10 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Play Independently - Ihsaan Home Academy


Independent play is an important part of child development. It teaches children to be creative, solve problems, be confident in their ability to take charge, stay focused, and learn to be satisfied with what they have. On top of it all, it also allows the caregiver to have some "me time" or take care of other responsibilities without being neglectful. Teaching my child to play independently is one of my greatest parenting achievements thus far, Alhamdulillah. Of course, it was only possible by Allah's help. Always start with good intentions and asking Allah for help. Allow me to share some of the tips I've learned over the years.

1. Start early
Like everything else, starting early is the best way to instill a behavior or lesson in a child. From the time my daughter was a toddler, I knew that I had to encourage her to start playing on her own. It wasn't just beneficial for her, it was also a good way for me to stay productive. It was a win-win situation for both of us. How early should you start? That's for you to determine. If I'm not mistaking, I started around 1.

2. Show love and lots of attention
Letting your child play independently doesn't mean you should start neglecting him/her. The goal here isn't to completely ignore the child, but to teach him/her an important life skill that will benefit you both in shaa Allah. Make sure you have the habit of showing your child lots of love and attention. You wouldn't want him to get a negative vibe about this or misinterpret your intentions.

3. Play with your child
Beside showing lots of love and attention, make it a habit to also play with your child whenever possible. Make playing together an important moment of your parent-child relationship. This will affirm to your child that you care and value your time together. So, when he/she starts playing independently, it'd be with the understanding that sometimes playing with mommy/daddy is fun, and sometimes playing alone is fun too.

4. Make sure the play area is kid-friendly
The last thing you want to do is to constantly check behind you to make sure your child hasn't hurt him/herself. To avoid that, just keep the area safe and simple. Of course, you would still need to occasionally check because anything can happen.

5. Give toys that encourage creativity and independence
Try to stay away from electronic devices or anything that doesn't really stimulate your child's brain. You want something that will encourage creativity, focus, learning, and at the same time, fun. With my daughter, I gave her pens, pencils, coloring markers/pencils, notebooks, coloring books, legos, puzzles, stuffed animals, pots and pans, and containers with holes to pass objects through them to name a few. I didn't give her all these at the same time; I switch it up a bit. With the pens, coloring markers/pencils, and books, she learned to properly hold a pen before the age of 2 without me teaching her. She learned to draw by observing objects without me teaching her, and she learned to properly color as well. She did pick up some of it by observing me when we drew together, but I never practically taught her. With the legos, she learned how to build different objects such as houses, chairs, people, and more by simply using her imagination. She learned how to build with medium legos, then very small legos, and later with big legos. With the stuffed animals, she learned to play 'mother' among other things. With the pots and pans, she pretended to cook, and with the containers with holes, she improved her fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. She knew in which hole to put the smallest object, biggest object, and even the medium. Allahumma baarik (May Allah bless her).

6. Focus on one or very few toys at a time
From experience, I believe it is much more effective to introduce one or few toys at a time rather than a lot. It can be very overwhelming when children have countless toys presented to them at the same time. This may lead to them constantly asking for help, unsure about which toy to first play with, and the list goes on. Besides, you wouldn't want to be overwhelmed with the mess or overwhelm your child with cleaning up.That may lead to giving up much sooner. Keep it nice and simple.

7. Help when needed, but let your child be independent
While playing, if your little one needs your help, be happy to help without taking over. It's okay to occasionally step in, but try not to always do that. Allow your child to have complete control and use his/her imagination.

8. Encourage
Encourage your child in everything he/she does or learns. One thing I have always done from the very beginning with my daughter is to compliment her for her achievements and let her know how proud of her I am. I can see her happy and proud face when she does something new. She runs to me saying, "look what I did!!!" It warms my heart and I happily encourage her and show her how proud of her I am.

9. Don't force it
If at any time your child isn't interested in playing alone, slow down and do NOT force it. Allow independent play to come slowly and naturally. Don't let it be a burden, and certainly do not let it make your child feel like a burden. Be patient.

10. Be consistent
Being consistent is the key to achieving almost everything in life. Don't give up when things don't seem to work according to plans. Do your best and stay consistent. Everything only happens by the will of Allah and when it is best.

I hope these tips were encouraging and useful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask by commenting below. If you have any additional tips, I would love to hear from you. Barak Allahu feekum.

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