How to Encourage Your Toddler to Play Independently

Published: 20th March 2009
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Every stage of your child's life presents another little challenge. Firstly we wished they could crawl, then eat solids, then walk, then talk (and then be quiet!) and so on. Each time we think that each new development may make our lives just a little bit easier. In truth, each new stage brings on a whole heap of challenges and rewards.

As a parent there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. Free time or 'me' time is definitely a thing of the past. However, by encouraging your child to play independently you will not only gain some 'me' time, you will also be helping your child's development.

By the age of one most children can entertain themselves for around 20 minutes. However this skill goes relatively unnoticed because we as parents tend to stick to our young like glue at this age. As your child gets older he may lose this skill if you don't back off a bit. Solo play is crucial to any child's development and will make your life easier when it comes to leaving him at the school gates for the first time.

You've heard the phrase "like a child in a sweet shop"? Your toddler is probably surrounded by toys for most of his waking hours. He may just begin to play with something when another toy or game will catch his eye, limiting his attention span. There is simply too much stimulation around him. Try removing some toys and just leaving a few toys within his grasp that he can play with constructively. This could include Lego, building bricks or a toy that he finds stimulating. Get down to his level and actively play with him for a while. Ask him questions about what he is doing, encourage his imagination and try to let him lead, then back off a bit. Don't leave the area, just give him some room. You may have to continue this for quite a few play sessions. There will come a time over the next few play sessions when you can leave him actively engrossed in play, you should still talk to him and ask him questions and remain near.

Once he seems happy with you leaving the area and he knows you are still close by he should begin to play more independently with other toys. If you removed some toys from his play area previously, now is a good time to swap those toys with the toys he has been playing with. This will provide him with some 'new' toys and encourage his imagination once more.

If your child asks to do something - like water play, colouring or drawing and it is safe to do so, let him do it. If he has actually expressed an interest in an activity he is more likely to remain engrossed, giving you some free time.

By encouraging solo play in your child you are firing their imaginations and giving them a gift that will serve them well throughout their life.

Lisa Mills runs a website offering toys and gifts for children. is a site offering children's gift ideas.

toddler on January 27, 2013 said:
Getting your toddler to play independently is trying sometimes, but developing their social skills is really important, nice alleyway thanks for the information.

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