Encouraging Independence, Part I

20130507_154206Although being parents requires an awful lot of running around after our children, a mistake a lot of us make is doing too much for our children. We should absolutely not be at our childs every beck and call as this only results in creating needy and under-confident children/adults. I think if you want your child to grow into a content, self-led and confident adult, encouraging their independence is an absolute necessity and something you can start from a very early age.

Today I am going to write about encouraging independent play. Doing this not only encourages independence, it also allows childrens’ natural sense of curiosity to develop and so also encourages learning. For newborn and young babies, we have a tendency to hold them in our arms and on our laps whilst playing with them, and there is nothing wrong with this; in fact, it is vital for strengtening your bond and developing your infant’s sense of security. However, it is also really important that you let your baby play on their own!

I would suggest putting your baby down in their play-gym/bouncy chair or just lying them on a soft blanket with a few toys a few times a day. Engage with them for a few minutes and then task yourself with something else and leave them to it. As their confidence grows, you will be able to leave them playing on their own longer and longer.

From when your baby gets to the stage that they are moving around on their own – be it walking/crawling/bum shuffling or that ‘ol classic, the commando manoeuvre – let them choose their own toys, and continue this throughout their childhood. This may sound a bit much but really, it’s not. There are some very simple do’s and don’ts that will help you to encourage independent play in your child.

The Do’s:

Do make sure their toys are age appropriate – toddlers and skateboards just don’t mix!
Do engage in whatever they are doing for a few minutes and then leave them to it.
Do have their toys where they are easily accessible i.e. for babies, a basket or for toddlers, a box with a lid on.
Do rotate their toys every few months.
Do insist that they tidy away one toy before they start another – it’s good discipline for them and will help you ‘let go’ a little if the house is not being overrun with toys.
Do let them figure it out on their own – they can and they will!
Do encourage them to play outside as often as possible.
Do be available but not involved.

The Don’ts:

Don’t ask them what they want to do – let them decide for themselves.
Don’t tell them how to make it according to the manufacturer’s instructions – they will bore easily if you keep interupting their imaginitive play.
Don’t correct the way they are playing – they may want to put the square peg in the round hole; they are experimenting!
Don’t hamper their imagination with adult expectations – they can of course be a hybrid spiderman/vampire/flamenco dancer if they wish.
Don’t get involved when there is a misunderstanding – unless it becomes agressive, let them figure it out themselves.

I am not saying never play with your children, where would be the fun in that? In fact, encouraging independent play means then when you play with your child, it is actually more enjoyable as you are coming to it by choice as opposed to another parental duty you must fulfil. When you encourage independent play, you find that you are not counting down the minutes until you can turn on television. When you encourage independent play, the whining, the ‘muuummmmyyyyy’, the ‘I’m booorred’ will, if not dissappear, then become a LOT less frequent. 🙂

Thanks for reading
Aisling

I love feedback, please leave any thoughts and comments below.

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