3 Tips To Promote Independent Play.

You are in the right place if the mum guilt is getting to you and you just need to get stuff done! Whether it’s folding the washing, doing some work or just having 5 minutes to yourself!

Juggling all of the tasks that come with raising a family, working and looking after your home can be tough. By following these simple strategies below you can get your child playing independently for longer. Meaning you can spend more quality time with them without worrying about the chores!

Lets Redefine Play.

Play is the work of a child, we are easily sucked into making play look perfect. But play doesn’t need to be pretty or Instagram worthy, play doesn’t even have to be educational for the child to learn!
Play should always be directed by the child. When I sit down and play with Ayla I wait for her to invite me into her play. Why? Because imagine you are writing an essay, every time you type a word the teacher says “good spelling”, “I like that colour” or “why don’t you write it like this?” how quickly would you lose your train of thought and give up on writing the essay all together? We often do this to our children while they are playing but when they invite us into their play by giving us a car, or saying “look mummy” it’s like us asking the teacher to help us with our essay.

Be really positive about play, avoid “will you just go and play”. I am 100% guilty of saying this from time to time. Try rephrasing it into a choice “are you going to wait for mummy or play while I finish?”. After all who wants to do something when they are being told to do it?

Make Your Play Spaces Work.

Independent play doesn’t mean the child has to be alone! I have play spaces set up in the kitchen, the playroom and in Ayla’s bedroom. Children don’t like being alone, it is totally natural for them to want to be close to you. You are their safe space. So having play spaces dotted around the house allows them to be close to you while you get stuff done.

Setting out invitations to play… Like the picture above is an amazing way to create less mess (because your child doesn’t have to empty the whole box to find what they need!) and engage them in play.
Just like us children can be easily overwhelmed when they have too much available to them, so in terms of play spaces less is definitely more. It’s ok, you don’t have to start getting rid of toys to do this! Do a toy rotation. Toy rotations bring back the novelty of having an old toy back AND they reduce the amount of toys available. Whatever toys aren’t out in the play spaces can be put away. I try to do a toy rotation every couple of weeks but I base it totally on Ayla’s interests. If shes becoming bored I will rotate sooner, if shes still really engaged I will leave it another week.

When rotating toys theres a few things to remember.

  • Is the toy age appropriate?
    . Can they do it on their own or do they need your help?
  • Is the toy open ended?
    . Does it just have one use or can your child use it in lots of different way?
    . Battery operated toys can be great but try to leave out toys that don’t make noises too!
  • Can your child follow their natural urges?
    . Take a look here at my post about schemas in play.
    . Schemas are natural urges a child will experience through play, it’s how they explore the world around them. Children could be in a particular schema for weeks or purely for half an hour, by providing access to all schemas your allowing your child to for fill their urge at that particular moment.

Invitations To Play.

Invitations to play gives a different edge to their toys. I always have the tuff tray out in the kitchen with a dry sensory bin filler like rice or chickpeas, occasionally I will do a messier activity there too but I sit and play with Ayla while we do that to contain the mess!

Providing a different way of playing with a toy can really help to boost engagement and independent play too. Take a look here for play ideas that you can do!

So to summarize;

  • Play doesn’t have to be pretty, planned or perfect.
  • Make your play spaces work by having them dotted around the house, easy to use and meeting any natural urges your child may have.
  • Create invitations to play by incorporating sensory play or setting the toys out in a different way.

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