There are several misconceptions about independent play for babies, toddlers, and young children.
Some assume that independent play means unsupervised play. In contrast, others may begin to feel guilty as if leaving a child to play alone indicates lazy or neglectful parenting.
Independent Play Should Be Encouraged
As far as Myriam Sandler, the creator of Mothercould, is concerned, these mix-ups couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Sandler believes that independent play should not only be permissible, but encouraged.
Independent play is an essential style of play in which children are allowed to play by themselves under the watchful eye of a nearby parent.
Independent play looks different for children of all ages and is particularly beneficial in a child’s development. Playtime helps support cognitive function and a child’s ability to learn.
Even though interactive play has many benefits, independent play is vital. Independent play fosters problem-solving skills, creativity, patience, and persistence.
Myriam Sandler believes that there are three key ideas to remember when implementing independent play for young children.
“Allow your child to lead rather than you being the ringleader. You don't have to be the entertainment source for your children. Allow them to really explore the depths of their creativity and independence,” Sandler says.
Naturally, the activities a child will engage in independently vary based on age. However, the kinds of toys and activities kids are given make a big difference in making the most out of independent playtime.
To help facilitate independent play, Sandler encourages parents to look at the types of toys they’re offering kids.
Sandler emphasizes choosing open-ended toys that engage children, holding their attention for extended periods. As a result, some of the most captivating toys are the simplest, the tried and true favorites we’ve all come to know and love.
Examples of toys that lend themselves nicely to independent playtime include picture books, art projects like coloring and painting, puzzles, and blocks. Younger children may benefit from a child-safe play zone where they can roam freely, while older children may be more comfortable focusing on one activity longer.
Despite the benefits of independent play, some parents continue to worry that leaving children to play alone can lead to boredom. Myriam Sandler urges parents not to fear boredom but to embrace it instead.
“I think there's a big misconception that we should be playing with our kids all the time and that they should never be bored. But it's really important to allow our kids to be bored because that's when creativity is born. They have space to think, they have space to explore, they become more creative and resourceful people,” says Sandler.
While playtime is independent, parents' role in encouraging and facilitating solitary playtime is key. From choosing suitable toys to creating a familiar and comfortable routine, parents lay the groundwork for happy, positive, and effective independent play.
Understand Children's Interests
Additionally, parents need to take the time to understand their children’s interests to encourage more successful independent play.
“How do we help our kids become independent players? I think it's all about how we set up our homes so we can really dig into the process, trying to get this going and set realistic expectations. A one-year-old has about a one-minute attention span. A two-year-old has a couple of minutes more, and so on and so forth. So I think it's about setting up those really realistic expectations for yourself and your child,” explains Sandler.
Like any other skill that parents or children learn, independent play becomes easier and more familiar. Because children can push their creativity to the limit during solitary playtime, they will likely begin to look forward to it. Children can also develop a sense of parental trust through independent play.
“It's a lot about independence for the kids, but also independence for the parents,” says Myriam
“So when you're at the holiday party, you can chat with your friends, and you can have an adult conversation without having to worry about entertaining the kids.”
A Win-win Situation
To Sandler, successful independent play is a win-win situation, yielding a positive outcome for children and parents. It’s a tool that can empower kids both in the moment and for many years to come.
“It's an empowering feeling of accomplishment and a parenting victory…a Mothercould moment,” she says.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.