The Best Toys to Encourage Independent Play
Helping babies learn to entertain themselves and play on their own is a valuable, and important, skill.
From a young age, I establish a solid independent playtime routine with my children.
This teaches them to play on their own, without entertainment from Mommy, Daddy or siblings, and gives a set amount of time each day where I know I’ll be able to get household tasks accomplished without interruption.
It is a principle introduced by Babywise and is one we value highly in our family!
I personally start working on independent play time when my babies are just a few weeks old.
However, no child is ever too old to start learning how to have time to play on their own!
When it comes to teaching children to play independently there are not many items you need to get started!
As infants, I start my babies on an activity mat for their independent playtime.
Once they are a little more mobile I transition into a pack and play and they keep that location for their daily playtime until they are old enough to handle transitioning to room time in their bedrooms.
You can shop the must-have essentials for starting independent playtime here:
An important element for successfully establishing independent playtime is to provide a variety of toys and activities to keep your child busy and to allow them to ENJOY this time!
A big tip that I find helpful is to keep certain toys out of our regular play rotation, reserving them to be used only during the scheduled solo play time.
This keeps those toys fresh and exciting and gives the child a reason to look forward to their independent play routine!
For both independent playtime in the pack and play as well as when the child transitions to playing independently in their bedroom, or another specified room in the home, keeping accessible toys within the appropriate age range is very important.
It’s crucial that all toys offered to a child are SAFE!
It is also important that the toys aren’t overly challenging (geared to an older age range than appropriate) or not challenging enough (geared towards a younger age range than appropriate).
An overly challenging toy or activity will cause frustration and an under challenging one will cause boredom and both will lead to tears and an unsuccessful independent play time period!
When given toys that encourage pretend play and work on developing both fine motor skills and gross motor skills and help keep your child’s interest you set your child up for success and a situation where they will love independent playtime.
Here are some of my favorite toys and activities that I like to rotate through for my children during their independent playtime routines.
Best Toys to Encourage Independent Play:
These toys help to encourage babies and toddlers to enjoy playing independently.
Playskool Poppin’ Pals Pop-up Activity Toy for Babies and Toddlers
This is my #1 must-have toy for independent playtime with my kids. It is great to use once babies start to be able to sit up. I will open all the animals and allow them to work at closing the “doors” during their playtime. As they get older they begin to be able to manage the gears on their own!
VTech Turn and Learn Driver
Toys that make noise are great for independent playtime! Lots of buttons are engaging and help keep them interested. I love one-piece type toys as they also make for super quick clean-up!
Playskool Explore N’ Grow Busy Ball Popper
This is a toy that is GREAT for the older baby and toddler age group. It has enough of a challenge to stay interesting and is a great independent playtime activity.
Fisher-Price Baby’s First Blocks
I try to limit the smaller pieces given to my kids during independent playtime but I love that this block set gives the ability to also store all of the blocks inside the basket and is a great learning toy. This is one that CAN easily cause frustration with younger ones but is excellent for the toddler age range!
Baby’s My First Photo Album of Family & Friends
This is one of my favorite gifts to give at baby showers! It’s a really wonderful soft book that can be filled with photos of friends and family to help the baby learn and recognize those important people in your lives! I use this a LOT with my toddler who is speech delayed as well. Little ones love familiar faces and this book keeps them happy during independent playtime.
Animal Soft Baby Socks Toys Wrist Rattles and Foot Finders
Great for little ones who cannot yet sit up! Yes, the independent playtime will be a shorter time span with a young infant and these little rattle socks help to keep their attention.
Green Toys My First Stacker
I love a good classic toy and stacking cups are a simple, safe, and fun toy for little ones. I prefer toys like this over puzzles as I like to keep independent playtime simple and fun and not risk causing frustrations or expect it to be a time of learning.
Baby Soft Hanging Wind Chime Rattle Toy
Another wonderful option for babies who aren’t yet sitting as some hanging toys. It’s fun for babies to have them just within reach so it can be a good challenge to be able to touch them.
VTech Musical Rhymes Book
Books are wonderful but with young babies and toddlers, they can easily become something that gets destroyed during independent playtime. I love this book because it offers lots of fun options in a safe-to-play solo way!
Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother Musical Crib Toy and Sound Machine
I have never used a crib toy but received this as a gift while I was pregnant and used it for independent playtime. I set it up to attach to the pack and play when my kids are little so they are able to watch and be entertained by the music and movement.
Sophie La Girafe
When babies are teething it can disrupt normal activities and can make the independent playtime period tough but having a fun teething toy in the mix of options can keep the baby happy!
Oball Classic Ball
I use this baby toy as a chew toy as well as a fun item to play with during independent playtime especially as the baby starts to learn to crawl and will enjoy following the ball around their play area. Once toddler age hits, however, it WILL get tossed from the pack and play so be warned 😉
Toy Keys for Toddlers and Babies
Keys with buttons and sounds are fun for babies but also as kids get a little older and start more pretend play.
Toy Cell Phone
Toy phones are excellent for kids of all ages (even my 10 year old still plays with them) I prefer the flip phone type style of toy phone as the opening and closing is part of the fun!
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Count & Rumble Piggy Bank
Fisher-Price Little People, Helping Others Fire Truck
I love Little People toys as I know they are safe and I don’t have to worry about choking concerns. Having a few Little People toys with a vehicle provides a lot of entertainment during independent playtime.
The First Years Disney Baby Bath Squirt Toys
Bath toys are an excellent option for independent playtime!
Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin’ Tunes Music Activity Gym Play Mat
Not only do I use an activity play mat for my babies to start independent playtime with them but I also continue to use it even when they transition into the pack and play for independent playtime. It’s the perfect place for babies to play and have lots of engaging toys!
Independent playtime can quickly become a part of your regular routine and a time that your child looks forward to and enjoys!
My toddler LOVES his time to play and is always happy when starting his independent playtime and never complains during it.
Offering a variety of toys and switching them out regularly keeps things fun and entertaining!