! No parent should ever have to feel inadequate because their child isn’t an early reader. It goes without saying that this is not a preschool I can support.

Reading to her horses, even though she can’t read! What great pretend play that will eventually lead to reading.

Did you know that if your kid is reading before kindergarten, studies have shown that by 2nd grade they don’t have much advantage over kids who learned to read in kindergarten? Did you know that teaching your child to read before they are ready can actually drive them away from reading and make them a worse reader in the long run? It may be exciting at your mom group to brag about how academically advanced your child is, it’s exciting to celebrate your kid’s accomplishments! But that shouldn’t be shadowing out what they truly need. 

I have even felt the pressure myself and my daughter is not even 3 years old yet. I see friends with kids similar ages who can name letters and sounds so easy, yet my daughter is just barely showing a small interest in letters and not even close to knowing what they are or what they say. This is discouraging because I have read to her every day and she has been exposed to letter for years now!! But she will pick it up in her own time. Until then, she is establishing her love of reading, and that is more important than letter names right now.

Reading before kindergarten is not bad by any means! If your child is genuinely showing an interest in letters and words and stringing them together to read sentences, by all means, let them fly!! When it comes to teaching kids to read, let them lead. 

There are so many other things we can and should be doing with our kids instead of pushing reading on them. First, back to the basics that create lifelong readers, and some of my favorite things to do!

Talk 

Sing 

Read 

Write 

Play 

These fundamental skills build the learning basics of reading. Talking and singing with them will do more in the long run than pushing letter learning on them. Giving them genuine time to play, build, and make-believe will do wonders. Play is a child’s work! It’s how they learn and grow. 

Choosing an academic-based preschool and even kindergarten robs them of their most needed resource- PLAY! Let the kids play, really play! Mary also wrote out 5 lessons her kids taught her about play that is also helpful in this situation! I also loved her perspective of Kindergarten readiness from a teacher AND a parent standpoint when her daughter was almost kinder age! She has amazing resources and tips for us. 

Other things you can focus on with your child that promote kindergarten readiness instead of reading: 

Sensory activities

Writing, drawing, coloring, and painting 

Puzzles and problem solving 

How to maintain and hold a conversation 

Establishing a love for books and being read to 

Build positive relationships with books- from the beginning!

Let’s take the pressure of reading off kids! Let’s play and sing and let the kids lead! Choose a play-based preschool, give them books, point out letters in your daily life, and when they are interested, let them read! 

What are your thoughts on reading before kindergarten? Do you as a parent feel the social pressure of early reading? 

Parent Resources For School Closures

With schools across the nation shutting down for COVID-19 social distancing purposes, parents are left at home, many overwhelmed by keeping up with student’s needs for learning. 

First, take a deep breath. There are resources and help out there for you, and I want to share my best tips with you as well. 

Whether you have a newborn or a college student moving home, these basic principals apply. 

TALK

Talk to your kids. Ask them their thoughts and feelings, tell them about your day and your thoughts and feelings. Comment on colors of objects or numbers around you. Have open, fun conversations. 

SING

Sing lullabies and I’m A Little Teapot, sing made up songs about washing hands, and throw a little Queen in there. Sing them songs. 

READ

Read picture books and chapter books. Read their favorite book and your favorite book. Read them magazines and online articles. It doesn’t matter what you’re reading, it just matters that you READ. 

WRITE

Write small journal entries about their day, write a book, write a sentence. Have them notice everyday life and write about it. Let them see the scientific method be put to use every day in the simple things like getting dressed or choosing a breakfast food, and write it down. Use a pencil, use a pen, use a computer, but all they need to do is put words together to make sentences. Or if they are younger, put pictures together to create a story! 

PLAY

Engage in real, genuine, play. Make pillow forts and cuddle on the couch. Just enjoy your time together and use your imagination. 


No need to overcomplicate an already stressful situation. Just take it day by day, do your best, and wash your hands. You’ve got this!