Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Independent Play

I worked with a family who was constantly entertaining their only child. I can hear you commenting already “Is that wrong?” Well, there is nothing wrong with that, but you might be inviting chaos to your home especially when your child gets older.

Here is a scenario, as soon as the child wakes up the parents are already lining up things to do. Puzzles, painting, outdoor playground, library and beach. So the child is basically engaged in activities with the parents all day. Isn’t that exhausting? Constantly thinking about how to entertain our children… the more we do things for them, the more the crave more and it seems it is not enough.

I asked the parents “when does your child get to be alone?” and they looked at me bewildered, and their faces were confused. I asked again, “Does your child get the chance to play by himself?” and they answered in a chorus “never.”

I was astounded. It made a lot of sense to me why their child was constantly following the adults and other children in the classroom all day! The child is lost, not knowing how to do things by himself. Yes, an attachment is important, which is healthy and offers security; but dependency is another thing. If we allow our child to be dependent on us for everything at every level we are sending a message to our child that we do not trust them, and he is not capable to move in his environment without his parents.

So, I suggested to step back a bit and allow the child to explore things on his own uninterrupted, maybe starting with 15 minutes. You may say “you can stay and play here with your toys and I will just be in the kitchen preparing dinner.” Make sure you are looking at your child on their level when you are saying this. It is very important when you talk to them to talk to them at their level.

As days process, you may add a minute or two each week. There will be times your child will be uncooperative and would want your attention; you can calmly say “I will play with you when I am through with (any housework/chose).” Remember, children understand what you are saying at a very young age!

Good luck, and hopefully this will be the start of your child’s independent play!

Anniebelle enjoys reading books, baking, bush walks and anything practical. She is a Montessori advocate who values collaboration with parents and their little ones, and runs programs that embrace the Montessori Philosophy.