As I sit back, attempting to achieve fly on the wall status quietly sipping my coffee with my homemade cinnamon roll creamer, I can’t help but ponder all the marvelous outcomes of independent play for a child, and feel a bit nostalgic of the previous months where my child hadn’t quite reached this level of independence. Now, let me preface with a disclaimer that at no time should an infant be left completely alone unsupervised. However, let me enlighten you with some benefits, general length of independent play time, & some info onhow to get started!
While I cannot rave enough about parent interaction, experts have said that independent play is equally as important! Solo play enables a child to learn. If you know me, you know I’m big on allowing a child to explore! We attempt to follow closely to a Monetsorri atmosphere – which enables a child to develop independence in a child safe and child leveled (height wise) environment. When your child is able to explore during solo play he is given the opportunity to explore at his own pace. Solo play also enables your child to become self-reliant. If I’m constantly doing things for my child that he’s able to do himself (ex: giving him the toy he wants that’s within his reach), he will constantly depend on me to do for him what he can do for himself. When a child becomes self-reliant they began to develop confidence. Confidence is so important to child development. Naturally, parents want their child to be confident. But a child does not develop confidence because their parents tell them they’re great, but because of their achievements (big and small). Self-confidence rises out of a sense of competence. Solo play allows a child to focus. Have you ever sat back and watched your child play? Having the ability to witness the total focus they put into what they’re doing. As adults, we struggle to complete a task if we’re constantly interrupted – but have you considered the same goes for your child? We might not realize that what they’re doing is valuable – really focusing. Lastly (but let’s remember this is only a short list of benefits – not all of them), solo play allows a child to learn from their mistakes. If I tell my child they circle does not fit in the square hole, chances are he’s still going to attempt to put the circle in the square hole. In some ways, all children are hands on learners (especially at such a young age). It’s not until he’s physically and visually attempted to insert the circle into the square hole that it clicks, “hm, this does not go here.” Solo play allows a child to “become a friend to himself and feel comfortable being on his own.” (Claire Lerner – a child development specialist).
But how long will a child play alone?
The older a child is the longer he’ll be able to play alone. It’s important to realize that each child has a different personality. Therefore, the length of time a child is content playing alone is different. Around 6 months a child might be content solo playing for around 5 minutes. 12 months increases to around 15 minutes. 18 months increases to about 15-20 minutes. And at 2 years around half an hour. As the child increases in mobility, the amount of time the child is content in solo plays tends to increase.
When you’re ready to embark on the journey of encouraging solo play, create a time in your daily schedule where you place your child in a baby proof area (we use our child’s room) where they have access to their books and toys (we believe less is more with toys and books. I personally feel too many toys allows a child to become overwhelmed and unable to fully focus). Once he’s begun an activity, remove yourself from his immediate vicinity (staying where you’re able to monitor). To begin, sit a few feet away and occasionally offer words of encouragement to help build a sense of security. If baby stops playing when you do, play with him for a few seconds then walk away. Return a few seconds later to play again to help baby realize when you leave you will return (continue this pattern for a few days).
Solo play is marvelous for child development! I cannot wait to hear your experience, pointers, and questions about your child’s experience with solo play!