Independent play - the key to early learning
Does your child find it easy to play alone?
Can she make her own fun?
Or does she rely on your guidance and companionship?
Learning to play independently is a crucial milestone in your child’s development. A child who constantly looks for support and reassurance can only progress so far.
We want creative self starters who drive their own learning through games and investigations.
It’s also nice to get a few minutes to yourself in the middle of a busy day.
The importance of independent play for children
Independent play is child led. It encourages children to explore their interests and presents them with novel challenges. The confidence they gain from thinking through problems and finding solutions drives yet more learning.
Through independent play, children are given the opportunity to direct their own activity, giving them an exploratory space in which they can test out concepts that interest them. These experiences equip them with the knowledge and understanding needed to approach new tasks with greater confidence and enthusiasm. By building these essential life skills during independent playtime, children have the wherewithal to become successful learners throughout their educational journey.
Some of the many benefits of independent play include:
- Self-regulation: Independent play helps children develop the ability to regulate their own behaviour and emotions. By engaging in independent play, children learn to manage their own time, attention, and impulses, which are important skills for success in school and beyond.
- Creativity and imagination: Independent play allows children to explore their own interests and imagination. Children who engage in independent play are more likely to develop their creativity and problem-solving skills, as they are not limited by adult guidance or direction.
- Self-esteem: Independent play can help children develop a sense of mastery and accomplishment, which can boost their self-esteem and confidence. Children who engage in independent play are more likely to take risks, try new things, and feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments.
How to encourage independent play
Preparing for independent play is surprisingly simple - if not easy. If your child is used to spending time with your - or on screens - there will be protests. Getting comfortable with boredom takes time.
Encouraging independent play in children can help them develop a range of skills, including self-regulation, creativity, and problem-solving. Here are some strategies for encouraging independent play in your child:
- Provide a designated play space: Set up a designated play space for your child, where they can access toys and materials and feel comfortable exploring and playing independently.
- Rotate toys: Provide a variety of toys and materials, and rotate them regularly to keep your child interested and engaged.
- Model independent play: Model independent play for your child by engaging in your own activities while your child plays nearby. This can help your child learn to play independently and feel comfortable exploring and experimenting on their own.
- Provide open-ended toys: Provide toys that can be used in a variety of ways, such as blocks or art materials. This can encourage your child to use their imagination and creativity to explore and experiment on their own.
- Offer prompts and suggestions: Provide prompts or suggestions for play ideas that your child can explore on their own. These are known as invitations to play.
- Gradually increase playtime: Start with short periods of independent play and gradually increase the time as your child becomes more comfortable and confident in her independent play.
- Provide positive feedback: Provide positive feedback and praise when your child engages in independent play, and celebrate her successes and accomplishments.
Creating a space for independent play
When setting up a space for independent play, it is important to create an environment which is both calming and quiet. A child's bedroom or a designated playroom are ideal spaces to help children practice their independent thinking skills.
When furnishing the area with toys, the key is to make sure the space is clutter-free and well organized. This will allow children to find their toys quickly, so that they can get back to playing independently with minimal disruption. Storing toys in containers or baskets make them easier to find, while clear boxes help children remember where each toy goes when it’s time for clean-up. You could also encourage children to keep their favourite toys easily accessible by using hanging organizers or shelves.
By creating a comfortable and inviting space, you're helping your child become independent thinkers who are motivated to explore their interests. With the right environment in place, they will have an enjoyable space to play independently!
Choose a space for independent play that doesn't have to be tidied at the end of the day.
Children like to leave their constructions and small world scenes out so that they can return to them later.
The best toys for independent play
- Wooden train set
- Doll’s house
- Play kitchen
- Wooden animals
- Wooden blocks
- Walkers, trolleys and baskets.
Increase the play potential by keeping the craft trolley handy - nothing kills inspiration faster than having to hunt for the resources you need. With just paper, pencils and sellotape you can extend your play in all kinds of interesting ways. Design tickets for your train passengers and make signs for the station. Draw a map to the treasure or a menu for your restaurant. Children don’t need fancy materials. A few basics and the time and space to experiment and explore is plenty.
The key to helping your child develop independent thinking skills is to provide them with a comfortable, clutter-free and engaging space for independent play. A combination of toys such as wooden blocks, dolls houses and craft materials can help foster creativity, problem solving skills and physical activity in toddlers. With the right environment in place, you're giving your children an opportunity to explore their interests independently while gaining valuable life lessons along the way! Don't forget that positive reinforcement plays an important role too - always show appreciation when they demonstrate independence during their playtime.