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?