play

  • Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play

    Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to cope with stress. All of this translates into an increase in physical and mental health issues, particularly in children.

    What is Risky Play?

    To begin, risky play isn’t synonymous with dangerous play. For many adults, risky play is what we became accustomed to as young people. This was before fear became an all too present element in parenting.

    Remember riding your bike alone or exploring the creek in the neighborhood park? These are normal, everyday activities that children should experience. Today, however, children are experiencing risky play less and less often.

    Some ways you may see kids engaging in risky play are:

    • playing at heights
    • running at high speeds
    • using things in ways that aren’t intended (climbing the couch, going up the slide instead of down)
    • rolling down hills
    • climbing rocks
    • walking on anything that requires balance
    • spinning in circles
    • jumping off anything and everything

    In addition, risky play is often unstructured. This means that the child is free from direct adult supervision. Of course, if you have a young child engaging in risky play, you may still be at the park or in the home nearby, but you are letting them climb, explore, and build without fear or retribution. Risky, unstructured play gives the child a chance to explore, imagine, and self-regulate in a way that structured, adult-initiated play does not.

    Although risky play can happen indoors, so much of positive risky play happens outdoors. In a world dominated by screen time and personal devices, I am a huge advocate of getting our kids outside to experience nature! Rain, snow, or sunshine, outdoor play with risky elements helps children engage in imaginative exploration.

    Research on Risky Play

    Dr. Peter Gray writes in his book Free to Learn, “Over the past 60 years we have witnessed, in our culture, a continuous, gradual, but ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play freely, without adult control, and especially in their opportunities to play in risky ways. Over the same 60 years we have also witnessed a continuous, gradual, but ultimately dramatic increase in all sorts of childhood mental disorders, especially emotional disorders.”

    Gray’s findings come from the study of a school, Sudbury Valley, that focuses on the philosophy of student ownership and community responsibility of learning. Ultimately, the students design their own learning path. Grade levels and formal courses are not part of the Sudbury way. In fact, risky play and exploration is encouraged. Gray sees the result as students that are more resilient, independent, and able to navigate the world after their school years.

    Parental (Over)-Involvement

    Today, parents are often seen hovering over kids at the playground, or even worse, following them up into the playground equipment. Parents aren’t necessarily doing this to play with their child but to make sure they don’t fall or get minor bumps and bruises. “Helicopter parenting” isn’t necessarily new, but it seems like it’s becoming the norm rather than the exception. This also means many children aren’t scaling rocks and climbing trees anymore. They aren’t jumping from heights that are just a little too high. Our kids aren’t taking risks!

    Funny enough, injuries haven’t decreased. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. Why? Children are not testing their bodies enough. They are more likely to get hurt because they are grossly unaware of their physical limits.

    We need to shift our mindset. These are things we should be encouraging our kids to do. Take a breath, step away from the top of the slide, and let them take healthy and age-appropriate risks. As Gray states in his 2014 Psychology Today article, “Play, to be safe, must be free play, not coerced, managed, or pushed by adults.”

    Benefits of Risky Play

    When children are allowed to engage in risky play, it gives them a chance to expand their imagination. For example, building a fort out of couch cushions and furniture that a child may climb over and under can open a world of story-telling, building, and all-over imaginative play!

    The power of play itself simply can’t be disputed. Play is the basis for how young children learn. By encouraging risky, unstructured play, children develop physical and mental skills that build imagination, resilience, and physical endurance.

    Gray also states that risky play allows children to experience a healthy sense of fear. When adults do not allow kids to engage in risky play, they are unable to experience self-regulation and understand what their limits are.

    Besides just being plain fun, risky play gives young people a chance to build resilience, fear, strength (in spirit and physicality), and experience a world of imagination. It’s time for adults to remember what it was like to be young again when risky play was a normal part of our everyday lives! Let your kids play, set some appropriate boundaries, of course, but let go a little bit to let them experience risky play.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • 4 Benefits of Play Dough

    Hi guys! It’s Chelsea, the Founder of The Dough Project, here to talk about the awesome things that come from playing with dough.

    But first, a little bit about me and my background in early childhood education!

    I started The Dough Project as a preschool teacher in NYC. Year after year, making dough was my go-to classroom hack. It was fun and easy to make. Even better, fun and easy to play with, build with, squeeze, smush and share again and again.

    After witnessing the magic that came from playing and creating in my classroom, I knew I needed to make it easier for families to recreate that experience at home.

    The Dough Project creates a world of kid-powered playing with jars of fresh playdough and DIY Mixes that come packed with everything you need to make your own dough at home. We use only all-natural ingredients and color from plant-based sources.

    So, what’s the deal with dough?

