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  • Kristen Bellamy - Kidtivities

5 Ways to Encourage Independent Play

A lot of parents think that independence in young children is the biggest determinant of success. While that is not the case, encouraging growth and independence through natural progression and nurturing is a key factor in the healthy development of our children.

Providing a safe and fun play environment, along with regular opportunities for your children to play independently, is the first step to help foster creativity and imagination, improve focus and encourage critical thinking.

Here are 5 Independent Play ideas to get you started:

1. Books, books, books

It’s no secret that books strengthen literacy and encourage imagination. We have books in every room of our house. Sometimes, the sheer volume of books can be a bit overwhelming. To help combat this, I set out a special basket in our main living space with books that I rotate weekly. Since my kids aren’t reading independently yet, these are always picture books, themed to lessons for the week or topics that they’re interested in, so that they are enticed to pick up and flip through the books themselves.

2. Sensory Bins

I love sensory bins. My kids love sensory bins. Everyone loves sensory bins! When you set out a bunch of different tools and materials that aren’t familiar to your kids, they’re immediately encouraged to explore, imagine and create. Check out my previous blog for some of our favourites from the last few months!

3. Dramatic Play Centres

I have a room in my house dedicated to Dramatic Play. If you don’t have space for a room, setup a closet, a table, a corner, a nook or any kind of space you can manage - You provide the space, they provide the scenario and hours of fun.

If you don’t have the traditional toys on hand, try this:

- Pretend Kitchen Play: Pots and Pans, Kitchen Utensils, A small table and placemats, an apron and a notepad (Free Printables)

- Doctor’s Office: Bandaids, Masks, Clipboard, Flashlight, Stickers, a Syringe, Popsicle Stick, thermometer, Measuring Tape, Tweezers (Free Printables)

- Dress Up: Old Shoes & Costume Jewelery, Old Halloween Costumes, Scarves, Belts, Makeup

Check out my previous blog about the Benefits of Dramatic Play.

4. Creative Arts/STEAM Projects

We have an Art and STEAM cart in our basement that houses all of the materials we need to create. Everything is fair game, and my kids can explore these drawers and bins to create as much as they’d like.

If you don’t have a dedicated space for your materials, set out some paper, paints, crayons, scissors, loose parts, play dough and sparkles and let your kids run wild with a self-directed art project

5. Building Tools and Puzzles

What do train tracks, LEGO, blocks and puzzles have in common? They all encourage fine motor skills and critical thinking – and they’re all SO great for independent play! Over one afternoon, one set of wooden blocks became a Hogwarts castle, a Humpty Dumpty wall, a bridge and track for car races, a Pokemon battle stadium and more.

Want more fun ideas to foster independence in your littles? Follow Kidtivities on Instagram

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