The Importance of Independent Play in Kids

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Written By Poonam Singh

I am co-founder of and Principal of Cambridge Montessori Preschool Bangalore.

Parenting is now more challenging than ever, thanks to the information age. Many sources offer parenting advice, which is frequently contradictory and baffling.

Advice on kid-friendly activities is no different. You are not acting correctly if you don’t engage your youngster in conversation all the time. You are not acting morally if you don’t permit or promote independent play.

Then what exactly is independent play? What is the typical duration of a child’s alone time? Why even consider independent play? How can we get our kids to play independently?

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Let’s begin straight away.

What is independent play?

Independent play is the capacity to engage in independent play, even for little periods. You may be sure that it’s OK to let your child play alone, even when they’re small, as long as you’re present and he’s secure. Leave your child alone if he is reading in his crib or stacking cups while seated on the floor (as long as he is within hearing and vision, of course).

What Kind Of Play Is Independent?

Importance of Independent Play in Kids
Importance of Independent Play in Kids
  • They might be silent, but since no one else is present, they might feel free to make any noises they desire. When it comes to independent play, there are no rules. Allow your youngster to express themselves as they want as long as it doesn’t disrupt or hurt other people.
  • They might like playing with multipurpose toys. Due to their greater creativity, individuals might get more use out of objects like blocks and boxes.
  • The possibility that they have an imaginary companion is very natural. Children can find ways to initiate conversations, clarify ideas, and get creative with imaginary pals.

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How long should kids be allowed to play independently?

Parents may have mentioned how their small children may play by themselves for extended periods on social media. Although the first child could play by himself for what seemed like an inordinate period, we are not suggesting it doesn’t happen often.

A youngster’s capacity to play alone is significantly influenced by personality, temperament, and typical development. Even when parents go out of their way to encourage it, each child’s capacity for independent play will vary.

It’s preferable not to compare one child to another, as it is with anything else.

How is Independent play beneficial?

Importance of Independent Play in Kids
Importance of Independent Play in Kids

Creativity: They must come up with all the ideas when playing alone! Although it is difficult at first, they can have a lot of fun with it.

Problem-solving: When left to their own devices to address problems, they produce excellent solutions.

Finding out their strengths: Knowing our strengths, whether in writing, cooking, or sports, is a crucial component of understanding who we are. Play can be the first step in developing these skills because we frequently learn them when we’re working on them independently.

Confidence: Children will develop a sense of mastery and control by being able to solve difficulties on their own. Without criticism or comparison, they will feel in control.

Self–regulation: A solid foundation for maintaining one’s own calm and engagement without help from others can be built by being able to play alone. This can also help with everyday chores like waiting in line or calming down before bed by fostering patience, emotional control, and general self-reliance.

Importance of Independent Play in Kids
Importance of Independent Play in Kids

Reduces reliance on adults for play: Even though children naturally engage in play, many parents overindulge in it, which might lead to a dependency on us. Children learn they can make their fun through play when we restore independent play.

Encourages parental self-care: Along with children, parents also benefit from this. Especially self-care. It can be a lot of work being a parent. When you continuously put up activities and play, it isn’t easy to be intellectually and emotionally present during crucial bonding times.

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Ways To Encourage Independent Play

Even if your child is completely absorbed in, say, his activity center, he probably won’t be able to concentrate on it for more than five minutes at most because babies and toddlers don’t have extended attention spans.

But even a short period is beneficial, mainly if those alone play breaks are spread out throughout the day. This provides you two some time alone and gives him a chance to learn how to amuse himself.

The following are some ideas for inspiring independent play in your kid and toddler:

Pay The Appropriate Attention

Importance of Independent Play in Kids
Importance of Independent Play in Kids

Several times a day, make sure he has your full attention. You can do this by tickling his stomach, reading a tale, or stacking blocks for him to knock down. If you give him enough time with you as a parent, he might be more open to playing alone at other times of the day.

They Might Want To Involve You

If you play with your child frequently, they could wonder why you aren’t talking to them now. You can still participate by watching them. If they’re having problems letting go, gradually ease them into independent play.

