How to Encourage Independent Play
Like everything we want kids to learn to do, getting your kids to play independently takes teaching and A LOT of practice.
This time investments has big returns - your child will spend lots of time at home playing.
Play is necessary for child development, learning, and well being. It builds their creativity and confidence, reduces anxiety, and helps them make sense of the world. And, you know, it's fun! :-)
You need to set your child up for success. "Go play with your toys" will rarely get you the results you're looking for and will cause frustration for everybody involved.
🌈 First, fill them up with your FULL attention before asking them to play on their own. Set a timer and tell them you can play with them for 10 minutes, whatever they want to play, no distractions (phone away!).
Follow their lead. Play is their time for full control.
Don't give any instructions or judge what they do.
If they just want you to watch what they are doing, show your attention and interest by describing what they do, not asking questions. E.g., "You're stirring the food in the pot.", "The dog is driving the car."
Your descriptions will help them learn concepts, "You put the red block on top of the blue block." (Colours and positional language - BOOM!)
🌈 Next, talk to your child about the plan, e.g., "Now I'm going to get some work done on my computer/make dinner/etc while you play for 30 minutes. I'll set the timer. Then we will eat/read/do a puzzle together!"
If your child is just starting to play on their own, start with short amounts of time, just 5 minutes, and add another 5 when they are ready.
🌈Most (if not all) kids like to be close to their parents. So set up a play space (or move your work space) where you can still see each other.
The living room usually works great.
🌈 Give activity options to your child, if they need the inspiration to get started. Suggest things they have enjoyed doing in the past. When I offer 3 choices to my own kids, they will use one of them or be inspired to come up with their own idea.
🌈 Have a play space organized so all the toys and art materials are easy to see and reach on their own.
Each item has a place so it can easily be found and put away.
Clients have been amazed by the difference in their child's play after an in-home playroom consultation since the environment plays such a big role on its own for encouraging play.
Get in touch if you want to learn how I can help you set up your home for lots of play, learning, and creativity!
How well does your child play independently at home? What challenges do you have?