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How do I get my 4yr old son to play independently? My 4yr old son will not play unless I am playing with him. I play with him all day most days but its making my life very hard as I am a single parent (my husband works away) to 3 kids (5mnths, 3yrs and 4yrs) and sometimes I have stuff I need to get done (such as cooking dinner or doing the washing). Unless I am watching him or playing with him he refuses to play. Its driving me nuts as I am having to get all the household jobs done once he is asleep, if I try and set him up with something to do so I can do something else he throws the biggest tantrums. His 3yr old sister can play independently well but he just needs me to be with him 24/7. I cant go on like this.

Posted by anon, 10/06/13

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  • Slowly start introducing quiet play time just for him. Set him up where he can see you (if you are in the kitchen at the kitchen table etc), with art and craft activities (requiring no help) or even a special book for him to read. Explain to him that this time is just for him. After a small amount of time if he’s been looking at a book or drawing (and you have done what you want to do) sit down and talk about what hes been doing etc. I like someone elses suggestion of specifying a particular time as you and him time.

    Make sure there are lots of things around for him to play with, random things as well.

    Good luck :)


  • Will he play with his siblings? Seeing as he’s the eldest, try get him to be ‘responsible’ for mplaying with the younger ones?


  • sounds like he has attachment issues, just tell him you will play later and make a set time that you do something special with him


  • Get him occupied with an activity and move away from him a bit then go back, move away a bit further then go back. Thats the method I like to use. Rach has lots of fantastic tips there too


  • How about a little friend to keep him busy


  • I found music works with my kids. If I put on the radio, a CD, or an audio-book they have something to listen to but nothing to ‘watch’. So found that they’d happily find something to ‘do’ while listening without thinking much of it. And before they knew it, they’d made their own game or are building something, or have picked up a book. There is still the ‘sound’ of someone else nearby without it having to be YOU.


  • Hope you went well with this. My brother was the same, my mum ended up getting me to take over as the playmate. Maybe that could help if you’re still struggling?


  • Take shopping let him choose a toy he likes (within Budget)


  • how did you go? is he more independent.


  • Get him a toy or puzzle and see how he goes


  • Get him an exciting new toy that does not need u to help with!


  • Is he getting too dependent on you as you are single parent. How about making some new friends…4 year olds.


  • Kids benefit from playing alone and the time they spend by themselves gives you some well-deserved downtime. Start encouraging your kids to play alone today.
    1. Set Up a Kid-Friendly Space
    Make sure the room where your child is playing is ready for individual play. Not only should you childproof the area, you should also put toys, games, stuffed animals and books within reach.
    When you’re just getting started, it may help your child if you pull out one or two activities for them to try alone. Instead of plopping them into a room and saying, “Play!,” you can encourage them to focus on something specific during their play time. For children just learning how to play alone, this can also prevent them from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated at this new concept.

    2. Find the Right Activities for Playing Alone
    Parking kids on the couch to watch TV doesn’t count as playtime. Find the right activities to encourage them to play alone.
    Use reading, music and indoor activities for independent play. You’ll have more success teaching them how to play alone if you give them the right activities.

    3. Stay in the Room
    Playing alone doesn’t mean kids must be in a room by themselves. You can stay in the same room together while still encouraging them to play by themselves.
    Sit on one side of the room reading a magazine while they play on the other side of the room. Give them an easy painting project to try in the kitchen while you empty the dishwasher.

    As they get used to playing alone while you’re present, you can start to give them short activities they can enjoy when you’re not in the room. Eventually, you can increase their individual play time so they’re spending more time playing alone.

    4. Make it a Routine
    Kids should play alone every day. Make their independent playtime a part of your family’s daily routine with no exceptions.
    Come up with a name for that block of your day, such as “quiet time.” Once you establish a time they will play alone, stick to it.

    Making “quiet time” a part of your routine gets them into the habit of playing alone every day. They can count on this time and so can you.

    5. Set a Time Limit
    Some kids have a harder time with independent play than others. Start by setting a time limit on how long your child should play alone. Use a timer and explain what you expect her to do during that time frame.
    “Play with your dolls for the next 10 minutes. When the timer rings, we’ll play Candyland together.”

    Over time, your child will get the hang of playing alone without having to be instructed on what to do. You can increase the time interval by a few minutes each week until she becomes so engaged in play, she doesn’t need the timer anymore.

    hope this helps ;-)


  • I agree a preschool will teach him to be more independent, and maybe he’ll make friends he’ll want to be around constantly and they will learn from each other, good luck :-)


  • Try a preschool, it helped for my daughter and she started learning to share as well.


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