There are times when we swat up on tips for the good of our kids, and there are times when we need ideas to save our sanity and help us shake off the parent-guilt… Today we’re here to help you do both! With a reminder of why it’s GOOD to leave our kids to play without us sometimes.
It frees their imagination
Our children have wonderful imaginations, and the more time they have to explore them (uninterrupted) the bigger and better they’ll become - a benefit which will see them well into adulthood! By playing on their own, our children aren’t interrupted by adult limitations... they are able to enjoy getting completely lost in a world of fun that only makes sense to them!
Stepping back and watching our children play is a wonderful chance to see their creativity shine.
It helps them feel confident on their own
Even if we wanted to, we can’t give our kids attention 24/7. It’s healthy that they have time to work things out on their own as you get on with working, cooking, cleaning, and doing other things you actually chose to do, for you! When your kids are left to play on their own, they learn how to be comfortable in their own skin, with their own thoughts, and filling their own time.
It helps them be independent
Children who learn to play independently, learn that they don’t have to depend on others to feel good. And when they realise they don’t need others to help them have fun, they can make more confident decisions to stay away from peer pressures they might otherwise feel they need.
It helps them become problem-solvers
Just as your child realises they don’t need someone else to entertain them, your child will realise they don’t need anyone else to solve every problem for them! Our kids come across lots of real and fictional problems as they play, and independent play allows them to practice being problem-solvers without our input. We might not see this problem-solving going on, but it’s happening!
It shows them your needs are important too
One of the most important things we can do to raise kids who respect themselves, respect others and know how to put in place healthy boundaries, is to make sure we are demonstrating them ourselves. By telling our children (without an undertone of guilt...) that we can’t play because we need to rest / work / talk to our friends sometimes, we remind them that other people have needs which are important too.
It makes your play together more special...
...because you’re not exhausted and resentful at being bossed around every three minutes in a world of fantasy!
If you’re thinking ‘this sounds all well and good, but how do you actually get your kids to play alone?!’ here are a few quick tips:
- Start them off, with a time limit - say you’ll play for 5 minutes (and give them all your attention during this time) but when the time is up you will be stopping to X, Y, Z....
- Be firm on your boundaries - if you say you can’t play, explain why and then stick to your boundary. The more they come to rely on you to not be persuaded (oh, they can be persuasive, can’t they?) the easier it will become.
- Try ‘strewing’ or ‘invitations to play’ - try setting up a novel activity or putting toys / books / pens & paper in a new place, but don’t mention it. Let your children find it of their own accord and see where their curiosity takes them
- Remember their age - generally, the older your child gets, the better they will be at playing on their own. Try to be realistic about the amount of time your toddler / young child can happily play without you and try to have more of those shorter bursts throughout the day.
Did you find this helpful? Let us know on Instagram so we can give you a virtual high-five and reassure you: you can still be an amazing, playful parent even when you say no to playing sometimes!