Encouraging Independent Play
Helping Your Little One Play Without You
It almost goes without saying that play is one of the best parts of childhood for most little ones, and for a while, it’s important that you engage with your little one when they play! However, as they get older and prepare to begin their , it’s also your job as a Montessori parent to encourage independent play. Play is one of the most important parts of childhood, and can be really crucial in developing skills that they will use later on in life! Studies say that play will dramatically improve those skills, or may actually be the only proper place to develop those skills. Additionally, play also gives parents a brief amount of time to themselves. Being an adult is hard work, and by allowing kids to play on their own, you also get time back to yourselves to do the work you need to do as a busy Montessori parent!
Understanding Independent Play
So what exactly is independent play? To be honest, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like! Independent play means that your little one is playing without a parent’s aid at all! This doesn’t necessarily include other little ones, such as siblings and friends, though–it just means that it’s relatively unsupervised by an adult. It can start from as early as birth, and go on through your child’s introduction into early childhood education. It is never too early for your little one to start learning how to entertain themselves.
Now that you know what it is, it’s important to learn how you can best structure time for independent play. We understand that most are busy, but once you understand what you can do to encourage this independent play, your child will thrive as a result, and you will also be able to take an amount of time back to yourself. Start with these five tips, and build from there:
1. Set a Play Routine:
You may think at first that this seems counterintuitive. A routine for play? Don’t worry, though, there’s actually a good reason behind setting aside time specifically for play! We all like routines, and a routine will help both you as a Montessori parent as well as prepare your little one for early childhood education settings where they’ll have to follow routines. Additionally, it can be good to build in time that’s specific to play so it can become an activity that your little one can look forward to, instead of a random “just go play” mentality that may not compel them as much.
2. Start with Small Play Goals:
We all know how it feels to be told to try something new in a way that feels overwhelming. If you push for too much independent play too quickly, your little one will most likely feel the same way! By starting small, you’re helping your little one build up their ability to play over time, which creates a steadier foundation for them to really enjoy independent play. Five minutes of independent play is a good place to start–inform them that you will be busy for five minutes and let them play on their own.
3. Don’t Interrupt:
When you’re successfully on their own, it can be tough to leave them alone. You want to praise them and ask about their play, which is totally normal. However, to do so would interrupt their progress, which breaks their concentration and may actually frustrate them. Instead, we suggest you hang back until playtime is up. After that, feel free to praise them for their great play and ask lots of questions about how your little one spent their time!
4. Stay Strong:
Setting boundaries with little ones can be challenging! It feels harsh or hurtful to tell your little one “no” when you do not want to play or have set aside time for yourself. However, it’s actually really important for both you and them to keep those boundaries firm. Montessori parents have a lot on their plate, and by keeping your boundaries strong, you’re helping yourself as well as reminding your little one that in early childhood education they will not always be able to rely on you for engagement! If your little one would rather be around you while you perform tasks than play, that is their choice–just make sure to stick with yours. You can also move their play in closer to you, if that makes them feel more connected to you, so long as they understand that it will only be them playing.
5. Explore Other Methods of Connection:
There are worlds of other activities which you can perform with your little one that aren’t specifically play! Books, puzzles, games, walks and even basic conversations are all amazing ways to connect with your little one while still honoring their independent playtime.
6. Do a Toy Refresher:
Toys are important tools for your little one’s play, and as a result, it’s really important to be constantly refreshing your little one’s toy selection. This doesn’t have to mean purchasing new toys, but can be clearing out broken toys, making sure old toys are still visible and removing toys that are no longer age appropriate.
Early Childhood Education
Trying to balance being a Montessori parent with your own life can be tough, but encouraging independent play is a great way to prepare your little one for their early childhood education experience! Try Our Online Preschool for FREE! Playgarden Prep offers numerous educational videos from real teachers, and numerous DIY projects that support early learning and development.
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Hi, I'm Miss Charlotte!
Miss Charlotte is an Education Director by trade, and a mom by heart. All 200+ of our DIY projects were created by Miss Charlotte, with the help of her expert DIY assistant—Her 4 year old daughter! With a MST degree in Early Childhood Education and 15 years of teaching experience, her blogs and DIY projects have been an incredible resource for our Playgarden Prep schools. We hope that your family loves them as much as we do!