Teaching your child to play is an important lesson for them to learn. Not only does it teach them independence and gives them the ability to entertain themselves, but it also allows you to get stuff done while they play, without needing to be by their side. Independent play is a skill that many children learn in early childhood education programs and daycares, but when they are at home, it can be more difficult for them to do.
At Growing Kids Learning Centers, we offer a variety of programs for young children. In these programs, your child will learn a ton of different skills, including independent play. With many parents working at home right now, teaching your child how to play independently can be extremely beneficial. But even when the world goes back to normal, this is a great skill for your child to have. It allows you to make dinner, clean, or do any other task without needing to play with them.
In this blog, we wanted to give you some tips for teaching your child to play independently.
Play With Them
In order to teach your child to play by themselves, you need to start by playing with them. While kiddos love to play, they are not born knowing how to play. When you stick your toddler in front of a box of blocks, they are not going to know what to do with it. Teach your child how to play. Sit on the floor with them, play with blocks, dolls, action figures, or whatever other toys they may have. Teach them how to use the toys, manipulate the play dough, and build with blocks. When you teach them how to play and play with them, they can learn how to play when you aren’t around.
Toys With No Purpose
If you want your children to play independently, you will want to give them the right toys. Giving them toys with a purpose can make it difficult for them to play for a long time by themselves. Choosing toys that your child can play with alone, with you or another child, or even next to another child is a good place to start. Stuff like blocks, play dough, art supplies, and LEGOs are all great options. These types of toys will allow your child to play for a while and develop their motor skills at the same time.
Create a Play Area
Creating a designated play area can help as you teach your child to play independently. Your child will begin to learn that in this area, they are allowed to play and use all their different toys. This area could be their bedroom, in the basement, or in an area of the house that you don’t mind toys being. If you have younger kids who may still need your supervision, having their play area near where you are working can work as well. Set up a play mat or a table that they can play at while you cook, work, or do whatever you need to get done. Make sure they have a variety of toys and activities to keep them entertained and busy.
Slowly Pull Away
As we already mentioned, to teach your child to play independently you need to start by playing with them. As they begin to enjoy playing and understand how they can use their different toys, you can start to slowly pull away from playtime and allow them to play alone for short periods of time. You can start by telling them to keep playing while you go make a call, or start working on dinner. If your child is having a hard time with you leaving, you can try using a timer so that they know you will be back in a certain amount of time. Have them play for five minutes on their own, if the timer goes off and they are playing alone just fine, you can stay away a bit longer. Eventually, go back and start playing with them again. If they think that you will never come back, they will not want to play alone again. Over time, you can stay away for longer periods and allow them to continue to play as long as possible.
Encourage Them to Play Alone
As your child begins to play alone, you can help them continue to improve this skill by encouraging them to go play alone. If you are about to start dinner and they want you to play with them, tell them to go start to play on their own and that you will join them in a bit. This is different than slowly pulling away from their playtime because in this case, they are initiating the independent play and you are joining them later, rather than simply pulling yourself from the situation. By encouraging them to go play alone before you join them, they will likely begin to do it on their own without you
If you catch your child playing alone without you encouraging them or having to play with them to get them started, be sure to celebrate it and tell them that they are doing a good job. When you celebrate your child’s good behaviors and habits, they will be more likely to continue that behavior.
These are some tips that you can use to help teach your child to play independently. For some children, teaching them this skill may be easier than it is for others, but eventually, you should be able to help them get there. This is a great skill for your child to learn and be able to do whether you are working at home or not. Be sure to learn more about our programs and contact Growing Kids Learning Centers today!