I Don’t Like to Play
“I want my kids to have fun, but I don’t like to play.”
This is something we hear often from the parents that are stretched too far, don’t have time, are juggling work and quarantined kids and so much more. This puts parents and gift givers in a bit of a predicament. What do you choose to keep a smile on your kiddos face but also maintain your sanity?
First thing’s first - don’t beat yourself up. You can’t be a great parent unless your cup is full. Give your kids the time and space to grow while you’re giving yourself the time for you. The best part? Independent play is IMPORTANT for every child’s growth and development. So your need for space and separation from play is actually a win-win! In fact, Sue from “Reaching For Montessori” states how important independent play is for 1 - the growth of creativity and imagination, 2- helps social independence, 3- calms children, 4- helps problem-solving and 5 - decreases play dependence on adults.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s discuss the different options.
There are several ways to encourage self-directed play. Start by setting yourself up for success. Gather the materials and supplies that you think your child will need to stay interested in the activity. This could be as simple as all of the pieces to a puzzle or as complex as the items to set up a car wash. By preparing up front, you will be able to maximize your time while the child is occupied as well as set them up to build confidence.
Once they are set up, step back and let them take the lead. This can be hard as the child may experience challenges and you want to help or the child is requesting you to intervene. Do your best to let them lead and build the confidence in themselves to have some fun.
Avital Schrieber Levy from Family Education says “If you are constantly hovering and watching that they don’t bump their head or play with a plug, you will be interrupting their play and not allowing them into the flow of play. This will also allow you to go put in a load of laundry or take a shower, once they are immersed in play, without worrying (although best to always be within earshot).”
Next let them have fun! If it lasts 5 minutes, great! Maybe the next time it will be 10 or maybe even 30. The chart below is helpful when setting yourself up with realistic goals for independent play:
Now that we know the importance of creating the setting, it’s important to choose the materials and activity. Here are some easy suggestions for promoting independent play:
- Pretend Play
- Pretend play School, Veterinarian or Diner by eeboo
- Hair Salon, Groomer, Kitchen or Workbench Play Cases by Streamline
- Road Systems by WayToPlay and Cars by Candy lab (add these to a sensory bin or “car wash” set up and you could be in for hours of fun)
- Doll House with accessories by Legler
- Crafts & Sensory
- Paint Your Own Squishies by Doodle Hog
- Construction and Outer Space Sensory Bins by Faber-Castell
- Quick Knit Charm Bracelets by Faber Castell
- Charm/Bead Sets by Fashion Angels
These are just a few options. How do you set your kids up for independent play?