7 Tips Teach Kids to Play by Themselves

Does it also drive you crazy when your kids keep asking you: “Mommy, what are we going to do today?” And: “Mommy, what are we going to do now?” And of course you hear this at least every 10 minutes … Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, I have been overloaded with ideas to keep the children busy. Via Social Media, E-mail, Whats-app; pretty much any communication platform actually. On Whats-app even in multiple groups such as group violin lessons, hockey and also the group of my daughter’s class.

We were completely overwhelmed with a huge amount of suggestions for activities and ways to be creative. If I were to put everything in an Excel list, it would be enough for me until they are 18 years old! My phone even got stuck at one point. So I thought to myself: How am I supposed to find the energy for this in addition to all my other daily obligations?

Does it help to spend all day with your kids?

Suddenly I started to ask myself is: don’t we, as mothers, have nothing better to do than to entertain those little ones all day long? Of course you like to give your child the attention it needs, but also give your child the space to be creative themselves and, above all, to learn to play independently. In this way you make it possible for your children to get started with ideas themselves and as a bonus you have a little more time for yourself. It’s not that nice thing to say, but when I’m with my children for too long, it doesn’t make me very pleasant at some point …

That’s why I immediately asked my mommy friends for help. How do they solve this? What do they do with their children on a day and how much time do they spend with their kids on activities? And do they have any tips and tricks to let a child play independently? I have collected all the findings and made a handy list for myself with the most essential tips to teach your child to play independently. Of course, I also tested these tips myself!

1. Start by giving your child full attention

What struck me is that the moments when I first gave my children full attention, the day went a lot smoother. I can hear you think, “Hmm, how does that help? Isn’t that counterproductive? Don’t we want them to be more independent? ” But the nice thing about this tip is that it has a positive effect. By giving your children attention first in the beginning, they will then become less attached to you. This can be done by means of a big hug, telling a funny story or dancing with your kids through the room or garden with the music on. In this way, they have had that and will already be satisfied in some way. So give some attention first, so that they are saturated. And afterwards they can play by themselves.

2. Help your child with play options

There are days when my daughters figure out what they want to do and how they want to play, but sometimes they need a bit of inspiration. At such times, I let them choose from a number of suggestions. In this way you can help them on their way; see it as a positive boost. This will make it a little easier for them to get started. This will allow them to continue playing independently for longer. By the way, also limit the amount of options; this can cause a bit of choice stress. And we don’t want that!

3. Don’t disturb your kids once they are busy!

Once the children are busy, I make sure not to disturb them. So don’t ask if things are going well, or ask if they need anything. Let them do their thing and keep an eye on the scene undisturbed from a distance. Only when they come to you with a question or something else is it best to respond.

4. Communicate clearly and don’t go into every trifle

Do you want to do something for yourself when your kids are playing, maybe even in another room? Then it helps very well to discuss this clearly with your child in advance. Then discuss with your child that you cannot immediately respond when your child asks or says something. You may fear that your child will not understand this, but children understand much more than we often think!

If you start with a very short period, your child can get used to this. For example, you can explain that you will be back in ten minutes. Then your child learns to enjoy herself in the meantime. If your child does ask for something, tell them that you are currently busy and that your child cannot disturb you for a while. Please indicate clearly when this is possible again. You can also use a kitchen timer or clock. In this way you learn in a calm way not to respond to every small request, at a pace that is also fine for your child.

5. Choose games that keep your kids busy

The best games are actually games and activities that children can do and repeat endlessly. Think of drawing and coloring, play dough, Lego and other games such as Fantasy Forts. In which children use their creativity and build (indoor) forts. In general, I avoid toys that mainly make noise. Children get quickly bored by this. And to be honest, the noise doesn’t make us mothers very happy ..! Games where children can let their creativity run free are the most fun and also the most interesting for the kids.

6. Replace the toys and or take them out of sight

A very useful tip: temporarily store some of your child’s toys. For example, do you have two boxes full? Then put a box in the storage or in another room for a few weeks. And when you bring these out, kids are often just as happy as when you give them brand-new toys. Children have a much shorter attention span than adults, so chances are your kids didn’t even know they own that toy anymore. In addition, your children have fewer options and this generally works very positively.

7. The golden tip: patience!

I would like to emphasize now that all these things take time. Not every day will be the same, so there will still be difficult days in between. On top of that, every child is different. Sometimes things go fantastic for days and then you have those days when nothing turns out. And that is not bad at all! It’s part of the process. The most important thing is that you have confidence in yourself as a mom; then your children will feel that too. Especially when you do play with your kids, have fun yourself! Then you both enjoy the moments together and the moments separately.

Do you have any other tips and tricks you want to share? Do that in the comments! This way we moms can continue to learn from each other.