Fostering Independent Play with Educational Toys: A Montessori Approach
1) Age-appropriate and purposeful educational toys
They are inviting, purposeful, and challenging enough for the child to satiate his/her inner needs. The child should be more active than the toy. Overly active, noisy, and distracting toys do not stimulate your child’s developing brain.
2) Less is more
Don’t overwhelm the child with too many choices and clutter in the environment. Keep few choices and rotate the educational toys when required.
3) Give space
Independent play does not mean leaving the child alone; it's more about the child using his mind, his hands, and his choices to play with the toys. You will need to be around at a distance that is comfortable enough for your young toddler to independent play.
4) Involve yourself
At the beginning of the new independent play toy, show the child how to play in a slow manner, and then let the child take the lead and do his/her own way.
5) Uninterrupted playtime
Do not interrupt the child while he is concentrating. Even if he asks for help with some work, observe from far and see if he can figure it out by himself. Do not break his independent play abruptly. Give the child enough time to completely satisfy himself from the activity. Sudden praise and clapping could also break the child’s focus. Remember independent play is the work of a child. You don’t like to be disturbed while working; follow the same rule when your child is in deep play (work).
6) Open-ended play
Promotes a lot of creativity and imagination in the child. It also leads to different ways of doing the activity and independent play. Sensorial tubs, Nature play, Play-Doh are a few examples of open-ended activities.
While the child is playing, observe what she is preferring to play, what’s not working out, what are the needs of the child, where is the struggle and where is the interest. This will help you to set up the environment to foster more independent play.
8) Follow the Child
Observe the child and let the child take the lead. If you observe a particular interest, entering into a specific sensitive period, or loving a particular activity more than the other. Let the child repeat it as many times he/she wants and lead the way for the parent. This will also give a cue on what next you should set up on the shelf to make it more interesting, challenging, and fun!
9) Social group
A playdate with other children of different age groups or the same will help the child to get more involved in independent play as they learn so much more from other children than adults.