View Full Version : Encouraging independent play

05-11-2015, 11:32 AM
I look after a 2.5 year old child who isn't great at playing on their own (or other children). I spend a lot of time doing planned activities with her and sitting near her when she does free play but she always wants my interaction. I know my job is to play/teach but I think she needs to explore things on her own sometimes. Also when I'm doing something like cleaning the table/going to the toilet/making lunch she follows me around. I do involve her in lunch prep and cleaning sometimes but she is like my shadow! Any advice?

05-11-2015, 12:15 PM
I agree with you that children should be encouraged to play independently.

Could you come up with ideas for activities that can only be done by one person at a time? Sit with her for a while, taking it in turns, then walk away saying to her "you carry on for a bit, I've got to do..."

Something like threading beads (chunky wooden ones). Take it in turns to put them on a thread one at a time, then let her do them by herself with you there, then go to do something else and leave her to get on with it. Tell her you'll be back when she's done them all. Give her a set time to be by herself (ie. until she's finished threading all the beads), so she knows she's not being left indefinitely.

Over time, build up a few different activities she can sit and do alone so that you can chose one whenever you need a moment away.

chris goodyear
05-11-2015, 12:39 PM
I have has children like this but they were younger and I think by 2 1/2 she should be being more independent. So agree with previous post and do a gradual retreat (like we do at bedtime)! Hopefully if you take a slowly slowly approach but consistent she will get better.

05-11-2015, 06:26 PM
I've got a child, at the moment, who's just coming out of this and he will be 3 in March, so hopefully if you follow the advice given it won't be long.

05-11-2015, 08:52 PM
Thanks everyone. I will try some activities like that for her.

06-11-2015, 11:54 AM
I had a child that would sit on the floor and do nothing if I wasn't leading the play. I built a strong relationship with him and did lots of open-ended play, such as sensory play, since he did a lot of activities at home that had an end-result, e.g. jigsaws. He didn't seem to know how to play unless it was adult-led. When he became more confident exploring different ways of playing with things, I started to give him time to play independently. After lunch each day, I sat down and told him I was writing up the diaries for the day. Initially, he stayed next to me doing nothing, however, over time he would fetch a toy from the playroom to play with and then eventually would even play in the other room without me (still in sight obviously). I limited my interaction with him (without being rude or uncaring), I just made it clear that I was 'busy', so he would have to entertain himself for 15-20 minutes. It was a slow process, but a rewarding one, as he did develop his independence and could even leave me at playgroup to play independently there too!

06-11-2015, 01:26 PM
I have done that too Gef918, but felt a bit bad almost ignoring her!

06-11-2015, 01:54 PM
I have also done a similar approach with one of my mindees (3) and it seems to have worked :-)

06-11-2015, 02:07 PM
I have done that too Gef918, but felt a bit bad almost ignoring her!

Me too. It was harder trying to explain to the parent that I was doing this and that it would aid his development more than me playing and interacting with him.