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Monday, August 31, 2009

Children's Activities, Independent Play Spaces

Happy Children = Happy Parents

Listening 2 Children

by Sharon Ann Wikoff

Spending time with children 24/7 can be a great JOY if you find ways to easily meet the needs of children as well as your own needs. Looking back and reflecting on my years of parenting, I see now that I truly did need some time to myself daily. And without giving it much thought at the time, I see now that I created multiple spaces inside and outside at our home for our children to have many choices as to how to spend their time.

Each individual, young and old, needs time alone daily to think their own thoughts! Do you have time alone to listen to your thoughts? Do you provide time alone for your children to think their own thoughts?

Following are several ways of creating spaces for children around your house to encourage their independent play and thus providing them an opportunity to develop a practice of daily alone time. At the same time, this allows you to have some time to yourself!

Pick up 5 boxes or large ice-cream tubs. Cover them with colorful contact paper and put different types of books and/or play toys in them. Keep a couple of them out for your children. Put the others away in a closet for now. When you and your children need a quiet time, pull down a new box or two for your children. Then pull out your favorite book! (Both child and parent should be pleasantly fulfilled for some time!)

Fill up two tubs of water. Place on a child-size table on a surface that won’t be damaged by a little water or outside. Go into your kitchen drawers/cupboards and locate 10 or 12 water-safe and child-safe objects. Invite your child to the area! Have your letter writing material nearby and enjoy!

Bring out your card-table and put a sheet over it! Put under the table, 2 or 3 of the boxes, previously prepared. Invite your child/ren to the area! Prepare a pre-dinner snack for the family. Bring a snack to your child under the table. Let your children enjoy their snack in ‘their’ own home!

Create a sand table or sandbox outside on the patio! (YES, this takes time, but the free time it allows you is well worth the effort!) Find numerous plastic people, trucks, cars and containers for the sand area. Set them up in an inviting manner! Invite your child to the area. OPTIONAL: Give them a small container of water to play with! Place your chair 10-15 feet away. (This allows you to be close enough for supervision, but far enough away to enjoy your own space! Enjoy your favorite reading material.

If a time came that I knew I wanted to sleep in a little in the morning, I planned ahead. After my children were asleep, I went into their rooms and put out some different play toys…perhaps new crayons and paper, perhaps building blocks or set up my daughter’s dolls in an interesting way or attractive her attention. Then when morning came, the children would awaken and most often find pleasure in the toys in their room, before coming out to begin the day.

As I share these ideas, two things come to mind. First, in order to have children satisfied playing alone; they do need plenty of “together” time with mom and dad! When there has been plenty of fun times together, then a child usually enjoys time alone! Secondly, if your child hasn’t had a lot of independent playtime, set up places such as discussed above and play with your child at first. Truly, get ‘into’ the fun with your children. Enjoy the moment! I found this a very successful way of encouraging independent play.

Sharon Ann Wikoff is an educator and small business owner. She’s been working with children and families for over three decades. She is available to consult with families on how to set up “in-home” play environments for children. For information on how she supports individuals who would like to have their own business working with children, visit:

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