7 Ways to Encourage Independent Play in Your Child

As an adult you have a job to do, and you take your career very seriously. Now that you are older, you look at your children and wish you had time to play, but you are overlooking something very important.

For children, play is the point. As they learn and grow, the play children engage in is more than mere kid's stuff, and independent play is vital for their normal physical development and emotional well being. One of the best things you can do as a parent is to encourage a love of independent play, and here are seven tips to get you started.

1. Create a safe and fun play space. Whether it is the back yard or the inside of the home, your children need a safe place to play independently. Setting up fun play zones in and around your home can be the key to encouraging independent exploration.

2. Make the play space a screen-free zone. Screen time may be solo time, but it is not really play. If you want to encourage independent play, make the space you create a screen-free zone.  

3. Watch, but don't hover. It is normal to watch over your child, and staying nearby is vital for their safety. Even so, there is a difference between being watchful and simply hovering, and it is important to give your child room to play on their own.  

4. Provide an assortment of age appropriate toys. If you want to encourage independent play in your child, provide them with an assortment of age appropriate toys. Having multiple playthings to choose from can encourage children to make up their own stories and create their own form of entertainment.  

5. Store those toys and let your child choose. Simply choosing a toy can be the start of independent play so put those playthings away and let your child make the choice. Interactive storage solutions can further encourage independence in your child.

6. Don't use play as a punishment. When parents get busy, they may be tempted to tell their kids to "go play", sometimes with a dismissive or irritated tone. Play should never be a punishment, and having fun independently is always something to celebrate.

7. Let your child play. Last but not least, simply let your kid be a kid. Resist the urge to "help", avoid commenting on the play and just sit back, watch and enjoy. Watching your own kids play is a great way to relive your own childhood, so just relax and have fun.

Some child development experts have described play as the work children do, and there is a lot of truth in that description. They may not be earning a paycheck, but your children are learning and growing every day and that includes the time they spend engaged in healthy independent play. The tips listed above can encourage healthy play in your children, and that will be great for everyone involved.

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