Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Teaching Kids Independent Play

With my oldest starting Kindergarten, my youngest has recently had a crash course in Independent Play.

 I talk a lot about teaching my girls{Here,Here} and what I like to do to help them develop skills for the future. So, I know the extreme value of playing with your child & giving them teachable moments.
 And although I love sitting with my girls and taking the time to play on the floor with them. There are a lot of mommy & wife tasks I also have to accomplish throughout the day, like cleaning, making nutritious meals, and currently packing. And as much as I feel guilty sometimes for this, I know that Independent play is a perfectly good & healthy activity for them to learn & develop. 

Independent play teaches children to build his or her imagination. They get to learn and to think for themselves, be creative & build confidence . All of which are huge for life!

With Mallorie, I started to implement this when she was 2 years old, and It would only be for 2 minutes at first(which I know seems like an incredibly short amount of time). I would use a timer and let her know that she was welcome to play with any of her toys in her room until the timer went off. At which point if she needed me she  could come find me and ask/tell me anything she had on her mind. This was really helpful for her because, back then, mommy provided any & all entertainment. I know that her independent play has made a big difference in her development. She is now very mature for her age and understands so much of what she is taught. 

Teaching your child to play independently

For a child who has never played by themselves, start with a small goal of 2 minutes of independent play & after completing the goal, be sure to praise them on their achievement.  

Increase their goal time every week 1-2 minutes at a time{ up to 30 minutes}. 

In time, your kiddos will learn to entertain themselves & play with a set of toys for a longer period of time.

We have 5 Quiet boxes that they love & only bring out to use once a day. The girls look forward to playing with these toys because they don't see them very often{I absentmindedly packed them away, so the girls will be extra excited when they get them in the new house}.  I learned the power of scarcity from my SIL, a few years ago, when Mallorie was struggling in sacrament meeting. We made her a special church bag that had different toys, she never got to see except on Sundays. She still had times that she was squirmy/loud but for the most part it helped us her survive Sacrament meetings.

We also have a variety of quiet toys that we like to incorporate into the mix(Tents/Playhouses, Magnetic puzzles, File folders, wood trains, Water painting, sensory activities). Which not only help them stay entertained but help create fun memories!

You can still be involved a bit while your child has Independent play.  Every few minutes I will check in and make sure they are playing nice & praise them for playing on their own. Sometimes I provide them with an idea, other times its just eye contact & a smile. 

They have grown to really treasure this time & even though they are always trying to recruit me, I try to stand my ground & remind them that I will join in on their fun once the timer goes off. Setting limits and routines have been very helpful for us!  

What are your secret tricks for helping your kids learn to play independently? Are your kiddos seasoned pros at this? 
Did they learn to do this on their own or did you have to work with them?

Thanks so much for reading!