Trying to keep your child constantly entertained can be a real challenge! To relieve some of the stress, start implementing independent play for your child.
Many parents feel guilty about leaving their children to play alone – yet there are benefits for everyone involved! Setting expectations, explaining things clearly to your child and providing helpful resources are all useful ways to encourage independent play.
Benefits of independent play:
Both children and adults will benefit from changing the way that play is perceived in the home. Adults will enjoy a little more time to get things done (or simply relax) whilst children can learn new skills and realise they don’t always need to be accompanied.
- Independent play can help to foster imagination and encourage creative play. There is generally less direction and fewer rules or guidelines to conform with, which can really encourage children to think outside the box.
- When playing independently, children often build up their levels of persistence and can improve their problem solving by trying new approaches. Resilience and patience are also learnt through independent play and these can lead to an increase in confidence in children.
- Children may actually enjoy the chance to decide what they want to do. Their small lives are often incredibly busy and they don’t get a lot of time to simply let their brains be peaceful.
Ways to encourage independent play:
- Start small – children who aren’t used to playing alone may find it challenging to begin with so take your time to build up the amount that your child plays independently by starting small and increasing it gradually.
- Set expectations – make sure your child understands what you expect from them. Explain clearly to them that they are going to play for a set amount of time by themselves but that this isn’t a punishment in any way and that if they need you they can ask for help. It’s also useful to explain the games they won’t be able to play alone or activities such as cutting with scissors or using paints that they’ll need adult help with.
- Come up with activities together – get your child involved in the process from the beginning by asking them for their suggestions on activities they’d like to work on independently. Older children may enjoy tasks like Lego building, whereas younger children may want to play with dolls or do some drawing with crayons.
- Praise independent play – by praising your child and providing positive feedback when they play independently, you’ll be encouraging them to repeat the behaviour on a regular basis.