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Play holds great importance for your child’s development—even when their playtime is on their own! Playing alone, an activity we call independent play, can be an important time for your child to explore and learn more about themselves.

Independent play can help with:

  • Creativity: Solo play means they need to come up with all the ideas themselves! This may be a challenge at first, but one they can really have fun with.
  • Problem-solving: With no one else to help them problem solve, they’ll come up with great solutions all on their own.
  • Learning what they’re good at: An important part of knowing who we are is knowing what we’re good at, such as sports, or cooking, or writing. We often discover these skills when we’re doing them independently, and play can be the starting point.
  • Confidence: By being able to solve problems on their own and develop and sense of mastery and control, children will gain confidence. They will feel like they are in charge, without judgement or comparison.
  • Selfregulation: Being able to play alone is a great way to build a foundation to keep oneself calm and engaged, without assistance from others. This can also help to build patience, emotional control, and overall self-reliance, which helps with everyday tasks like waiting your turn in line, or calming down for sleep.

What does independent play looks like?

  • They may be quiet—or on the contrary, they may feel free to make the noises they want, because no one else is around! There’s no rules when it comes to independent play. Let your child express themselves how they like, as long as it’s not causing any interruptions or harm to others!
  • They may enjoy playing with toys that have multiple uses. They may get more out of things like blocks and boxes, because they can get more creative!
  • They may have an imaginary friend—and that’s totally normal! Imaginary friends help children find a way to start conversations, explain concepts, and get creative.

How can you encourage independent play?

  • They may want to involve you at first. If you often play with your child, they may be confused as to why you’re not engaging with them. You can still join in by observing them. Slowly ease into independent play if they’re having trouble letting go; you can even set a timer to give your child a few minutes alone, and slowly build that time up. It can also help to let your child know where you will be, so they can feel safe and comfortable knowing you’re still near them.
  • Let them have a space that’s separate and alone. Of course you’ll want to be able to monitor your child for safety purposes, but even if there’s just a wall separating you from them, they’ll feel more freedom to express themselves.
  • Give them more than just a screen. It may be tempting to have independent play time with a device, but encourage your kid to play with toys, create art, etc.
  • After they’re done playing, ask them about their experience. They may be proud to show you what they’ve created—and will want more time to play on their own, or will look for ways to include friends and siblings!

Even if it’s alone, play has so much to offer for children!