November 16, 2020

How to Encourage Independent Play with Kids

Tips for encouraging independent play with kids so their imaginations grow, and simple ideas of things kids can do to entertain themselves.

This post was sponsored by Spin Master as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

We are doing online school at home for my 1st grader Adalyn (which requires a lot of parental involvement), I work from home, I am homeschooling Oliver for preschool and Lily is dumping out every bowl of dog water she can find. Life is busy so encouraging my kids to play independently is more important than ever. Oliver is obsessed with his new PAW Patrol toy and plays independently with it for a long time which I am going to share more about.

How to Encourage Independent Play

1. Have your play area organized

I'm not sure why this matters SO much but for my kids, I notice that they won't play very independently in our toy room unless it is clean. My husband and I try to take 5-10 minutes each evening to straighten it out and then in the morning, our 3 and 1-year-old kids play in the playroom so much more than if it was messy. I don't love a mess and I guess neither do they!

2. Have toys with multiple uses 

Oh my goodness, my son is so obsessed with the PAW Patrol Chase’s 5-in-1 Ultimate Cruiser. It is so much fun and to be honest, I have been having fun playing with it too (kind of goes against the whole independent play idea)! With 5 different actual uses for this toy, Oliver has been playing with it for an hour at a time which is awesome independent play. The helicopter spins and raises on the platform and Oliver loves pretend flying it in the air. This is definitely our favorite feature! It looks so cool. The different police vehicles are so much fun for him to drive around on the ground or window sills and race. 

Now, we have to add the other PAW Patrol characters to our Christmas list to go along with Chase, who comes with this set. The set will fit all 6 pups from PAW Patrol. It comes with a cruiser, 2 motorcycles, a boat and a helicopter. They are so much fun. The motorcycles can be sent out riding by putting them on the sides of the cruiser and pushing a button. There are lights and police sounds which of course any kid would love!

When I gave Oliver this toy, he was pretty much screaming in excitement and was like "PAW Patrol!!!!!". I think that this would make an amazing gift from Santa! You can buy this PAW Patrol toy on Amazon.

3. Have simple art they can do

Coloring books, play dough, crayons, markers, dot dot markers, etc. go a long way. My kids love coloring and doing simple art projects. I keep this at their level so they can grab it when they want. I'm not talking about a messy paint project that they're going to get all over the table and themselves that has you cleaning for 1/2 an hour! Keep it simple and low-mess and kids will enjoy spending time working on an art project.

4. Build up gradually

My kids started bit by bit playing on their own. Adalyn, as the first child, relied more on Troy and I for entertainment. Oliver saw me doing other things such as helping his sister, or working, and learned bit by bit to play independently. Same with Lily. With lots of responsibility, I cannot play one-on-one with my kids all through the day. Of course we have lots of time like this in the afternoons and evenings, but during school time, it can't be like that. Giving kids small bits of time to play independently and then gradually increasing that time is the way to go.

5. Swap out toys and books

Something we started doing this summer to keep our playroom more organized was swapping out books and toys. Things that weren't being played with all the time were either sold, donated or put away for another time. I have two large boxes of books that I will swap out soon with the books currently on the shelves to keep things interesting. You don't need to own 10,000 toys and books for kids to enjoy them. Just keep them out of sight for awhile and then, when you bring them back out, the kids may be excited to see them again and will want to play with them.

6. Let them be

Part of the "problem" we as parents have is thinking that we constantly need to entertain our kids. We don't. Kids learn by not having specific things to do. Let your kids explore and create on their own. This builds so much imagination and creativity. If they are focused, working, or playing with something, leave them alone. It's all part of learning!

I hope you enjoyed these tips that are working for us for encouraging my kids to play independently. 

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