When the weekend comes, parents need time to relax, catch up with a friend, work around the house, or simply talk to their partner. They may also need one-to-one time with another child and siblings should learn to respect that.
So, how can you encourage your child to play independently?
Here are some tips that might help:
- Explain to your child what the expectations are. For example, they are expected to play by themselves for 10-30 minutes (depending on age) every day. Ensure that your child knows that this is NOT a punishment but explain to them all the reasons why it is important.
- Set a clock. Set a timer or show your child the clock so they know when they are allowed to stop playing by themselves and to come and show you what they have done (although they are free to keep playing if they prefer!)
- Brainstorm activities. Sit down together and write a list of all the activities they can do by themselves. It could include lego, puzzles, word finds, drawing, playing with dolls or action figures. And it could also include longer projects that can be done in parts, like making a comic book, designing a city, or making birthday cards or books.
- Set the boundaries. Make sure your child understands what they are NOT allowed to do while playing independently. For example, are they allowed to use scissors or glue? Are they allowed to go outside or use the kitchen? If their activity involves something that they are NOT allowed to do independently, either encourage them to choose a different activity or help them with parts of it before they start.
- Praise. When the time limit is up, make sure you turn your full attention back to your child and show some genuine interest in what they have done. Provide lots of positive feedback for playing independently and for the specific activity they have done.
Independent play is especially important when children go back to school, parents go back to work and everyone in the family needs a bit of space to themselves from time-to-time. It can make the start of the school year a little less stressful for everybody too!
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