Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to Help Your Kids Play Independently

I love having my little Miss Sweetie Pie & Baby Handsome around,
but sometimes it is nice to let them play independently.
It's good for them, and good for me!

It could sound like a pie in the sky,
but there are actual things that you can do to
Train them to play by themselves.
It's true! (Would I lie to you?)

Step One: Teach them how to play with their own toys.
Sometimes it can be frustrating, (like after a birthday, or Christmas.) when you feel like your kids have a million toys,
but they still don't know how to play by themselves.

So you have to sit down and show them the fun things they can do with their toys.  Don't be afraid to tie their old favorites in with new toys.  Like in this picture, baby H. is exploring his trains, but I also gave him a block which he could use as a slide for his trains. I sat and played with him for 20-30 minutes.

Think of training them as an investment. It takes some of your time to sit and play with them, but it is so enriching for them, and they will eventually learn how to play alone!

Step Two: Walk away.
After you have showed them how to play with their toys, during the next playing session (on a subsequent day) let them play alone.
If your children are really dependent on you for entertainment, this step will take some time.  
You might try setting a timer and giving them a goal of five minutes of playtime. Then each subsequent play session extend that time, so they can eventually play alone for at least 20 min.

You might have to tiptoe {or silently crawl} out of the room,
but eventually they will be able to play independently.  You can start playing with them, and when they are absorbed in their toys, walk away!

I tried this with Miss Sweetie when she was about 9 mo. old.
She was mad when I left the room,
but she started to play with her farm animals,
and eventually I could walk in and out of a room and I would hear her gibber jabber talking with her animals.

Step Three: Set Up Regions of Play.
It is okay for children to play in their room, or downstairs, and be limited to that area.
Did your mother ever say to you "play downstairs or outside!"
Mine did, and being restricted to those areas gave our imaginations flight. We would make whole villages outside with sticks and water an mud. 

Setting regions can encourage children to think outside the box,
and be more creative.  Rather than having the whole house be open game all of the time, it also trains them to focus on the things in that room.  Great for lengthening attention span.

Step Four: Also let them have free time.
Where they can pick any toy anywhere in the house. That way they will know that although they are restricted for a few minutes, later on they are free to play anywhere (within your house rule's limits).

Other Ideas:
Play music while your child is playing alone.  This lengthens their playing time and stimulates their brain.

Rotate toys. If your children start to get bored of their old toys, try swapping them with toys in other areas of your house.

Use a schedule.

This really helped my little girl when I quit teaching school, and she quit going to daycare. 

 Using cards made her feel like I wasn't just making it up as I go.  It was as if the cards had their own authority.  "Well, I know you want to watch T.V.  right now, but the cards said that it's time to go to the grocery store."  I just flipped through them like flash cards each morning, but you could have them in pocket chart too. I bought these word strip cards at All a Dollar.

1 comment:

Thanks for your great comments!