Independent play, when a child plays alone with an adult nearby, is critical to every child’s development. It builds a multitude of crucial skills that will carry children into adulthood. Encourage independent play by setting up a play space specifically for your child – of course, you’ll want to make sure you can easily and quickly access it for safety reasons, but having the freedom to express themselves alone can lead children to try new things and experiment with new ideas. Although screen time can count towards independent play at times, try to offer a variety of toys that engage little ones’ hands and senses. We’ve included a list below of some of our top picks for independent play toys.
When a parent or caretaker isn’t immediately nearby to offer assistance, children are forced to look for solutions. Whether it’s how to turn a toy on or how to fit a peg into the hole, the child will have the space and freedom to try various solutions to reach the right one. This leads to strong problem solving skills, critical thinking, and reasoning. As long as a child is safe, be sure to give children the room to work out problems on their own before intervening.
Successful problem solving and risk-taking builds up a child’s confidence over time. Strong self-esteem will help with social interactions, give them the confidence to try new things, and lead to an overall healthier self-image.
Playing alone pushes a child’s boundaries – they can come up with the rules, the solutions, and the fun. They are the leader and their imagination can take them wherever they want to go. Giving children the opportunity to choose what toys to engage with and how to engage with them builds their creativity and opens up their worldview.
Self-Regulation and Reliance
Allowing children the space to play on their own encourages them to find ways to keep themselves engaged and happy without the assistance of others. Children will develop patience and, after time, a sense of independence and emotional strength. It’s important children build a set of emotional tools to rely on so they can work through difficult situations without a parent; this will become crucial when children begin attending daycare or school and spending regular intervals of time away from their caregiver.
Recommended Toys for Independent Play