Children who play by themselves learn to have fun on their own. They don’t count on others for their happiness and entertainment.

How to encourage your child to play independently
 When a child plays alone, it can foster imagination and creative play, build persistence and problem-solving skills, and teach patience and resilience.

Some children love playing by themselves, while others need to have mom or dad around to constantly entertain them.

If you fall into the latter category, you might find these tips useful to help encourage your child to play independently.

  • Children of all ages can – and should – engage in independent play. However, before implementing independent play, parents need to understand that independent play does not mean “unsupervised play”, especially when it comes to younger children. Independent play is when children play by themselves BUT with a parent nearby. 
  • Check if your child’s toys are appropriate for their age and development. The best toys are often the simplest ones – like blocks, puzzles, books, toy cars, dolls, etc. – because they allow children to be creative and spontaneous.
  • Ensure your child understands what they are NOT allowed to do while playing independently. For example, can they use scissors, glitter, or glue? Are they allowed to go outside?  
  • Establish a child-safe play area. No matter how large or small your home is, you can create a fun – but safe – space for your child. You can make a reading nook in one corner, a physical activity zone in another, and an art table in the middle of the room. 
  • Sit down together with your child and list all the activities they can do by themselves. It could include lego, puzzles, word finds, drawing, playing with dolls or action figures. And it could also include longer projects that can be done in parts, like making a comic book, designing a city, or making birthday cards or books.
  • Control your own expectations. By age two, a toddler’s attention span is about five to six minutes. Three-year-olds can focus for up to 8 minutes, while four-year-olds can focus for up to 10 minutes. If your preschooler is new to independent play, start with 5 minutes and gradually increase the time.
  • Begin with time together before progressing to independent play. Turn off your phone and give your complete attention to your child. 
  • Keep playtime interesting. Toys should be swapped out over time so your child doesn’t grow bored playing alone.
  • Children thrive on routine, so if you make independent play a part of your little one’s day, they’ll be more agreeable to it. Carve out a few minutes of solo play in the afternoon.

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