Give Your Child the Gift of Independent Play

The holidays are here and if you are like me, you are working on your gift shopping list

Sometimes I know just the right thing to give someone and sometimes I really don't! And sometimes, I feel like my children are the hardest to shop for! 

A few years ago I was trying to decide what to get them for Christmas. We really didn't need more toys. I didn't want to have to clean up more toys. I didn't want to have to deal with fighting or lots of toys sounds. I didn't want to have to deal with too many batteries or broken toys. And then, I learned about open-ended play! It was life changing. I slowly started to switch the majority of our toys over to open-ended options. The fighting lessened, the loud toy sounds reduced, and my kids seemed to play so much better together. And, the best part was that they played by themselves so much more! 

I love to play with my kids. I love to see their little minds working through problems, finding solutions, and seeing their imaginations run wild. But, sometimes, mama has got to get things done! As much as I wished I could hang around all day and play, that is just not realistic for me. There is laundry to do, a house to upkeep, appointments to go to, and let's not even talk about the snacks and meals that constantly seem to be asked for. But, independent play was a game changer! I found that I had more time for me. Time to read a book. Or time to do get some chores done. Maybe even time to eat a meal for myself during the day.

This year give yourself and your children the gift of independent play! It may take time and effort at first but I promise it will be worth it! 

Here are some tips and tricks to help you get there!

  1. Allow your child to get bored! As the saying goes "boredom is the mother of invention". Let your child be bored and see what happens. You can offer them some suggestions of things they could do if you would like. In my experience, I am often met with lots of resistance to any of my ideas but I still offer them just in case. 
  2. Take the time to invest in good quality open-ended toys. Open-ended toys are toys that allow room for creativity. They are toys that do not have strict rules or guidelines to use. Some examples: blocks, trains, animal figures, dolls, etc.
  3. Leave toys in a place where your child can reach them. 
  4. Set up an invitation to play. If you have a set of blocks, instead of dumping them in a box set a few out in a tower and see if that sparks some play time for your babe.
  5. Follow your child's lead. If they are into dinos then leave some dinosaurs out where they can reach them.
  6. Rotate your toys. If you have the space, store some of your toys away while you leave other ones out. Changing up the options will give your babe some creative juices and it will make old toys seem new again!
  7. Get your kids outdoors! Playing outside is so important! Plus, it gives your child a whole new place to explore and play in. 
  8. Set a timer. Tell you child they can play alone for a certain amount of time and set a timer that they can see. Then, leave them. Go eat lunch, answer an email, call a friend. Take a few minutes for you!
  9. Have a set schedule. Maybe you do independent play every day after lunch. Or maybe it is in the morning before nap. Make it consistent so that your child knows when to expect it. Then, after a while it might become the norm for their play!

We have been doing independent play for a long time and for the most part my kids are great at it. But, some days it is just harder then others. Don't give up! Stick with it and I promise your kids will catch on and end up loving it! Plus, it gives you a break too!!