    Used on its own, with clay tools or loose parts, dough supports imagination, conversation and growth across developmental domains. When you watch children play with dough, without any agenda of your own, you’ll be amazed.

    At past dough parties, parents would be in awe watching their kids play. We’ve heard a lot of “wow, he’s so into it” and “I’ve never seen her sit this long” in our day.

    4 Benefits of Play Dough

    Speech and language

    Playing with dough facilitates conversation as children narrate their work, problem solve and tell stories. It’s a great way to introduce new vocabulary. Most importantly, it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to listen. Play quietly, they’ll talk to you.  

    Cognitive skills

    As children play and explore with dough, they begin to understand early quantitative concepts, like “a little” and “a lot.” They also begin to learn about geometric shapes, measurements, and balance.

    Fine motor skills

    All that squishing, mushing and rolling strengthens muscles and develops hand-eye coordination. These skills are critical for early writing and self-care, like getting dressed! 

    Self-regulation

    Similar to the relieving effects that come from squeezing a stress ball, playing with dough is great for little ones to calm themselves down, release energy and express emotions.  The sensory experience is grounding and can be very soothing. It’s the perfect way to unwind and reset. 

    And if you still need more convincing after all that, try out our all-natural, non-toxic dough made with just five ingredients!

    Use code PLT10 for 10% off your first order of dough. Then, watch the littles in awe as they play and create a whole new world with dough.

    About The Dough Project

    The Dough Project is on a mission to get both adults and little ones to think outside the jar. Using only all-natural ingredients (things you can find in your own pantry) and color from plant-based sources (like those beets you used in your salad), The Dough Project is obsessed with creating products that are high quality and safe, so kids can explore and play freely.

    The Dough Project believes playtime should be easy, enriching and well, fun. After witnessing the magic that came from playing and creating in her preschool classroom, Founder and CEO Chelsea Milkman wanted to make it easy for families to recreate that experience at home. The Dough Project creates a world of kid-powered playing with jars of fresh playdough and DIY Mixes that come packed with everything you need to make dough at home. So when you open a jar of dough or a box of the DIY Mix, you’ll instantly get inspired by the feeling of endless possibility.

    About Chelsea Milkman, Founder

    As an early childhood educator and Founder and CEO of The Dough Project, Chelsea Milkman is on a mission to make playtime easy, enriching and well, fun!

    Inspired by the values held at the core of her preschool classroom for 10+ years, Chelsea built The Dough Project on the foundational belief that kid-powered playtime is essential for learning and cultivating creativity—both in the classroom and more importantly, at home.

    Using all-natural and plant-based ingredients, The Dough Project encourages process based play through jars of fresh playdough and DIY Kits complete with all the ingredients you need to make dough at home.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • The Environment Shapes Play

    The benefit of an organized play space

    While it may seem counterintuitive to spend time creating an organized and thoughtful play space for kids who seem determined to destroy everything in their path, there is reason to do so.

    Early educators often talk about the environment as “the third teacher.” This just means that our children’s environment has a big impact on their learning and development. The environment shapes how kids play.

    You want to avoid these two mistakes when designing the play and learning environment:

    1. Overloading with toys that leave little to the imagination
    2. Organizing in a way that doesn’t encourage purposeful and independent play

    A poorly planned environment can detract from your child’s learning.

    How does the environment actually teach children?

    Simple.

    Urie Bronfenbrenner, psychologist and founder of the Head Start Program in the U.S., explains that the child impacts the environment.

    Since the child influences the environment they are influenced by the environment. 

    A good learning environment will encourage children to engage in a variety of explorations. These explorations should be based on their individual preferences and needs.

    Creating an amazing play space for your child doesn’t have to be expensive or overly time consuming. And you absolutely don’t need a dedicated playroom to create an environment that invites play. 

    Children need a space that is beautiful, simple, and organized. This is the type of environment that encourages discovery and exploration. It is this curiosity that teaches them the most. 

    We place enormous value on the role of the environment as a motivating and animating force in creating spaces for relations, options and emotional and cognitive situations that produce a sense of well-being and security”

    Malaguzzi, reggio emilia

    Enroll in Purposeful Play Space to transform your space into a place for purposeful and independent play.

    3 Ways to Create an Environment that Supports Development

    Incorporate a variety of sensory experiences.

    Make sure you provide toys and other activities that give your child many sensory opportunities. You want them to be able to touch, smell, and hear in a variety of ways.

    You can provide musical instruments, or something as simple as pots and pans to bang. Wooden blocks and blocks or building materials with different textures are a great addition.

    You can create a sensory bin filled with rice, sand, or water. Sensory bins are a simple way to introduce a variety of textures to your little ones.

    Create a space that supports the specific preferences of the children in that particular environment.

