Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fostering Independent Play

Since Miss Daisy was small we have aimed to give her time each day to play alone.

When she was born, we read a great book by a local mum called Calm Baby, Confident Mum which was invaluable for us as new parents. In a chapter on play/awake time it detailed three types of 'play' babies should experience in their day. 
- play with mum
- play near mum
- play independently

This post is about independent play and how we've used that in Miss Daisy's (and now Peppa's) first years. Independent play started with time in her cot, on her play mat or with a few select toys in her first months of life. A bonus with giving your newborn baby time alone is they can experience sights and sounds around them without extra stimulation from you.

As Miss Daisy grew we transitioned this independent play to be longer time periods and encouraged her to focus on a specific task for an extended period of time.
One of her favourites was to do puzzles which we extended in various ways to peak her interest. She is still keen to do puzzles independently to this day!

As she was able to move about more we focused on her play mat as a space for her to stay and play. Leaving her for small periods of time with a variety of interesting objects/toys and at times redirecting her back to the mat to continue play. This was never a strict rule but it was nice to see her develop self control and interest as she stayed there for longer periods of time.

We have come to the age of three now and have a very creative, empathetic and imaginative little girl who loves to play doctors, cafes, mummies and babies and so many more in depth games. This can be hard when your regular playmate is under one and unaware of 'the rules' so it means mummy becomes a pivotal part of play. 

So here we are in a transitional phase once again. I'm learning how to give Miss Daisy enough interaction and attention but then also give her time to play independently and discover for herself. Some days this coincides with Li'l Peppa's nap time (bonus for me!) and other times not but it's still something I think is important for her development.

This morning she asked for 'Plato' so I got the play dough box out for her - she played independently for just over an hour. I love listening to her as she creates , singing her own little tunes and narrating what's happening as she goes. One hour folks! That's dishes done, shower had, baby to bed kinda play!! Great huh??

Some other 'boxes' we have here that keep her occupied independently include her 'cut and paste box' and her 'puzzle box'. 

The puzzle box is where I store all of our puzzles. I usually keep a few on the bookshelf in the play area but generally we get them out for specific play. This keeps them a bit 'special' and interesting as well as keeping them tidy!! Flat wooden ones are kept in large zip lock bags which I had left over from our last Busy Bag Swap to keep track of pieces!

The cut and paste box came from seeing these posts from Adventures At Home With Mum and Learn With Play At Home. 

It is filled with bits and pieces, scissors and glue so that Miss Daisy can cut and paste to her hearts content. It sits on an accessible shelf and Miss Daisy is allowed to pull it down anytime little Peppa is in bed! Again, something special just for her! And again, she can spend up to an hour creating independently! (After a few uses it gets filled with cuttings and I recycle them and start again!)

Confession: She's just spent the last 45 minutes with her cutting box creating while I write this!

What sort of things do you have to encourage your children in independent play?