Playing Alone is Good for Your Kid! How to Encourage Independent Play

How to Continue to Foster Independent Play?

It may seem obvious, but a big part of getting children to look forward to independent play times is making sure that they have open-ended toys that reflect their current interests and are appropriate for their age. Easy access to these types of toys encourages them to get busy. Set up a play scene for them that incorporates some of the things that they are interested in: a make-believe tea party with dolls and furry stuffed animals, a city landscape with toy cars and trains, an area where action figures and plastic animals can explore and have adventures in their own miniature world. If the child likes to draw or craft, paper and crayons, washable markers, a glue stick and some fabric scraps will keep them creative and happily occupied. If you can set up the play area close to where you are busy working or doing chores, you can keep the connection and interact with them occasionally while they play.

Kids sometimes don't know how to play independently because they have an overload of options. Too many toys can actually be overwhelming, and make it difficult to concentrate or make choices. Consider rotating your child's toys, storing some away and out of sight. If toys disappear for a period of time, they'll feel new again when you bring them out, and the child will usually be more interested in playing with them again. Rediscovering an old favorite is fun for the child, who will likely show his enthusiasm by playing independently for a longer period of time. Pay attention to the toys your child consistently shows interest in, and clear away the ones that he or she has ignored for a few weeks. When the current favorites start to lose their appeal at playtime, you'll have a stash of fresh options to offer them.

How to Implement a Routine that Includes Independent Play

Involve the kids in what you are doing. Children who crave more attention from mommy will enjoy taking part in the chores and being your helper. It's ok to have your child tag along and help fold linens, change beds, scrub veggies, or walk the dog. It gives the child the interaction they are needing and some pride in their accomplishments, while allowing the parent to do what needs to be done. Your little one will enjoy work activities you can share with them, from raking leaves to dusting the furniture. Just add a big helping and thank you so they understand that you acknowledge and appreciate their "work."

Break it up! Have a routine with time devoted to independent play, and a specific amount of time you use for an activity that you and your child can do together, like reading a story or working on a puzzle. Give them a healthy dose of "mommy time" with a walk in the park or a romp in the yard, and they will be more content to entertain themselves later.

The benefits of independent play include creativity, self-confidence, leadership and problem-solving skills. As children learn to use their imaginations through independent play, they are building their sense of self and adding to their confidence. Learning to enjoy their time alone and growing their imagination helps children become happy, healthy and well-adjusted adults.