You could set a timer to allow your child some alone time for a short period and gradually increase that time. To make your child feel secure and at ease knowing you will still be nearby, it can also be helpful to let them know where you will be.

Change The Environment

Try moving him to a different location, such as the kitchen, while you prepare meals if he was playing on the floor in his room while you made his bed.

Alternately, designate a low kitchen drawer for him to keep his prized belongings. Keep some plastic bowls or lightweight pans nearby in case your child needs something different to play with.

Set Boundaries

Importance of Independent Play in Kids
Importance of Independent Play in Kids

If your young child resists your requests to play alone, explain that you need five minutes to yourself and give him a kitchen timer to watch. When the allotted time has passed, return your focus to him to help him develop confidence in the system.

He’ll eventually understand that you need some alone time, ideally more than five minutes. Step away from the baby’s line of sight and perform a few fast peekaboo maneuvers around the corner for a newborn who is too young to comprehend the timing scheme.

In this manner, he understands that even while you are gone, you will return shortly. When the allotted time has passed, go back to your child’s side and engage in play.

Make It A Routine

Making independent play a regular part of your child’s day will make him more receptive to it because kids thrive on routine. Your baby or toddler will quickly learn to anticipate his “me” time if you set aside a short period for independent play each morning and afternoon.

Never Hover

You must give your child the impression that having their room is an option if you want them to desire having one. Your child must understand that as long as they play safely, they play appropriately if they want to feel at ease and confident when playing in that environment.

It is impossible to stress how important a child’s safety is, but hovering is unnecessary and can make them anxious. It’s sufficient to childproof your home, give your child age-appropriate playthings, and watch your child at play.

Amazing Benefits of Independent Play for Your Kids (Plus Tips to Encourage It) – video

Importance of Independent Play in Kids

Importance of Independent Play in Kids – FAQ

How does play help independence?

Play is an essential part of childhood and helps children gain independence. Children learn to make decisions, solve problems, and express themselves through play.
Engaging in unstructured play, children gain self-confidence and develop the skills they need to become independent. When children can explore and experiment with different toys and activities, they can discover what they enjoy and what works best for them.
This helps them become more self-reliant and trusting of their own ideas. Furthermore, children learn to negotiate and cooperate when playing with other children. Through cooperative play, children learn to respect one another and build relationships. All of these skills help children become independent.

What is the importance of play for child development?

Play is an integral part of a child’s development, and independent play is one of the most important aspects of play. Independent play allows children to explore the world around them, learning, creating, and developing their social, physical, and cognitive skills.
Through independent play, children can practice problem-solving, increase their confidence, foster their creativity, develop their imagination, and build self-esteem. It also helps them learn how to regulate their emotions and practice communication and negotiation skills.
Independent play also gives them the freedom to make mistakes, express themselves, and become more resilient. As children engage in independent play, they are exposed to new experiences and learn to be adaptable and resourceful.

Is it good for kids to play on their own?

Independent play is essential for a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Playing on their own allows children to practice problem-solving, decision-making, and creative thinking. It also helps build their self-esteem and confidence.
Additionally, it teaches them how to cooperate and collaborate with others as they learn how to negotiate and resolve conflicts. In addition, playing alone allows children to explore their environment and make new discoveries while learning to manage their emotions.
It also encourages their imagination and creativity. Finally, independent play provides children with valuable physical activity, which can help them stay healthy and fit. All these benefits make it very beneficial for kids to play independently.


Young children naturally engage in play. There is no requirement for parents or other carers to provide instruction on it. But some kids need encouragement more than others.

Expecting independent play to develop quickly is unrealistic. Your child may first resist playing independently because he is accustomed to the security and comfort of your presence—and your participation in everything.

You’ll both quickly realize how pleasant a little “alone time” can be if you are patient with his development and celebrate his triumphs.

I am co-founder of and Principal of Cambridge Montessori Preschool and DayCare Kaggadasapura Branch. I am also a Montessori certified teacher and have 5+ years of experience working with kids.

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