Independence is one of the most difficult things to teach children. Potty training and shoelace tying might seem like monumental struggles when they’re actually happening – and in hindsight, no one remembers whipping out a portable potty on the side of a motorway with much affection – but the bigger questions of parenting are less physical and more emotional.
How do you teach your child to be kind? How do you teach your child to work hard? And how do you teach your child to be independent? The first step towards that question is helping your child learn to play by themselves. Here are some tips on how you can do that.
Encourage Imaginative Play
First of all, imaginative play is something that all parents should encourage from an early age. It may take a while for your child to fully understand what’s going on, but it won’t take long for your son to love putting on a plastic crown and stomping around pretending to be a prince or – even better! – making a tail out of paper and barking like a dog. Providing dressing up clothes and going along with imaginative play is an excellent way to encourage it in the future.
Provide Art Materials
If you want to encourage creativity, there is nothing better than a pile of art materials. They don’t have to be fancy – a stack of paper and some colouring pencils will absolutely do the trick. Suggest making cards, pictures, portraits – show your child how to make 3D sculptures out of glue and paper and tape. Teaching them how to be creative is like teaching a man to fish – they’ll have that skill forever.
Throw In Some Ideas
If your child is at a loss as to what exactly to do, don’t be afraid to throw in some ideas – suggest favourite reading books, puzzles – remember to bookmark an unscrambler to deal with any problems that might arise from word puzzles – and have sticker books and colouring books up your sleeve too. You could also inspire creative games by taking them on trips to places like farms, the zoo, and museums, so that you can collect new ideas and things to think about.
It’s important that you let your kids get on with playing by themselves for as long as they can handle, so that they’re confident in doing so for as long as possible and so that they can build that skill up. If you get bored with what you’re doing, you don’t need to leap in! Let them solve problems for themselves, let them figure out where to go next in their imaginative games, let them decide what to draw next. Learning to make their own decisions is important.
Know When To Intervene
Finally, make sure you know when to intervene. When you can sense rattiness or true boredom arising and you hear tears approaching, remember that it’s okay to leap in then – just use your judgement wisely so that you don’t interrupt any happy independent play.
Creativity and independence are skills that can be learned over time – just use your initiative and your kids will follow along.