    Think about what makes your child tick. What types of activities do they gravitate towards? Try to provide toys and experiences that help support those specific interests and consider how you can expand on those interests.

    Make sure the environment is rich in content.

    This means having a variety of different types of reading materials available. Make trips to the library to bring home books about a wide range of topics.

    Read out loud and listen to audiobooks. Encourage your children to ask questions and help them find answers.

    It’s important to understand that a children’s environment should be a place that sparks collaboration, communication and creativity.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • Child Play Therapy

    What is Child Play Therapy?

    First, child play therapy is an evidence-based practice for working with children in mental health. This type of therapy uses the natural language of children and the power of play to help children process their feelings and experiences. 

    However, child play therapy is not the same as regular, everyday play. Spontaneous play is a natural and essential part of the developmental process. While play therapy is a very specific approach to treating children.

    How Play Therapy Helps:

    • Increasing their self-esteem and confidence.
    • Encouraging children to problem-solve their own challenges and build autonomy.
    • Providing a place to speak freely, be seen and understood.
    • Teaching communication skills to connect with others in a positive way.
    • Teaching them to understand their emotions.
    • Finding new skills to calm their bodies and brains.
    • Normalizing their experiences in the world.
    • Helping them feel like they are not alone.

    The Natural Language of the Child

    Often times children can’t articulate their stress or challenges until they are much older. This means we need to be realistic about how our children communicate. 

    The natural language of a child is play. 

    For example, play allows for expression and learning to happen in the lower more developed parts of the brain, also engaging the higher level cortex (cognitive part which is still developing).  

    Play is the way! 

    When a child plays, the toys they use are their words. The play is the story. 

    The story that is being worked out, processed, and incorporated into their developing brains and psyche. 

    Children can communicate and process their experiences through play. 

    Furthermore, play therapy is built on a relationship with a therapist who understands children, how their brains work, knows their developmental expectations, and how to best communicate with them (and their parents!) to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working together towards optimal growth.

    Play does it all, so encouraging free play and engaging a child in play therapy hold many benefits for long term gain.

    Making Sense of the World

    Children are impacted by the world around them in more ways than we know. 

    And children are experiencing this global pandemic in ways that only history will tell us. 

    Adults frequently hide or shelter children from the news, but we know that whether or not children SEE the news, they know that something is wrong.

    Also, they are able to SENSE the stress and impact the world has on their primary caregivers and that alone makes them feel anxious and afraid. 

    Children are observing the world around them and trying to make sense of it.

    Again, play Therapy offers children a safe place to process those experiences, ask those questions, and make sense of the world around them. It is in play therapy that healing and prevention can occur.

    It’s important to note that taking care of a child’s emotional and psychological world is just as important as caring for the health of their body and teeth.

    Lastly, child play therapy is an amazing form of treatment for children of all ages and can be beneficial in helping children work through difficult emotions and experiences. If you believe that play therapy would be helpful for your child and want to find a Play Therapist in your area you can visit the Association for Play Therapy here.

    To schedule an appointment with Olympia Therapy click here

    This article was written in collaboration with Cary M Hamilton LMHC, RPT-S, NCC, CMHS, CDWF and Sarah Moran LMFT, RPT

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • How to get a toddler to play independently

    Ah, the toddler stage. Not so long ago your little peanut was just hanging out, willingly wherever you set him or her. Now… not so much.

    Gone are the days of stationary play. Now, it’s off the races to get into anything and everything ALL DAY LONG. It’s exhausting!

    Which is probably why you’re here right? You’re going crazy and just want your toddler to play independently for even just five, uninterrupted minutes!

    Don’t worry I got you! 

    But, first, we need to look at a few things to really understand what play is for a child.

    The 3 Major Types of play in child development

    ‘Play’ can mean many things,  but to help break it down some experts have divided it into three categories- social, independent, and guided play.

    Each category has its own benefits, but just like everything in life you can have too much or too little. Finding balance in your toddlers routine and setting them up to for success requires that they learn each type of pla

    What is social play in child development? 

    Social play is exactly what it sounds like, children playing with one another in a social setting (or an adult plays with a child). Social play is usually structured, like throwing a ball, playing house, or teacher. There are certain “how-tos” and “rules” to follow. For example, to throw and catch a ball you have to do it in a specific way to be successful.

    What is Independent play?

    For a toddler to play independently, they have to be left to their own devices. While it’s “easy” to learn social skills for most toddlers it’s 10x harder for them to learn to be self-reliant. Encouraging your toddler to play independently helps them learn many things like problem-solving, to accept failure, and really tune into their imagination and creativity without being set with any “rules” on how they “should” be playing or what they “should” be doing.

    What is Guided play?

