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Inspiring Kids to Play on Their Own

I have read many articles that say that boredom is good for kids. And I agree — being constantly entertained is not realistic or even fun. When Alex has time on her own, she often falls into a zone that is happy and engaged. But sometimes she still cannot quite get there and seem restless and ends up saying, “Mommy, can I have your phone to watch a song?” or “I’m super hungry.” So, I was grateful to learn this tip…

I always figured that the experts who recommended boredom just let their children loose in their homes and said, “Goodbye and good luck,” and trusted they would find something to play with. Maybe so? But Alex sometimes needs a little help getting started.

Then, recently, I read this article about how to help little ones “enjoy pottering.” I was most interested in how the author suggested putting basic materials around the home to help inspire imaginative play.

Parents do have a role… children need the adults around them to understand that creating their own pastimes requires space, time and the possibility of making a mess (within limits – and to be cleared up afterwards by the children themselves).

They will need some materials too, but these need not be sophisticated – simple things are often more versatile. We’ve all heard of the toddler ignoring the expensive present and playing with the box it came in instead. For older children, a magnifying glass, some planks of wood, a basket of wool, and so on, might be the start of many happily occupied hours…

If a child has run out of ideas, giving them some kind of challenge can prompt them to continue to amuse themselves imaginatively. This could range from asking them to find out what kind of food their toy dinosaurs enjoy in the garden to going off and creating a picture story with some friends and a digital camera.

Nowadays, at home, we try to help Alex by having just a few simple imaginative toys out and visible along with some (washable) art supplies. Alex loves playing vet and dress up! Most all of her patients either have a fever or a broken bone, and she does a good job treating her patients. And, Alex loves making her art, and she usually sings a song while she makes her art, which we proudly display in our home! And she has recently been decorating envelopes and cards to send out, which are decorated with her stamps, stickers, and coloring, and people love getting them in the mail!

What imaginative toys/materials do you like? Legos and Magna-Tiles are a hot ticket in our house these days.

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