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How to Encourage Independent Play (Explained by Montessori School Experts)

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A key component of the Montessori philosophy is to promote independence as it allows your child to feel capable, content and independent.

One of the best ways to encourage independence is through play.

Independent play basically means the ability to play alone. If your child can feel comfortable and confident playing alone, they will feel the same doing other tasks on their own.

Play is not just a random activity for them to pass their time; it allows them to learn, imagine, take chances, make mistakes, and then rectify those mistakes to gain new experiences.

So, if you want your child to grow into an independent person from a young age, start with their play habits. Go through this post to learn how to encourage independent play in children as recommended by experts at our Montessori school in Markham.

Let’s get started.

How to Encourage Independent Play in Kids

Playing with our children is natural for parents, but we can’t always do it. In those situations, you should encourage them to play independently.

Play enhances a child’s brain structure and emphasizes the process of learning. When a child plays alone, it fosters imagination and creative play, builds persistence and problem-solving skills, and teaches patience and resilience.

Independent play is not unsupervised; it is when children play by themselves with a parent nearby. This post can be especially beneficial for parents working from home. As recommended by Markham Montessori school experts, learn how to encourage independent play so that you can maintain a healthy work-life balance while your child enjoys their own playtime.

1. Create a “Yes Space”

The term “yes space” was coined by child education advocate Janet Lansbury. It describes an enclosed area designated specifically for baby where they can play without scooting away, getting hurt, or being told “no.” Here, the purpose is to give your baby the freedom to play and explore things without interruption.

Whether it is your living room or a playroom, arrange a place for your baby where they can safely explore things without getting hurt. Keep anything that is unsafe high up and locked away. As long as your little ones are not causing harm or trouble, they are okay to continue with their independent play.

2. Give Them Appropriate Toys Instead of Electronic Gadgets

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To make parenting ‘easier’, parents may give their child a mobile phone or tablet. But when children get used to the loud and chaotic content of their favourite video game or YouTube gamer, they can develop a shorter attention span. That will eventually impact their ability to focus and concentrate on more active and independent types of play.

So, cut down on their screen time and replace it with more age appropriate toys. If they are too easy, they will get bored; if they are too difficult, they will get frustrated. Different children have different thresholds for challenges. So, plan toys and games to keep your child’s interests in mind. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out this Montessori daycare guide on games that help with their brain development.

For example, you can start with toys that move, like a toy car that engages almost all ages of children. Provide them with enough toys that will help children get deeper into play, play for longer, and form more meaningful bonds with their toys.

2. Make It a Habit to Play

Children love to copy adults. So, just as you have a specific work time, where you have your own personal or professional things to do, plan for playtime with your kids. Initially, this may be problematic for the child to understand, but with regular practice, they will learn to follow it for longer stretches, perceiving it as their ‘me’ time.

Try to make it more realistic and relatable to keep them engaged longer. For instance, if you are cooking, give them a related task to work on nearby, like dropping chopped vegetables into a bowl or mixing ingredients.

Even if you are sitting while your child plays nearby, avoid fixing or correcting their play. Let them take the lead and follow their imagination accordingly. For example, if you are invited to an imaginary tea party or train ride, validate their imagination and help them get lost in a world of imaginative play. The more you reinforce that their imagination is meaningful and fun, the more you will see them start to play on their own.

From birth, kids are accompanied by their parents. However, as they grow, they must learn to do things on their own and be separated from them for longer, especially during school. Independent play can act as an interesting and exciting way to not only get them into the habit of playing alone but also encouraging their creative thinking. Follow these steps to encourage them in independent play, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. Be patient with their progress, and soon both of you will learn how nice a little ‘alone time’ can be.