One of the best ways to grab some time to yourself and get things done (not to mention maintain a level of sanity) is to teach your preschoolers how to play independently.

Now before you think this is just more thing to add to your never-ending parenting “to-do” list, let me assure you that despite however hard it sounds, establishing an independent play routine can be easy and incredibly rewarding.

To prove it to you, here are 5 tips for encouraging independent play

1. Have regular “mummy” playtime

The real key to establishing independent play is to make sure you have regular times where you get down on your hands and knees and play too. They need and crave their time with you, and will always be happier to play independently when they know you will be coming back to play again soon.

As tempting as it can be to write out the shopping list, tidy up or even check your emails or social media during your playtime, put all distractions aside and give your full, undivided attention.

2. Get them started

Often preschoolers find it hard to decide what to play or how to start, so encourage them by helping them get started with toys and activities they can continue to play with independently.

You might help them put together their train tracks, build a city, make a sheet cubby, set up a craft or even a teddy bears picnic depending on what your kids enjoy.

3. Keep toys easily accessible

To promote independent play make sure all shelves, toy boxes and drawers are easy for little hands to open and reach without your help. Also ensure their toy areas are easy to navigate and that they know where all toy sets are kept.

4. Rotate toys regularly

Instead of having all their toys out at once keep some tucked away in plastic bins or boxes and rotate them regularly to keep play new and exciting. You can also rearrange their play area, moving furniture and bigger toys around (if space allows) and changing the location of toys in cupboards to give your kids a new place to explore.

5. Use a timer

If your kids are clingy and find it hard to play without you, consider using a timer to get a play routine started. Simply set the timer or buzzer to the desired length of independent playtime (you may want to start with five minutes and gradually increase) to help your kids learn when you will be back to play with them.

Very soon they will understand that you are in fact coming back and will be more settled to sit and play independently.

Do you have any tricks for getting your kids to play independently?

  • Rotate toys regularly…that’s one I know I should do but don’t. My daughter has so many toys, we try to pack them away but she pulls them all back out, so there is no rotation, she plays with them all.


  • So many special tips. I love tip number 1. I used to do that a lot with my daughter.


  • i think that when they are ready that they will gravitate towards independant play


  • Great tips! Thank you.


  • These are all great ideas and some I’ve already used.


  • Some great ideas -sometimes we need to get kids kickstarted to play on their own.


  • Great tips thanks for sharing!


  • Independent play time creates imagination and creativity, a little independent play here and there is good for their brain. Thanx for your wonderful article.


  • I had a daddy without work for 12 months and one of my children really struggles with solo play, as daddy was always there. Now daddy has gone back to work, learning to play sometimes alone is new learning curve.


  • It’s exciting to learn new parental skill


  • my girls are fine if I’m not there, but if I am there, they have to be doing what I am doing – they wont play on their own!


  • I had lots of trouble with my first child wanting me to play with her all day, although my other two children have had no problems. Although they all like to now were I am always checking every now and then.


  • All good tips, and in most cases they work most of the time, also try and get someone other than you to look after them as this give them a different outlook and helps stops the clinging on the leg syndrome.


  • Some great suggestions. My little one is probably a bit young yet, but I will definitely keep these up my sleeve for later.


  • I must say that all of my kids were great at spending time playing by themselves.
    I have always loved my alone time and I think that perhaps my kids are the same….they dont mind having their own company.


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