How To Get Your Child To Play Independently
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How to get your child to play independently is something that many a parent has wondered.
Some children are born with the ability to entertain themselves for hours, while others require a little more encouragement. 🙂
That’s where independent playtime comes in.
It is without a doubt one of my favourite parenting tools.
If you’re wondering how to foster a love of independent play in your child, then watch the video above for my steps on how to implement it.
If reading is more your thing…keep scrolling.
*this post contains affiliate links
I’ve listed the most important points in detail, but for an easy reference guide scroll to the bottom of this post for a free printable download.
1) The Right Time of Day
Choosing the right time of day will go a long way towards a successful independent playtime.
Think about it, you want your child to be well-rested, well-fed, and in the optimal mood to be content to play by themselves.
Although I know that some moms do, I’ve personally never had my kids do their independent playtime in the afternoon.
That time of day is a typical fussy period for my kids and never really seemed successful for us.
Instead, ours is worked into the morning.
When my babies are younger it’s usually after their first nap and after they’ve been fed.
Once my kids drop their morning nap, I replace that time with independent play. That way I get a chance to shower and get ready in the morning in peace.
Read more about my routine here –> How To Have A Balanced + Productive Routine As A SAHM
Ultimately, you know your child and their temperament best. Figure out when they are their most content and try an independent playtime session then.
Another thing to take note of is not to plan independent playtime too close to nap time or you’ll risk your baby/toddler falling asleep.
My youngest was particularly susceptible to this!
2) The Right Location
This is a super important point!
Making sure that you set things up in the right location really can make or break whether your child is happy to play independently.
First of all, your child needs to be in a place where they can not see you.
They may find this difficult initially, but they will adjust. One of the great benefits of introducing independent playtime is that you can work on things like separation anxiety in the comfort and security of your own home.
If you’ve been a mother for any length of time, then you’ll likely concur that most children happily play on their own until you come into sight.
Once mom is spotted, the games up!
So, find somewhere that your child can play safely and won’t be able to see you.
When my babies are little we use the crib.
Once we move them out of the crib, we transition to either their bedroom or the playroom.
You can read more about how we transitioned our kids into beds here –> How To Transition Your Kid Into A Big Bed Super Early
I know that some people have a concern about cribs being associated with playtime and therefore inhibiting sleep.
Personally, that has never been an issue for us.
Playtime looks very different to naptime in both light, sound, and setting.
The second point you need to keep in mind is safety.
This is especially true if your child isn’t having their playtime in a crib or playpen.
Make sure that furniture is bolted to the wall, outlets are covered, loose cords are secured, windows are latched, and ideally, you are able to monitor them in some way.
We have used video monitors from day dot, and find have found them to be a great parenting asset!
3) The Right Length of Time
You might be wondering what times are appropriate for your child.
In all honesty, it really is very individual, but here are some times just for frame of reference.
I’m putting the newborn time down, just in case anyone wants to implement it formally, but in all fairness in those early months, ‘independent playtime’ was usually a case of me needing to use the bathroom or get in the laundry.
Hence, the baby was put on a playmat for a couple minutes. 😉
Babies who can roll:
10-15mins (once or twice a day)
Independently sitting babies:
15mins (once or twice a day)
15-30mins (at least once a day)
For the walking baby/toddler:
This is where it is very much up to your intuition.
You could do 30mins twice a day or 60mins once a day.
As stated in the video, Jack does 1hr 15mins of Independent Playtime every morning.
There is no right or wrong so long as it is working well for you and your child.
Again, these are just to give you an idea, you are the parent so you get to decide what is right for your family. 🙂
4) The Right Toys
Choosing the right toys for your child to have during independent playtime will really help to make it a success.
You don’t want too few or too many.
It’s a good idea to give them a variety of different kinds of toys.
And then you want to make sure that the toys that you give them are age-appropriate. If they’re too advanced your child will end up frustrated. If they’re too young for them then your child will get bored.
Below are some helpful toy ideas to get you started!
As far as toys go, I like to keep it simple. I want to allow my children to have fun while exercising their imaginations at the same time. Below are some toy ideas for different ages:
Really, you don’t want to overstimulate a newborn.
Therefore, it is wise to keep it simple. We have loved having a play gym for both our children at this age. Propping up board books for them to look at is also a great idea.
You could even incorporate tummy time. 🙂
By this stage babies usually enjoy things that have texture. I love taggie toys for this reason.
I also like clip-on toys that can be attached to the crib. My kiddos both liked to reach and pull on things. 🙂
This is where we are currently at with Annie. She is a huge fan of anything that crinkles, rattles, or essentially makes some kind of noise. She’s also fascinated with balls because she can roll them away from her then chase after them.
The choices are pretty much endless when you reach the toddler stage. Toys will vary hugely due to every child being so different.
Jack loves his trucks and tractors as well as his soft toys.
Sometimes he has spent the entire time playing with an empty container. Lately, he has been ‘mixing’ things up in a box. I’m strongly considering getting the kids a play kitchen in the near future.
There is one in our church creche, and he spends the entire time playing with it every week.
5) The Right Atmosphere
Lastly, you need to focus on creating the right atmosphere.
As I said previously, having independent playtime in their cribs has never been an issue for my kids because we set up the atmosphere very different from that of sleep times.
Wherever your child has their playtime you want it to be light and bright (so, nothing like sleep times!). We also always have music playing.
And lastly, it is SO important to make sure you set up a timer for however long you decide is appropriate for your child.
This serves to teach your child that playtime is over when the timer goes off and not just because they’re protesting.
I get that there is quite a bit of information in this post, therefore I’ve created a free printable for you to be able to print out and refer to. 🙂
That about sums it up. As always, if you have questions for me, feel free to leave a comment down below or send me an email. I’ll be more than happy to hear from you.
Until next time!
Hi! I’m Christine. I am a former registered nurse, turned stay-at-home mom, turned work-at-home mom!
Motherhood has always been my passion and blogging has only added to that and given me a creative outlet to share about the things I love.
As my blog has grown, my desire to share the knowledge of what makes my life less stressful, simplified, and more fulfilled has become one of my driving forces.
I have a heart for mothers that feel as though they are just existing from day to day and are longing for more. You can find out more about me and my family over on my ‘About Me‘ page.
As well as the abundance of posts you’ll find on my blog, you can also find me over at Today Parenting.