At home again – How to get to individual playing?

Though it has a special importance to play together and do things together in the family but due to the present circumstances it is a difficult challenge to keep the kids busy, to be together peacefully while parents work from home. One of the crucial elements here is creating consciously a daily routine; but it is also important for our kids to be able to play alone and keep themselves busy. In this article we collected ideas for you how to support your kids on the way of learning individual playing.

We have mentioned earlier we need to take into consideration that this is a step-by-step process and each kid is different. We also need to pay attention to the fact that different age-groups play different games since they learn different things, they need different tools to develop.

At the beginning they play practicing or sensory-motor games and this is how they explore simple movements, sounds, they repeat and make changes. In this stage we recommend simple toys from natural materials which are suitable for touching, looking, putting into the mouth, throwing; these toys might have parts that can be opened or turned in order to develop the fine motor skills and problem solving skills. After the age of 2 construction games appear and kids can create something: build, draw, paint, tinker, they play with puzzle, play dough and so on. From the age of 3 children like role playing or fantasy games and they act like they are somebody else. School aged kids tend to choose games that are based on rules (tig, hide and seek, circle games, board games) but the games mentioned earlier can also remain or come back. Knowing the different types of games that belong to certain age-groups helps us to ensure the circumstances at home for our children to become absorbed in playing – arranging the space, choosing tools and game ideas according to the kids’ age.

Let’s see our practical advice!

  • Pay attention to choosing space and time!
    When choosing the right time, consider that kids shall be relaxed and calm – like after eating or taking a bath. It is worth to put individual playing into the daily routine two or three times a day and as a result this activity will be part of the day after a while. The length of individual playing grows as children get older: under 1 year it is 5-10 minutes; 1-3 years 15-30 minutes can be expected, but this can be different even in the case of children in the same age.
    The place should be a safe room, where games and toys are ready to reach and you are close, your child can see you. It is good to change those toys that kids can reach in order to maintain their enthusiasm and interest.
  • Have a chat about it!
    Let’s discuss the rules, tell the kids calmly that “ I need to work now, I need some time to do my job/cook something etc. Please play something, I will join soon.” It is important to communicate with your child as partners from a very early age; this will be a good basis for your relationship later.
  • Step by step
    It is a good start to play for just some minutes alone, it is a big step and you shall be happy about it. You can increase the length step by step; let’s think about this as a learning process which is not linear, but a variation of quick, stagnant and regressive stages.
  • Give them time!
    At first some kids will not be absorbed in playing, it is not a problem if they just walk about, changes toys quickly or get bored. Let them go through this process and let them choose the toys they would like to play with.
  • Suggest them toys!
    If it is about a little child or an older one, who cannot find anything for keeping themselves busy, you can suggest an activity, too or some simple but not ordinary toys (eg.: wooden spoon, clothes).
  • Do not disturb them!
    When it is not the time for individual playing but you see that your child is just looking around, observing, do not disturb them, let them be absorbed. And this applies even more for the time for individual playing: just let them play and do not disturb them.

I hope you have found some useful ideas here and in our next article we will offer you specific game ideas, as well.

We wish you a lot of playing – together and alone.

Sára Fábián – Forest Tale Daycare

This article is translated by Emese Murin.
Click here for the Hungarian version.