Are you a pro at playing with Duplo and dolls? Are your block-stacking skills superior to that of an engineer? Do you find yourself singing nursery rhymes in the shower? If yes, perhaps it’s time you started thinking about how to get your kid to play alone!
While playing with your child is crucial to facilitate bonding between you both, it’s equally important to teach him how to play alone as this is a vital step to his independence.
By playing alone, your child will develop his imagination, along with self-reliance and faith in his ability to do things independently.
Encouraging your child to play alone teaches her how to be independent.
There are benefits for you too when your child is able to play independently.
You get more time for yourself — even if it’s just to have that well-earned cup of tea — and your child will soon learn there are things you like doing, or must do, without him. It’s also a step toward making your child less clingy.
So how exactly do you encourage your kid to play alone?
You can start helping kids as young as toddlers to play alone. Start by showing him what to do, and then gradually over days and weeks, increase your physical and mental distance. However, do remember to never leave your child unattended.
Show your child what to do and then gradually distance yourself… but never leave him/her unattended.
Guide him at first
Your child may be anxious to play by himself because he doesn’t know what to do. Show your child how to assemble the train track or string beads. Once he or she has got the hang of it, quietly step back and let your kid play alone.
Don’t desert her
If it means she’s going to be isolated from everyone, especially Mummy, your child is not going to be happy playing alone. Whenever possible, try to do your own things, but in each other’s presence.
If you want to have a cup of tea, sit down in the same room as your child, ensuring she has toys to keep her busy.
Or if you want to read, invite your toddler to join you in bed or on the couch, but with her own books. She will love mimicking you too!
Surrounding your kid with too many toys may overwhelm her
Toys – but one at a time please!
If you surround your 18-month-old child with a mountain of toys, he may get overwhelmed and lose interest rapidly. Instead, bring out one or two toys at a time and he is sure to thoroughly enjoy playing with and investigating them one by one.
If you see him losing interest, encourage him by saying something like, “Wow, look at those blocks! Can you pile them one on top of the other?”
For older kids, try things like puzzles and Lego. Some paints and crayons, along with glue, glitter and dry pasta may also work if your child likes arts and crafts like my 4-year-old does.
Hype it up
Cheer her on and tell her she’s doing something grown-up. For example, give her some Play-doh and tell her to, “Make cookies, just like Mummy.”
Or you could hand him the toy vacuum cleaner or broom and encourage him to clean up, just like grown-ups do.
A neat trick if you have a tiled floor is to scatter some dry pasta tubes on the floor and tell him to sweep everything on to one tile — not only is he learning to play by himself, he is also learning how to clean up!
Make it exciting
Set up a tent for your kid. Fill it with a few of her favourite toys and hand her a small torch. Just watch her imagination run riot — it could be a palace, a house or whatever her dear little heart desires!
Set up a ‘toy-testing station’
Place a few toys in one area of the house and ask your child to ‘test’ each toy and come back to you with a report on how great (or not!) each toy is.
If you have some stimulating and interesting toys for him to ‘test’, it’s highly likely he’ll eventually immerse himself in play and forget about the ‘reporting’ part!
Give her options
Tell your child to choose what she would like to do/play with. If you would like her to play alone for an hour, tell her, “You need to play alone for some time. Would you like to paint or would you like to…?”
Parents, do remember that a child’s ability to play alone also depends on his temperament. Also, a hungry, tired or sick child is unlikely to want to play independently, regardless of the toys or activities you offer him.
So have patience and include ‘alone play’ in your child’s daily routine from a young age, and you’ll find that over time, he will develop the ability to play by himself.
How do you encourage your kid to play alone? Let us know by leaving a comment.