Don’t give in to the constant desire and possible whining of a child who doesn’t want to play alone and is always asking for or needing a playmate (whether that’s you, a sibling, or a friend). Of course, your kids need to learn to play with other kids as that teaches them social skills, sharing, and just the joy of being with other children. But there are huge benefits of a child learning to be happy and entertain themselves. I have seen this first hand as my children grew older – socially there were just certain phases where being alone meant they could be independent and self-sufficient. Their happiness did not depend on others but on themselves.
Some children are born with a fiery independent streak in them. They let go of our hands when they’re barely 2, cut across the yard and earnestly reach for the nearest tree branch, eager to climb to the top of the world without our help. But plenty of other children have a difficult time separating from their parents, even for a few minutes. Even when they know their short-term fate involves playing with a $350 Barbie Dreamhouse so we can cook dinner without 100 disruptions.
For some, independent play is a learned skill — one that takes time and the help of a patient parent to acquire.
“Some kids play independently with great concentration and attention very naturally,” says Dr. Laurie Hollman, psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence. “They enjoy it and are productive and creative. Other kids generally want a playmate or a parent to play with them. They enjoy the social engagement even more than the task, but if they do this all the time, they are missing out on learning a very important developmental skill: enjoying alone time, essential to being able to build skills and imagination on one’s own.”
Alone time is so important, Hollman says, that it can even help children become better learners when they get older, as they’ll already be used to the idea that certain tasks, like homework and reading, are solo endeavors. Creating without any outside influence can also help boost a child’s self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
If you’re having trouble teaching your child how to enjoy being alone and to play without a slew of companions, Hollman offers six tips parents can use to help their kids become more independent.
1. Set them up for success
A 4-year-old is likely to be overwhelmed by choice if you simply tell her to “go play by herself.” A more effective trick is to give her something specific to do, provide all of the materials and then let her go to town — and be sure to check in once in a while. “Set up some craft materials that are easy to manage and invite your child to invent a surprise of their very own,” Hollman says. “Compliment them in detail on their progress. Then when they are done, put the project in a prominent place for all to see.”
For five additional key points, please continue reading this great article here on sheknows.com.