With three children in different stages of childhood, it’s a balancing act to ensure that each has their needs met—not to mention my own needs!
The baby won't nap, the toddler wants to play right now, and the kindergartner wants help with her work. With three children in different stages of childhood, it’s a balancing act to ensure that each has their needs met—not to mention my own needs!
To preserve peace in the house and my own sanity, I have had to guide my children towards playing by themselves for at least part of the day. The good news is that independent play can be educational and is an important part of a child's development.
I've faced two different types of challenges with encouraging independent play: a clingy toddler who needs constant attention, and my own eagerness to jump in too quickly when my kids are happily occupied.
We addressed the first challenge by gradually introducing the idea of independent play. Some toddlers will play contentedly in the same room with you but holler for attention the moment you leave. Others are distracted by your presence and can only concentrate on their own activities if they’re in another room. There is no right or wrong way—only what works for you!
The second challenge is a product of our times. My kids will be happily playing and instead of enjoying the moment of peace and quiet, all of a sudden I will think, "They need to learn about phonics, and mathematics, and the scientific process...they need me!"
If you have similar anxieties that cause you to interrupt perfectly good playtime, consider the educational benefits of toddlers learning on their own:
And remember—a quiet child is not a bored child! Young children do not require the same sort of novelty and constant stimulation we're wired to expect as digital age adults. Just think of how many times they've asked you to make peanut butter and jelly for lunch or read Goodnight, Moon at bedtime! If your child is bored or frustrated, he will certainly let you know.
Convinced? Here are some of my best tips for getting toddlers to play independently: