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Go Play! Ways to Help your Toddler Play on His Own

Playful boyPlaying with toddlers can be great fun, especially once they’ve learned cute new words and can communicate and interact with you.

But no matter how much you might enjoy making plastic toast in the toy kitchen or pushing around the dolly in the stroller or singing silly songs with your child, sometimes you need to get some grown-up things accomplished too. You know, fun stuff like laundry, cooking dinner and vacuuming ☺

But if you try to tell your toddler to go play on her own, you will probably be met with defiance and maybe even downright bewilderment, and she will most likely just shadow you around the house looking for attention.

So why won’t she play on her own, when she was perfectly happy playing while you sat beside her? In the simplest terms, she just doesn’t know how. Toddlers need constant guidance, but once you set them in the right direction, they will be able to amuse themselves for short periods of time.

And once they get the hang of it, it can even be good for them! Experts say solo play can encourage kids to be more independent and increase their creativity and self-confidence. Maria Luisa Escolar, M.D., a developmental pediatrician at the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Development and Learning, says it even helps boost language skills: “You often see 15-month-old children jabbering to themselves as they play alone.”

Here’s how to get your little one playing on his own:

  1. Engage him in an activity. If you set out blocks, you can start building a structure and then encourage him to keep going. Try saying things like, “Let’s see how tall you can make this tower!” Or, “Why don’t you build a house for Teddy?”
  2. Once your child is fully engaged, attempt to make your exit. Do this by calmly getting up and moving away to do your own thing while staying in the same room as your child. If that goes well, and he’s still interested in what he’s doing, then feel free to make your grand exit.
  3. Check in often and be realistic about the amount of time your toddler can amuse himself. 15 minutes is about the maximum for most young children to be able to play on their own, although some may keep themselves busy for longer.
  4. Help set up new games if they lose interest in the first one. Of course, if you check in and he’s happily playing, just slip away unnoticed and get back to whatever you were doing.

Remember: If your child gets up and starts to follow you, it’s perfectly fine to tell him you have something to do and just continue to do it. It’s good for your toddler to learn that you won’t always drop everything to cater to him right away and this will help encourage him to play on his own!

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Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
just about anything else!
My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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