How To Encourage Independent Play in Babies and Toddlers
Parents everywhere may find it hard to encourage their children to play on their own when they’re older, but if they start sooner, kids end up becoming more independent. Starting as infants, children learn to grab, reach, and move their muscles to explore the big people world. Find out how to encourage independent play in babies and toddlers and the best toys to buy.
What’s Independent Play?
While children are encouraged to learn independently in school, they are inspired to do the same with playtime. As a parent, you need a guide to help you motivate your children to play alone, even while you’re busy.
It might seem scary at first to let your child entertain themselves for a few minutes, but it’s actually perfectly normal, and you’re OK to do this! However, keep a baby monitor nearby so you can hear them, and stay in the next room.
Why Is Independent Play Important?
A child playing by themselves helps them grow and discover what toys they like best, but also develops essential skills, such as taking turns and problem-solving. Also, they learn imaginary play. Imaginary play develops story-telling skills and allows a child to be creative with what games they play.
Additionally, it’s essential for children to learn about boundaries; as you get back to your daily routine, children know that it’s time for alone time. Alone time is great for both parent and child as they learn independence.
How To Foster Independent Play
Fostering independent play is essential to a child’s development. They learn that being independent and having alone time is beneficial for themselves as they can dive into their favorite games to play, discover hobbies, and develop their skills more.
Also, it’s a great thing for parents to have their own me-time as well, and children do learn to respect that as they grow. Find out more about developing independent play in kids below.
Teach Them How To Play
The first thing that helps is teaching kids how to play. It seems strange to instruct kids how to play on their own, but once they get the hang of it the first few times, they’ll start to enjoy it. First, give your child time to cope with the concept of playing without you. Then, teach them games and toys they can play with, like dolls, blocks, and more.
Give Them Age-Appropriate Toys
It is recommended that you give your child appropriate toys; since infants and toddlers are still small, it’s best to provide them with silicone toys as it’s not made from harmful chemicals, and the toys don’t have choking hazards.
Mix Up the Location
Even when working in one room could grow dull, playing in the same environment every day gets boring. If you need to clean up the living room one day, have your child play there, and then the next day, set them up in their bedroom while you sort their clothes and make their bed.
Give Them Your Undivided Attention
Children get excited when they do something on their own so much, they stop what they’re doing to grab your attention. When this does happen, make sure to pay attention. Even if it’s not to show you something they did, you should still give them your full attention. The more interest you give, the more willing they are to play by themselves throughout the day.
Create Time Limits
Every parent needs time to get tasks done throughout the day. Toddlers and babies don’t understand the time limit system that well, but it’s your time to teach. So, for babies, when they need attention, try stepping out of their line of sight and peak behind the corner a few times to let them know you’re still there.
As for a toddler, you can talk to them and set a timer for a few minutes so you can do a chore and they play by themselves. The more often you use timers, the more willing a toddler would be alone. Once the timer goes off, return to your child and continue playing.
Make Playing a Routine
One of the better ways to continue encouraging toddlers and infants to independently play is by making it a habit. Habits form into a routine that makes sense for your child. They are more willing to negotiate how playtime goes day-to-day by sticking to a schedule.
Different Toys for Infants and Toddlers To Play With
While kids learn to play on their own, it’s a good idea to start thinking about the best toys to buy for your infant or toddler. We have provided a list of toys for each age group.
Toys for Infants
An infant likes looking around at anyone that moves. At the newborn stage, and up to six months, babies like looking at faces and bright colors. They’re often keen to observe behaviors and actions, while also wondering why their feet and hands move the way they do.
At about 7 to 12 months, babies are on their bellies, moving and wiggling around wherever and whenever possible. At this age, you can buy toys that are soft and non-breakable.
Toys you can consider buying for 7 to 12-month-olds:
- Wooden cars
- Soft foam blocks
Once a baby reaches one, their world opens a little more, with toys that are soft and washable. At this point, they may like books with songs or prefer phones that mimic real ones. Babies learn imaginative play at this age.
Some toys to think about for a 1-year-old:
- Toy phone
- Illustration books
Best Toys for Toddlers
Toddlers are curious observers and players. They find joy in anything they do, and they learn quite a few life lessons at this time. At about the age of 2, kids test their boundaries and learn to problem-solve.
Here are toys 2-year-olds will love:
- Picture books
- Crayons and paper pads
- Larger toys
Between 3 and 6 years old, children are ready for kindergarten and preschool. At this age, they’re learning more about the world around them, while also doing the most through play. Take the time to offer educational toys for your kids to play with; everything from toy animals to memory card games, these games add more engagement for children to do on their own and with groups.
Encourage playtime in children every day; independent play teaches children how to discover what toys they love most and learn to enjoy “me” time. Come play along with Safari Ltd., as we offer incredible selections of educational toys for all kids of all ages to enjoy.