Skip to main content

Independent Play with Babies and Young Toddlers

Independence. It's an important Montessori concept to understand, and one that I've talked about many times before. In her book, The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori said, "The child's development follows a path of successive stages of independence...We have to help the child to act, will and think for himself." Having said that, I don't think that Dr. Montessori meant that *bam* children should be independent completely from the moment they are born in all areas of their lives. Each child is on a path towards that ultimate goal. But, as parents we can support that path from infancy. 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

Montessori parenting advice to encourage babies and toddlers to play more independently. Here are some tips to keep in mind for playtime.

When it comes to playing alone, sometimes that can be a struggle for children, especially young ones. I know that it has been for some of my children. So I know that when it comes to independent play for babies and toddlers I need to keep my own expectations in check. We aren't looking for long stretches of time where our kids are playing alone, but just to give them some time to practice here and there. Here are some tips to keep in mind to encourage independent play with babies and young toddlers.

Babies

  • Make it part of your routine from your baby's earliest days. Don't feel guilty setting your baby down for a moment or two and walking away to accomplish something else. 
  • Resist the urge to intervene when your child is concentrating - protect that concentration. This includes times when you are sitting and playing with your baby. 
  • Provide lots of really great connection time, when you both feel like you've time together, it's easier for you to step back some too 
  • Start with just a few moments and work up to longer stretches. We aren't talking about minutes here, at first it may only be 30-45 seconds. Build that capacity for independence over time. 
  • Observe your baby often to make sure the materials available meet their needs 

Young Toddlers

Little toddlers are very similar to babies in that they want and need a lot of your attention! Remember they are in the sensitive period for language, and feel seriously called to be near you and all the words you're using. But there are things you can do to encourage independent play and exploration:
  • Let your toddler explore their materials, don't feel like you need to interject to "show" or "teach" them the right way to use something. Let them feel like they don't need to turn to you to make sure they are playing correctly, 
  • Slowly distance yourself when playing. Sit a little bit back from your child, or leave the room after a few minutes. Just giving some space. 
  • Create an environment where you feel comfortable allowing your child to be alone. 
  • Don't force it or sneak away if your child is upset, look for times when they are calm, comfortable, and engaged. 
  • Busy yourself in the same room as your child - read a book, clean up, do another project. 

Older Toddlers

Older toddlers may have more capacity for independent play than younger ones. But, if you're new to the idea, it will take some time for them to get there. 
  • Again, protect concentration, if you see your child using a material, let them be! This includes non-toys, and practical life work. Unless they are being destructive, or are in danger, let it go. 
  • Make yourself busy - invite them to participate in practical tasks but if they are unwilling to join, no worries, just let them busy themselves 
  • Create opportunities in your environment that allow them feel confident doing things for themselves - like prepping a snack on their own 
  • Resist the urge to take over your child's pretend play by adding too much detail on your own. When you're playing together, follow your child's lead. 

Again, I think it's most important to remember to keep your own expectations in check when looking for independent play. Prepare your environment, step back, and allow for concentration. But, even with all that, you may only see glimpses of independent play for a long time. Eventually, your child will get there if you allow them to follow their own path. 

Montessori parenting advice to encourage babies and toddlers to play more independently. Here are some tips to keep in mind for playtime.

Does your child play independently? 
---

Comments

Unknown said…
I'm curious to know the ages or milestones for babies vs young vs older toddlers?
I define them roughly as young toddlers = 1-year=olds, older toddlers = 2-year-olds
Unknown said…
Again, I think it's most important to remember to keep your own expectations in check when looking for independent play. Prepare your environment, step back, and allow for concentration. But, even with all that, you may only see glimpses of independent play for a long time. Eventually, your child will get there if you allow them to follow their own path.
harbor freight 20% coupons printable

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2021

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure! 2021 UPDATE: Please be patient with links this year, with supply chain issues things are selling out faster and restocking slower. I anticipate some of the specialty toys will not restock once they are gone. Puzzles, in particular, have been difficult to find in stock. So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created toys, bu

Montessori Toddler: Favorite Toys and Activities 18 to 20 months

I've been putting off this post for a little while because I felt a little disappointed that I didn't have more to share. See, Teddy just isn't that into materials, especially those on the shelf. He tends to return to a couple of favorites over and over again and ignore all other attempts at shelf work. But, really that's my own adult feelings getting in the way of Teddy's own interests, and developmental path.  It's also me subconsciously valuing fine motor skills and stillness as more important than gross motor play and movement. I working hard not to do that, and want to normalize that all toddlers are different. All children have different interests and that concentration doesn't have to mean sitting still for long stretches of time.  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. With all that said, here are some of Teddy's favorites over the last couple of months. Favorite Montessori Toys 18 to 20 Months I'm listing the toys that have be

Our Family's Montessori Christmas Gift Lists 2021

It's hard to believe another holiday season is upon us again. Every year I enjoy putting together my kids' Christmas gift lists. It's really a good time to observe them, see what they are interested in and what they might be ready for during this coming year. It's one of the few times a year that I purchase new materials for our home so it's always really exciting. IF YOU NEED MORE IDEAS DON'T MISS MY ULTIMATE MONTESSORI TOY LIST OR MY 2021 DEALS PAGE ! When considering these lists, please remember that these were curated based on my own children. Use them for inspiration but they are heavily influenced by what my children are into and interested in. And for my older second plane children, what they have asked for!  Here's a look at our family's Montessori Christmas lists for 2021!  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.  Theodore (Toddler) Teddy is just over 2-years-old. Being our fourth baby, he is really hard for me to think of unique