I promise the idea of independent play is not one born of selfishness or of the need to start dinner (although it can certainly help with that). Independent play is something that can actually help your child to learn confidence, boost self-esteem, minimize dependence later in life, increase creativity, and even help them with language skills. Wow! How can you afford not to encourage some solo-play for your child?
It is no secret that babies and toddlers like to have their mommy (or other primary caregiver) close at hand. Toddlers may explore some but they always want to be close to mom or dad-someone that gives them comfort. Get too far away or out of sight and they will whine or begin to cry. Obviously, it is never ok to leave a young child without supervision, especially if the area hasn’t been properly and securely baby-proofed.
To begin helping your child to learn how to manage independent play it can be a good idea to start with something called parallel play. This simply means that you encourage them to play with the toys they are playing with over there while you build a tower of blocks over here. This gives them the security of knowing that you are close but allows them to test the waters of independence. They will get better at independent play and more confident in themselves as they play alone with their toys or just by exploring.
As they grow and get better with independent play you may notice that they talk and make noises a lot while playing. This is good and it is a sign that they are learning about language and those skills they are developing are showing! Offer an encouraging smile or comment every so often if needed. Allowing your child to investigate something that is interesting to them (provided it is safe), like the dish towel drawer in the kitchen is a great way for them to practice independent play. Having the patience to withstand the mess as you make dinner may be another story.
It may be hard at first to let them venture into the land of independence, even in this little way, especially if it is your first child, but it can be so fun to just sit back and watch them explore. Sneak cute pictures of them while they aren’t looking and just enjoy watching them learn and develop new skills. Videos are great if you want to share funny moments or milestones with others as well!