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!
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.
The Best Toys to Encourage Independent Play
These toys help to encourage babies and toddler to enjoy playing independently.
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!
I try to limit the smaller pieces given to my kids during independent playtime but I love that this block set give 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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
I use this baby toy as a chew toy as well as a fun item to play with during independent playtime especially as 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 😉
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.