We often hear parents say that their children can’t entertain themselves. Children who can’t play by themselves miss out on learning new independent skills and their carer’s have no time to do what they need to. Play is vital to children’s learning and playing independently develops imagination, social skills and self-confidence. Play can look conventional, (e.g. building lego, painting or jumping on the bed) or unconventional where children explore the objects and environments around them. This could look like unpacking and repacking kitchen cupboards, moving the furniture around or playing with zips and fasteners. All types of play are beneficial to children. To develop new skills, children need to learn to sometimes play by themselves.
Learning to play independently is a skill you can help your child develop by:
Firstly, sit with your child and watch them play. Comment on what they’re doing, imitate them and show them their play is fun and interesting. Have fun and play silly with your child!
Then, increase their play repertoire by showing them other ways to play with their toy. Make it fun so they will imitate you or extend your ideas.
Finally, step back and give them space to explore. When you come back to see your child’s play, validate their play efforts by commenting on what they’re doing and imitating them again.
Going through these steps will support your child to explore their play ideas more extensively and play with their toys for longer. Your child will probably teach you a new way to play as well!