There's no question—children need a huge amount of time and attention, in particular when they're young. But as your little one grows, there's a lot to be said for encouraging independent play. When children play on their own, they take risks, use their imagination, and become comfortable with themselves. And, as a special bonus, you'll get a few minutes to yourself! Here's how to encourage independent play in your children.
The most important thing to remember is that your child's ability to entertain herself will vary according to age. A one year old, for instance, may play independently for three to five minutes, then need some attention from mom. At this stage, it's important to help her build interest by providing developmentally appropriate toys. Get her excited about playing with different shapes and colors! By the time she reaches three years of age, she'll be able to self-direct for much longer..up to thirty minutes or so.
From the time your little one is, well...little, get her involved in everyday household tasks. You can easily water the flowers, wipe off dust, fold or hang clothes together—she'll start to transfer these chores into little games for herself. A sponge can become a tiny boat, a plastic bowl turns into a silly helmet. When you're cooking, give her a few pots and wooden spoons, and let her go to town.
One young mother, who is also a freelance writer on the Online Writers Rating review website, says that she began to involve her child in cooking right after he learned to sit confidently. This very quickly turned into an exciting game that lasted a year and a half—as soon as she went to the kitchen, her son would follow her and independently take small pots, lids, and spoons to play with on his own.
Children love to imitate adults. And what could be better than getting an "adult task"? For instance, let's say you need 45 minutes to make dinner (and don't want to resort to tv of the tablet for your little one). Give her cardboard, crayons, and stickers, and ask her to make a birthday card for a friend. You'll be surprised how motivated children are when they have a specific goal. Or, if your child does not yet know how to draw, but knows the colors, ask her to fold multi-colored socks in pairs.
Children don't need as much control as we think they do. When it comes to safety, of course, we need to be on top of our kids. But in terms of actual playing, we don't really need to direct things. Children are innately creative, and they can invent their own rules (without adult intervention). Don't limit the course of her games by imposing your restrictions.
Encourage your child's imagination by taking her to the aquarium, workshops, museums and art studios. If you're watching TV, choose programs that feature different professions and activities (for instance, the cartoon 'Paw Patrol' includes firefighter, pilot, and builder characters). These experiences will help her develop creativity in the everyday, and inspire her to try something new. Don't be surprised if you see her using a recycled box to build an airplane or space ship. The sky's the limit when you're a kid!