Already babies know how to play independently. But they can lose this ability faster as you may think, and especially when their parents are too good to them and keep them busy day in and day out. Other parents are plagued by a guilty conscience if they rarely play with their little ones. We explain how playing independently can be a good thing and why it is so vital for children.
Many parents feel terrible when their one-year-old sits on the floor and does nothing but look at a fly on the wall. "Now I ought to play with him," the inner voice says. Yet now they would only disturb the child in exploring the "housefly" phenomenon. What's more, the child is not only observing the creepy-crawly animal: At the same time, it is strengthening its self-esteem because it is enjoying its play independently of the attention of an adult; and it is training its ability to concentrate - an important prerequisite for later success at school.
When should a toddler start playing independently?
As soon as the child is three to four months old, moms and dads can (and should) encourage independent play.
Here we reveal the 6 most important tips on how parents can support their children in playing on their own:
Rule #1: Just let them do it.
When your child is "doing" something on their own, don't interrupt them if possible. This applies to older children, but also to babies. Most infants lie quietly in their cribs after waking up, playing with their hands or babbling to themselves. These moments, when your child is self-sufficient, are the beginning of independent play.
Tip: You can extend the phase of being absorbed in oneself by placing a colorful rattle, a small mirror, bells or cuddly toys in the crib or attaching them to the crib rail
Rule #2: Create an exciting environment.
For example, if your baby is lying on a blanket, put lots of toys within easy reach. Crawlers and children who can walk need a safe and exciting environment. Such as pads to climb on and objects they can build with or take apart.
Rule #3: Introduce "alone play time."
Young children find their own play rhythms best when they have opportunities to spend time alone on a regular basis. Fixed play times (one to two per day) are ideal. Provide a quiet atmosphere, with no TV on or distracting voices from the radio in the background.
Tip: Your child doesn't play alone? Play alongside (but not with) him at first and turn to another activity as soon as he "dives" into his game.
Rule #4: Get out of the room.
Playing alone means that your child will continue to play even if you leave him alone in the room for a few minutes. You can practice this with him from the age of four months: Choose a moment when your child is fascinated by something and then leave the room. Extend the absence gradually.
Tip: If your child does not like to be left alone, practice with him. Announce to him that you are going to the kitchen or bathroom for a short time, for example, and maintain speech contact from there.
Rule No. 5: Only intervene in an emergency.
The ball rolls away, the block doesn't stay on the other one - there are always situations in which your child seems to need help. Nevertheless, don't rush in right away, but wait a moment. Maybe he can solve his problem himself.
Tip: Sometimes a little support is enough, such as asking, "What else could you do with the ball?" And your child continues playing on his own.
Rule #6: Don't expect too much.
All children can learn to play on their own. But how long depends on the type. It's normal for children under one year old to play by themselves for five to ten minutes, and between one and three years old for 15 to 30 minutes. But it's important that you stay close by.
Tip: Use the time for yourself and put your feet up!