Tuesday, September 2, 2014

5 Ways to Encourage Independent Play in Childhood

Independent play is a normal part of childhood seen in the early stages of development.  This type of play is extremely valuable in the busy world of school, practice, church, and responsibilities of parents. When children are able to develop this skill and enjoy time alone, the benefits can last a lifetime.

Here are 5 ways to encourage independent play:  

1. Provide toys that fight for imagination
Toys that do not talk or lead the child in a particular direction allow their imagination to flow freely and encourage creativity instead of direction and regulation.  When a child is encouraged to use their imagination, he's options in play are endless and allow independent play to be much easier and much more enjoyable.

2. Don't overstimulate with to many choices
With to many choices, children may become overstimulated and be unable to focus long enough on one idea or experience.  With a few options of toys that can be used multiple ways, children have space to create and are more likely to feel empowered in their creative process.  Some examples include:  blocks, a house, figurines or supplies for dress-up.

3. Be available
By not jumping in or assuming the child needs a companion to play, but still being available as needed puts the child in charge of his play.  Child-directed play is essential to building a trusting relationship and creates a safe place for indepentant play as desired.

4. Never do for a child what he can do for himself
Adults are quick to rescue a child or make assumptions during play.  This is not only stifles the child's creativity, but also teaches him that he must rely on an adult instead of working his own brain muscle. 

5.  Trust the process
Some adults are very uncomfortable with children playing alone.  Society today forces entertainment on children and adults alike.  Instead of creating our own adventure, we can rely on a new movie or video game to stimulate our mind.  Children do not need help playing and are actually able to use play as a tool for learning about the world around them.  It is not until they are taught boredeom and reliance that they experience it.

Photo Credit:  DMS Photography

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