Photo by Zenobia Joy
The following post is written by Steady Mom's monthly contributor, Melitsa.
Toddlers are fiercely independent one moment, then clingy and needy
the next. The problem comes when you're trying to get out the door and they want to put on their shoes.
Or perhaps it is dinner preparation time and they just want you to play with them. It's at times like these you wish you had a toddler who was more independent and knows when to listen to you.
Independent play isn't
always possible but is necessary. There are plenty of play activities we
will do with our children that are driven by us for good reason.
Toddlers learn like we do through repetition, copying, trying things out and a chance to exercise their imagination. Toddlers are inquisitive and seem primed to learn and discover all the time.
Toddlers are also attracted to everyday objects and what is around them. Haven't you ever bought a toy, only to find your little one prefers the box or wrapping paper? Luckily there are plenty of opportunities in your home to use everyday objects to encourage play in your little ones.
Containers, String and Movement
This activity worked well for us because my youngest is forever grabbing items from the inside of the fridge door if it is open just a crack.
What you need:
- empty containers with handles
- scarf and ribbon
- paper cups
- Link them up in any way you want.
- Leave them out somewhere for your child to discover.
The beauty of these type of activities is that you are only limited by what you have available in your home. This is what I had. Adapt the activity with whatever you have.
How does this encourage independent toddler play?
Within five minutes my toddler discovered his new toy and proudly paraded it everywhere. It was hard to get a picture because he was running around so much.
This activity serves many purposes:
- New toy = concentrated happiness for an extended time
- Toy that changes. It's easy to change containers and add different items
- Containers to lift and bump together that don't raise my heart rate because they aren't fresh out of the fridge and full of liquid.
- Sound and movement. Running and hearing the banging of the different surfaces.
- Sensory. All different textures. My son loves to touch the tassels of the scarf and wrap himself in the wool. He's working on the ribbon to undo the knot.
- Flexible- hang it from a
doorway, back of the couch, or off a chair. Your toddler will be amazed by
how the items dangle and fall.
Open-ended activities like these encourage your independent toddler to enjoy repetition, copying, trying things out and exercising their imagination. The feedback of pleasure encourages them to go back to the toy, and each time they spend longer periods of time away from you with a positive feeling.
Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying that toddlers should play by themselves all the time. But they do need opportunities to have extended play that is safe and feeds their curiosity.Everyday objects at home are perfect to use with toddlers as it gives them the opportunity to improve and develop the independent play experience.
**How do you encourage independent play in your little one?**
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Melitsa is raising three full of fun boys in various countries, as a military wife and mother. She writes at her blog, Play Activities, and also hosts a weekly podcast, Raising Playful Tots, dedicated to making the most of playtime.