When Izzy was born I gained a whole new perspective on parenting and kids. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I didn’t know how exhausting it could be sometimes. Now that Izzy is older I am so thankful for moments of independent play in our day. I think it keeps us both sane to have some time apart where we can do our own thing. This definitely didn’t happen overnight and I think there were a few things we did to encourage independent play for Izzy. I want to share with you our experience.
Encouraging Independent Play Time
- Introducing Independent Play Time: Many times it helps if we introduce an activity to her first. We may show her how a toy works or get her started on coloring, reading, etc. She needs some guidance to get started. If she just say “go play” she doesn’t seem to know what to play with. Maybe we have too many toy options, that’s a post for another day. Anyway, we found after she is engaged in the activity we can slowly back away and let her explore on her own.
- Finding Engaging Toys/Activities: Izzy loves water so we knew the Little Tikes Fish ‘n Splash Water Table would soon become one of her favorite toys. As I’ve said many times before we love finding toys that encourage imagination and exploration. The water table is perfect for these reasons. Izzy is fascinated by the dumping and swishing of the water down center the slide and she enjoys dumping the water in and out of the cup. It will keep her attention for at least 20-30 minutes.
- Don’t Give Up If It Doesn’t Work Right Away: Now don’t get me wrong, you will definitely face some moments of frustration with independent play. At one point, Izzy got upset because she wanted a wipe to dry off the fish. As a parent when I hear her cry I often want to run right over to her and fix everything. But with baby number two almost here I know this won’t always be possible. Independent play can take work so if it seems like it’s not working right away, don’t give up. Give your kids time to learn how to play by themselves.
- Wait and See: If Izzy is asking for help while playing I usually give it a few minutes before I approach her. I allow her some time to figure out what is frustrating her and I “try” to get her to tell me in words what is wrong instead of screaming. Playing independently can encourage problem solving because you aren’t always there to fix the problems immediately. The child has to figure it out on his or her own. It’s difficult to see your child upset, but sometimes struggles are great teaching moments.
- Last thoughts: Start early! You can start as early as you want, around 6 months old we started adding some independent play time into Izzy’s schedule. It was good for both of us and saved my sanity. In my opinion the earlier you start the easier it will be when they get older. Additionally, I think it’s important to find activities and toys that your child will enjoy using. This will make independent play much easier. As you introduce independent play slowly increase the amount of time you back away. You can start with 5 or 10 minutes and eventually work your way up to 30 minutes. Sometimes Izzy can play in a room by herself, other times she likes when I am near her and I can work on a different activity in the same room.
How do you encourage independent play in your toddler?
Disclosure: Although I received review product free of charge from Little Tikes, all opinions expressed are 100% my own. This post may contain affiliate links for products we use and love.