Can we let you in on a little secret? You don’t have to hover and constantly try to entertain your kids. In fact, according to experts, it’s better for your little ones and their imagination if you start fostering their independence by giving them time to play alone. We’ve rounded up a few parenting experts who share why they recommend independent play to help your kiddos become more well-rounded as they grow.
1. Individual identity is strengthened. When kids play without parental intervention, they start feeling comfortable being on their own, said Claire Lerner, a child development specialist at Zero to Three.
2. Play helps kids develop socially, emotionally and physically. Megan Carolan, Director of Policy Research at the Institute for Child Success, notes that when kids play independently, they begin to self-regulate and cooperate with other kids. This translates to the playground and later in school settings.
3. Kids become better learners. Many kids who play by themselves develop skills to focus more and have longer attention spans. Renee, the author of Play Based Parenting, notes that this learning becomes especially important when kids start going to school.
4. Kids feel comfortable being alone. They learn at an early age that adults and other individuals do not need to be ever-present when they're playing or learning.
5. Independent play fosters creativity. When you leave your kiddos alone, they are left to their own minds to discover what to play and how to entertain themselves. This is when creativity takes hold, said psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., psychologist and author of "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards."
6. Calmness is learned. There's a lot more energy present when kids play with another person, whether it's a parent, sibling or friend. Kids learn to be calmer when they are playing alone, which is a skill that's helpful to have as they grow.
7. Kids find their inner joy. Not relying on mom, dad or an adult to play allows kids to find happiness and fulfillment from within, said Rachel Giannini, Early Childhood Specialist and Content Creator at Chicago Children’s Museum.
8. Self-regulation is developed. Executive function researcher Laura Berk notes that kids who don't learn how to self-regulate often face challenges such as high dropout rates, drug use and crime in future years. Learning those skills in independent play helps kids develop that skill at an early age.
9. Fear and anger is regulated. When kids are put into situations where they have to work through challenges, especially on their own, they learn how to deal with emotions like fear and feeling angry, said Sandi Schwartz, author of Happy Science Mom.
10. Parents get some well-deserved alone time. Getting some "me" time without the kiddos around is a good thing. Even if it's just 30 minutes, allowing your little ones to play independently gives you some time to read a magazine, do a yoga routine or enjoy a cup of coffee without a little one begging you to play.
—Leah R. Singer
Featured image: Jelleke Vanooteghem via Unsplash