Why Playing Alone Is Good For Your Child's Development
It can be pretty difficult to pull your toddler away from you – for some parents and their kids, it’s like there’s an invisible, gluey tether that keeps you together! But when our kids play alone, it grooms them into becoming well-rounded individuals who can feel comfortable and happy in small or large groups, or even alone.
Parents who try to enhance their kid’s development by constantly taking the lead with activities may actually be doing more harm than good through too much involvement. By doing so, we take away their opportunity to explore on their own, and to build up their own sense of self.
Solo play encourages the growth of independence, as they rely less on others for their own happiness and entertainment. The benefits will come down the line, when they’re older – they’ll understand that they won’t always have someone by their side all the time, and with that understanding, they’ll be more self-reliant and confident individuals.
How Do We Encourage Solo Play?
Some children are a bit more reluctant to play by themselves, but we can always take some steps to inspire that solo play! Give them a basket of toys and safe objects that they like and will spark some imagination (don’t look down on the power of their imagination! A simple egg beater/whisk can become a magic wand, a lightsaber, a drumstick, a guitar, or whatever else your little one believes it to be!), and maybe throw in some simple accessories like a hat or sunglasses.
Giving them a book that they like can kick-start their imagination, and when starting out, you can sit down with them to explore the items, before leaving them to their imagination and discoveries as they start to get more engaged.
Pay attention to the activities that your child shows interest in, and you can tweak the items you hand to them – maybe they’re interested in drawing (not on the walls, please…), so you can give them some paper and washable markers, or perhaps they’re more interested in having tea parties with their dolls and plushies, or even an open world where their toys can come to life and have adventures in their own miniature world.
Find out how to encourage solo playtime on page 2...
Being Comfortable By Yourself
You can stay within the same room as them in order to occasionally comment on what they’re doing – providing feedback and praise when they engage you – but try to be doing an activity of your own, whether it’s reading a book or folding the laundry. Doing this is good for two reasons: you’re providing them with some limited connection, and you’re showing them that doing your own thing is good and that you don’t need the attention of someone else 100% of the time to be happy.
Build a daily routine for them to have their solo playtime – maybe after they’ve eaten lunch or dinner, or after their bath. Over the following days or weeks, increase your physical and mental distance, but never leave them unattended.
Because much like how their imaginations can surprise us, they can surprise us in other heart-stopping ways; when I was a toddler who’d just learnt of the startling revelation of climbing, I broke free of my cot and was falling headfirst down to the ground. But thanks to the quick reaction of my granny, who kicked a cushion under me in a split second, I came out giggling and unscathed. My parents aptly raised the height of the cot’s walls after that incident.
In conclusion, parents should always keep in mind that progress will be uneven and dependent on their child’s moods. They may be happily going about their playtime one day, but will refuse an encore performance another day. But, we just need to keep providing them those opportunities to play on their own, and before we know it, we may even enjoy a WHOLE, UNINTERRUPTED 10 MINUTES to ourselves!
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