15 Eye-Opening Ways to Help your Child Play Alone


Self-entertainment can be a huge blessing to not only you but also your child, as they learn to play alone. Through quiet play, they are learning valuable skills that will follow them into their life.

It will teach them: 

-imagination and creativity 

-think for themselves 

-have their own identity 

-make their own choices 

-make plans and follow their goals and, 

-be self-directed and independent 

Yet teaching your child to be self-entertained can be hard, and it does take some time.

Below I have gathered 15 tips from my personal experiences as being a daycare worker and a mom, which will help you implement quiet times into your lives. 

 

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

Fill up their tank

Do not throw your child into quiet times. Children need to be filled up before playing by themselves.

To “fill up their tank”, I make sure to spend some one on one time with my child before asking them to occupy themselves. 

This will kick start their imaginations and increase your bond with the child in the process. Children have needs, so making sure these needs are met first will help in making the quiet times go more smoothly. 

 

Kick-start their imagination 

Often, it is hard for children to come up with something themselves. Imagination does not always come on its own. Sometimes it needs a little push.

If your child is having a hard time picking a toy or playing with something, help them by getting them started.  

Build a tower with them, teach them to draw spirals or flowers, or show them how they can use a piece of cardboard as a ramp.

Once they are playing and are into the playtime, leave and give them time to play by themselves. This can also count as your “fill up the tank” time. 

 

Start small

Self-entertainment is a skill children need to learn, just like riding a bike. It is unreasonable to expect them to do it for an hour right off the bat.

It is hard for them and a new adjustment. If your child has never self-entertained before, start off small in the beginning. 

When my child started self-entertaining, I would give her 2 minutes to be by herself. When she mastered those 2 minutes, I would slowly increase the times by 1 minute.

Some days, she wanted to play longer, and that’s great! Let them play if they want, yet make sure they complete the time you give them. 

 

Make it part of your routine 

Independent play is a skill children need to learn. If your child is not playing by themselves yet, start with quiet times in small time increments.

Set a scheduled time in the day where they play by themselves. Prepare everything beforehand, make sure they are feed, clean, have had some time with you, and then start them on quiet time. 

Try to develop quiet times into their daily routine.

If your younger child(ren) are napping, organize some quiet time for the older children to that time as well. This gives you some time to rest, get some things done, or drink your warmed-up morning cup of coffee. 

girl looking at book alone, child playing alone

Give them a heads up 

It is important to not sneak away from your children. This causes mistrust in children and over-attachment as they will be afraid of you leaving them unexpectedly. 

Make sure you give them a heads up before you give them their quiet time.

While filling their tank or getting them started, let them know that in 2 minutes you are going to let them play by themselves for said amount of time. And as soon as the timer dings or you call them that they can come to you again. 

 

Use a timer 

Using a timer as a guide for your child can be so helpful.

Children will look forward to seeing the timer ticking down and will know that as soon as they hear it go off, quiet time is over. This is an amazing visual and auditory aid for children to understand the purpose and feeling of quiet time. 

Sand timers are the best choice for this, as I have seen children watch the timer for 5 whole minutes, without feeling the need to play. 

Here is an amazing deal I found on Amazon after some digging… 6 timers of 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, and 30 minutes for an amazing price and super-fast shipping. Thanks Amazon 😉

 

Stay nearby yet don’t intervene 

During quiet time, your child needs space to play and develop their own imaginations and skills.

The first few times they do quiet times, they might whine and cry the whole way through. Do not intervene, let them figure it out by themselves.

Of course, you are their parent and know real emergencies. Only then may you intervene and stop the process. 

truck in sand box, child playing alone

Do not look at your children 

I cannot stress this enough! It is so important to not look or interact with your children during quiet time.

Your child needs to learn to be independent and focus on themselves and not only on you.

As soon as you look at them and make eye contact, quiet time is over. Your child will not want to go back and play alone. 

I often make this mistake of quickly glancing at my daughter, only to find her looking at me. It is then that the whining starts, and I know it was my fault.

It helps to “ignore” your child. This does not mean forgetting about them, yet actively listening instead of looking. 

 

Value open-ended toys 

Children need to develop their imaginations as they grow.

Nowadays, most of the children’s toys are one-way used. A singing teddy bear will mainly be used for playing the songs or light up farm animal toy can only be used to press the buttons. 

