As a parent, leaving your child unsupervised can be a worrying thought, even if it’s only in a different room of the house. However, alone time is an important part of childhood development, helping children feel at ease engaging in activities independently from their parents. Whether you are looking to encourage independent play outdoors, or are beginning to introduce it in your own home first, there are a number of different benefits offered by this type of play, and numerous different ways that it can be encouraged.
Before we talk about the different ways you can encourage independent day in your child, let’s look at some of the benefits this form of play offers, aside from fostering a sense of independence. An important benefit of independent play is getting children ready for school and the idea of playing by themselves, and with others, without you around. Independent play also allows children to grow their imagination by creating their own little world, whether that is by drawing or playing with toys.
When it comes to encouraging independent play outdoors, nothing beats the humble playground. Building social skills and supporting physical development, playgrounds have an incredibly important role in the development of children far beyond independent play.
The right playground equipment will help children improve areas of physical development such as balance and coordination. While they are busy climbing and having fun they become more confident in their ability to navigate these physical challenges without the help of a parent.
Playground equipment offers a wide range of stimulating physical development opportunities such as climbing frames, slides, and swings, allowing children to master a range of skills and strengthen their muscles. As their coordination strengthens, so will their confidence in their own abilities, further encouraging independent play while still being close enough to be supervised by parents, giving you peace of mind.
Another great way of encouraging independent play outdoors is imaginative play. Encouraging children to make up their own games helps them to develop the confidence and social skills necessary to interact with others and explore their environment.
With so many technological distractions in the home, independent time for children can often be wasted with screen time rather than active play. However, there are many indoor activities that can encourage children to become more independent, while keeping them actively entertained.
Vital for establishing a sense of agency, and giving parents some much needed free time, independent play indoors can involve anything from imaginative play to art and craft activities. For younger children, set up a safe play space by childproofing an area so they can be left alone without being in any danger. Once you have created a safe play area, fill it with plenty of age-appropriate activities such as puzzles and colouring supplies. It’s important that you don’t include anything too difficult as this could reinforce the idea that your child still requires parental help in order to play and complete these activities.
If you are finding it difficult to establish independent play time indoors, then start by introducing parallel play where you carry out similar activities alongside your child. For example, while they are colouring, you could be putting together a shopping list or completing separate puzzles side by side. Children naturally mimic the behaviours they see in adults and this kind of parallel play slowly eases them into learning how to play without constant attention or interaction from an adult.
However you choose to encourage independent play, the earlier you start to do so the easier you will find it to get your child in the habit of having fun and entertaining themselves.
** This is a guest post **