Up to your neck in housework? Need some time to make a phone call? Maybe it’s Sunday afternoon, you’ve had a long week and you just want to put your toes up with a cuppa? Look no further! I am going to show you my top play ideas that you can try at home to encourage your child to play independently, while you do what ever it is you need to do without the guilt. I am pro getting involved with your child, getting outdoors exploring, being with them and guiding them as much as time will allow you but sometimes we all need to wind down or get daily chores done. Independent Play is not anything to feel guilty about. In fact we should be promoting it as much as we do everything else!
All to often nowadays on social media, we are drowning in posts of our friends with their children out and about hitting goals, going on personal journeys, living their best life etc etc etc…..but don’t they ever stop? Don’t they need time to wash the uniforms and bathe and chill out??!! Of course. Everyone does. Social media is only showing one part of the day. A moment shared. Then they head home and do what you do. So don’t beat yourself up for choosimg to have a Pj and movie day this weekend. Do what works for you and your family today. Independent play is Ok and im going to show you why, so you don’t need to feel bad for not moving mountains on your day off. First we have to understand what independent play is and what the benefits are for your child.
What is independent play?
Independent play is when your child plays by themselves without the assistance of the parent.
Why is encouraging independent play important?
It is important to encourage your child to play independently so that they can develop self confidence, independence and personal wellbeing. They will also develop a natural intuition to carry out activities or games without seeking help, thus building a strong sense of self. Children have much bigger capabilities to do tasks for themselves, than some allow them the opportunity to use. Encouraging independent play will help them fine tune those skills and become more well rounded and confident people.
What steps can I take to encourage my child to play independently?
Playing independently doesn’t happen over night. You need to put some effort in for awhile. Over time and as your child understands how to use a toy/game, you will find your child will develop the initiative to create opportunity themselves and you can take a step back and listen to the imaginative play that erupts from their beautiful minds.
- Start your child young. When your baby begins to focus, look at and hold objects, this is when we should begin independent play. Allow your child to explore for themselves. Simple and natural items such as a spoon or textured fabric work well to build your babies ability to focus and concentrate on the item.
- Avoid too many flashy, noisy gadgets at once. While these types of toys are littered in every home in the country, overstimulation of such items can cause you child to lose concentration and get bored quickly. Try to limit the amount they have access to. Mix through some bowls, spoons, pots with lids, cereal boxes of diffent sizes and be sure to rotate to keep things interesting.
- Don’t play for them. It is tempting to jump in and try change the game for a child to what you deem to be ‘more fun’ but this isn’t always a good idea. Respect the child’s decision to play and remember that this is the level their creative minds are at. You must allow them the time to develop. If they invite you into the game, follow their rules and be a passenger.
Some ideas to encourage independent play as follows:
PLAYDOUGH! Don’t immediately shun this idea. Playdough is not the messy nightmare that most think. It is a great therapeutic exercise for those ‘terrible twos’ tantrums and also provides many learning experiences to support cognitive, emotional and physical development. CLICK HERE for a vegan friendly recipe that you can make at home yourself or CLICK HERE for some cool sets from Smyths Toy Store for a small fortune.
STAMPS & STICKERS! Trust me these will be your go to buddies more often than you think. Again this is a very therapeutic exercise and one that keeps idol hands busy. Choose stickers that are of interest to your toddler. For me at the moment, it varies from Minions, Toy Story, Cars and Paw Patrol, so I bought lots of these themed stickers CLICK HERE. I also have some cool Dinosaur Stamps from Melissa and Doug CLICK HERE. They come with some colouring pencils too. Endless learning outcomes from both of these activities and waste not want not, keep some stickers and stamps aside for anyone who is using reward charts for little helpers or toilet training.
MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO! Toddlers love this one! If your doing chores around the house, ask your toddler to help. Young children love to imitate daily activities and love to help. This is a great way to encourage positive behaviour from your toddler and gives you lots of ways to praise and encourage them to be helpful and kind. During a Montessori session, we direct children to learn how to care for themselves, others, their environment through simple tasks such as pairing socks, washing hands and face, cleaning mirrors, hanging out clothes, washing cutlery, tie a shoe lace etc. Developing a sense of him/herself, self care, confidence and wellbeing.
PUZZLES & BOOKS! You could choose some matching card puzzles, traditional jigsaw puzzles, stories with lift the flap, pop up books etc all really good choices. To keep these activities interesting, rotate the options each weekend. Keep it interesting by asking your child to find specific things like an eye spy game. This can easily be done while your prepping a meal or even sitting back with a face mask on. Mulit-tasking people!
MOVIE ANYONE? There’s so much talk in recent years about the negative impact TV or devices have on your child’s development. I believe there’s no one size fits all. Watching the movie with them helps them understand what’s happening, but if there’s something for you to do let them watch themselves. Should we leave the TV running from morning to night or leave our children’s faces implanted into a playstation or IPad for 12 hours of a Sunday, ABSOLUTLEY NOT. However there is nothing wrong with putting a programme on or a movie that your child likes while you take some time to yourself. Be responsible about it. Don’t abuse it and most importantly tell your child before you turn the playstation/IPad/TV on, that once the film is over the TV will be turned off. This way they know what to expect when the time comes and so avoid negative behaviour.
If your a working parent, stay at home parent or a mix of both, it doesn’t matter. Nobody is any better off than anyone else. We are all people. We all do what we believe is best for us and our families.
YOU ARE ENOUGH FOR YOUR FAMILY!🤗
I know first hand how difficult it can be with ‘Rugrats’ on your toes. It is tough, it is exhausting. Everyday has its own challenges for everyone. Just because ‘Jacinta’ down the road drives a new car and is climbing Mt Everest with little Johnny on her back this weekend and then she’s planning on running 250k when she puts them to bed tonight doesn’t mean you should be doing that too. There should be no guilt in letting your child be a child and having time to themselves. There should be no guilt in you being in your pj’s all day this Sunday and eating a tub of ice-cream for breakfast (while scrolling through ‘Jacinta’s pictures admiring her stamina 😉)
Now that you have some time to yourself while your little one is busy, how do you choose to spend it? Cleaning the toilets or painting your toe-nails?…. who cares….. Point is your doing what works best for your family dynamic today and every other day. So run with that!
N.B ‘Jacinta’ is a fictional character. I also strongly do not recommend climbing Mt. Everest with a toddler or running 250k……
Have a great weekend!