Provide open-ended toys such as balls, blocks, Lego, maybe a doll, or cars. Something the children can use in a million different ways. This will provide hours of fun and children can use one toy in so many ways. 

If you are unsure about which toys to get, “montessori” toys are specifically designed to be open-ended and provide tons of learning opportunities for children.

 

Related Posts:

6 Ways to Raise Anti-Racist Children

Solitude as a Mom: 4 Ways to Finally Get Some Silence

 

Remove overstimulating toys and unplayed with items 

Children get overstimulated easily.

Flashing, beeping, and singing toys overstimulate children easily which can prevent them from having independent playtime and to play alone. Try to avoid those toys and choose more open-ended toys. 

De-clutter and get rid of toys your child(ren) do not play with.

These hold no value to them and just prevent them from playing with one or two toys in a more imaginative way which is more beneficial.

Regularly go through and get rid of any un-used toys and donate them. Maybe another child will give the toy the love it deserves. 

 

Get them used to not seeing you 

From birth, children can sense when you are around. It might be tempting to constantly be with your child when they are awake and only get things done when they are sleeping. This can lead to bigger problems down the road. 

Let them know you do not always have to be around them. Let them lay on a blanket and stare at a wall or put some toys nearby and walk away.

With time, your child will learn that even if they cannot see you and hear you, you will always come back. This can help MAJORLY down the road. 

If your child is older, try playing hide-and-go-seek or peek-a-boo, where you disappear for a little bit, yet always come back. This will help your child grasp the concept of even if you aren’t around, you will always return if they wait. 

 

Don’t doubt them, be patient 

Starting quiet times and independent play from when your baby is a newborn will help provide a smooth transition when they are older.

However, if you have a 5 or 6-year-old, it can take a year to fully develop proper quiet times. Don’t give up and keep at it, the reward and the end will be worth it. Teaching your child to play alone take time, be patient!

Start as soon as possible.

I started quiet times when my daughter was 5 months. She is now 11 months and can sometimes go for over 30 minutes straight of independent play, which is amazing for that age. 

girl reading book, child play alone

Re-direct their play 

When your child is older, they might try and interact with you in quiet times to show you the picture they drew or the tower they built. If you are comfortable, you may ask them to show it to you after their time is done. 

However, is this makes you uncomfortable or hinders your child to keep playing, re-direct them. Acknowledge them and lead them into a more open-ended question or task. Such as: 

“Mom look at the tower I made!” 

“Wow look at that, it is super tall! Can you make a bridge with the blocks too?” 

Interactions such as these acknowledge the child while giving them incentives to keep playing and developing different ways to use one single object. 

 

Rewards and Consequences 

Use rewards and consequences to teach your child about quiet time. If they have not had a very good quiet time, let them know why they are receiving a consequence and give them that consequence. 

For example, if my daughter was starting to whine and cry during quiet time out of no reason, I would add another 30 seconds onto her quiet time. Through this, she learned that the quieter she is, the shorter her quiet time will be. 

Some days, my daughter would have an amazing quiet time and I would make sure to give her a reward. It can be something like including us spending more time together or her getting a “special” snack, she understood that good feeling associated with completing her quiet times. 

 

Do not use electronics for quiet times 

Please, please, please do not use electronics as substitutes for quiet times. Things such as TV, Movies, or Videos do not promote independence and encourages laziness in children. 

This does not mean eliminating these things, however, during quiet times encourage playing with toys.  

My daughter is 11 months and has never watched a show, I will not be making it a habit for her to watch things, as I want her to know that watching videos is not something you do daily or as a reward.

I choose to do this, as I have seen most children become “addicted” to watching their favorite shows or being on the iPad playing games. It might be something we will look into in the future, yet as she is so young we have decided against it. 

This is my opinion and only my opinion.

I know many moms who let their child watch one show for 30 minutes a day and their children are totally fine. However, on top of that, they still encourage independent play and quiet times.

A good balance is often the way to go! 

children playing alone together

 

Self-entertainment can be a huge blessing to not only you but also your child. They are learning valuable skills that will follow them into their life when they learn to play alone. It will teach them: 

-imagination and creativity 

-think for themselves 

-have their own identity 

-make their own choices 

-make plans and follow their goals and, 

-be self-directed and independent 

 

So, to recap that boatload of information: 

tips for get child to play alone

 

Try these tips out help your child play alone and let me know how it went for you! I’d be happy to hear from you and answer any questions. 

 

Until next time,

Celina


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