Encouraging Independent Play, Children's Education

Are you tired of being your children’s ‘Director of Entertainment’? Do you worry about how much they rely on the TV, computer, Nintendo or Play Station to occupy them?

"Play isn't a luxury, it's a fundamental part of a child's psychological and physical development.” (The Children's Society)

The benefits of independent play – where children make up their own games, characters, situations, dialogues, outcomes – without adult intervention or direction – are huge. This is because imagination is an integral part of your child's education and helps determine children’s success in all areas of life.

Imaginative and independent play helps children:

  • Learn to solve problems;
  • Practice coping with difficult or new or strange circumstances;
  • Express themselves;
  • Develop relationship skills;
  • Learn real life skills.

How to encourage independent play:

  • Set up for success by talking it through with your children to get ideas from them and prepare toys for them to play with alone.
  • Keep it short at the beginning – perhaps just 10-15 minutes, and then extend the period each day.
  • Praise the children specifically and descriptively for what they have managed to achieve: “You made up a great game with your brother just then, using your imagination and then you explained the game clearly to him so he could join in” or “you played all by yourselves for 10 minutes then which shows me you know how to make your own fun”.
  • Praise them any time they show some creativity or ingenuity in keeping themselves amused.
  • Empathise when the children find it hard to think of things to do or would prefer you to play with them - trying new things can be difficult. It involves effort.
  • When reading books or watching TV or just chatting with them make some suggestions about or ask how ideas that come up could be used in a game.
  • Have clear rules about when the computer or TV may be used and for how long, write them down and stick to them! Reward the children for following the rules. If they turn screens on when they are not allowed reduce the available screen time next time.

To speak with Elaine for individual expert advice on you child's education and development please click here to view her profile.


You can view the full list of Greatvine Experts who can offer advice on children's education and development by following the links.

Useful links from external sites

CBeebies Grown Up Support, Baby Activities

Written by

Elaine Halligan
Parenting Facilitator

A parenting expert, speaker and coach with The Parent Practice, Elaine supports parents by teaching practical skills and strategies to enable parents to handle family life in a productive and positive way.