    When a child engages in guided play they are using props setup by adults that encourage a specific outcome. This can be something as simple as making sugar cookies or elaborate as building a robot. Obviously you aren’t going to be building a robot with your toddler but if you have ever set out finger pants with the end goal being to create a handprint wreath then you’ve engaged your child in independent play.

    What are the benefits of play-based learning

    Play is invaluable when it comes to child development; here are several tangible benefits:

    • influential in healthy brain development
    • critical part of fine motor and gross motor development
    • necessary for learning to negotiate and solve disagreements
    • helps children discovering new interests
    • essential for both expressive and receptive language development
    • crucial for social-emotional learning

    Encouraging independent play is important! The value of solo play specifically is rooted in skills of independence and imagination. A child playing in a self-directed way feels competent and capable.

    They then take this confidence through their teenage years and into adulthood. 

    When Can I Begin Easing My Child Towards Independent Play?

    Short answer: sooner than you think! 

    It’s important, first and foremost, to consider the age and developmental stage of your child. Older children can be expected to play alone for longer periods of time than younger children. A six-month-old child, for example, may be able to play independently for about five minutes, while a one-year-old might play for fifteen minutes, and a toddler for 30. . 

    These times refer to children who’ve been ‘trained’ for independent play. If you haven’t been teaching your child to play independently from infancy and you tell your toddler one day to ‘go play’ they likely aren’t going to do it.

    How to encourage independent play in toddlers

    There are several variables to consider when guiding your child towards independent play, including environment, toys, routine and monitoring. 

    Step One: Check Your Environment

    To encourage independent play, the environment will be a safe space for children to explore. This area will not include breakable chachkies or knick-knacks. It won’t have lamp cords to pull on pointy-cornered glass tables. It’s difficult to encourage independent play when a parent is hovering and constantly telling the child ‘no’. 

    The bedroom, living room, family room and even kitchen can be suitable play spaces as long as safety comes first. Think of all those pots and pans in the kitchen just waiting for little hands!

    Will I Need to Buy All New Toys for My Toddler?

    Not only are fancy toys unnecessary for independent play, they’re actually detrimental to the whole process. Open-ended toys breed success in independent play. Wooden blocks, balls, Legos, magnets, and more are good examples of open-ended toys.

    Open-ended-toys can be used in many different ways. A block can be stacked as part of a building, or it can be used like a cell phone or a microphone. There’s no ‘wrong’ way to use a block (as long as you’re being safe). 

    When considering whether a toy is suited for independent play, consider how your child might use it.  If there is only one way to use the toy (an electronic keyboard, for example), save it for a session of guided play.

    Although one might say an iPad or smartphone has many uses, and is therefore suitable, electronics are not appropriate for independent play. Electronic devices may encourage boredom in children, as they are an ongoing source of stimulation. 

    When children become accustomed to blinking lights and lots of activity, it can make it difficult for them to transition to coloring or playing with blocks.

    Step Two: Time IN

    What is ‘Time In’? It is intentional time spent playing with your child with no distractions. Put away your cell phone or device and set a timer based on the age of your child. For an infant, start with five minutes, for toddlers go for 10-15 and if your child is five years old, set the timer for about twenty minutes.  

    Tell your  child, “I’m yours for ten minutes – what should we do?” Then simply follow their lead. Don’t correct, coach or teach. Go with their ideas, and be present.

    When the time is up, tell them what fun you had, and how you need to go do your work now. T

    When using this routine with an infant or toddler, you must stay in the same room. That being said, as your child is playing independently, be sure to busy yourself with another task. It’s not ‘independent play’ if you’re still involved.

    If you have older children, say 5 years old after your time is up tell them you’ll be back a little later. Then, twenty or thirty minutes later, check on them. You may need to stay in the same room initially.’ if you’re still involved.

    Encouraging Your Toddler to Play Independently Relies on a Play Routine

    Like anything you teach your child, independent play must be practiced over time. Don’t expect to try it once and have your child be an expert right out of the gate. 

    Additionally, don’t expect a three-year-old to acclimate to this practice immediately. Independent play is a quicker success story the earlier you begin the routine.

    Monitoring

    You will be observing and checking on your child during independent play. What are you looking for exactly? Flow is the ultimate goal – that state of mind where you’re so involved in something that you forget yourself. 

    Flow is a wonderfully gratifying state of mind for all ages, and it’s certainly possible for a preschooler to attain. 

    Final Thoughts on Toddler Independent Play

    Independent play is a worthwhile goal for you and your family. It may take a while to become comfortable in this routine, and there will undoubtedly be stops and starts along the way.

    Give yourself, and your child, lots of grace along the way, and keep in mind that the ability to be alone and entertain one’s self is a lifelong skill. Most of all, enjoy the journey!

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More