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Monday, September 9, 2019

Why It is Healthy and Normal for Children to Play Alone

Socialization is an important aspect of childhood, but equally important is learning how to play alone. It can be very tempting to encourage our kids to play with their peers whenever the opportunity presents itself, but let's remember, too, that there are important lessons to be learned from solo play. Decision-making, creativity, imagination, and independence are all important traits that can be developed through time spent playing alone.

Many of us parents can vividly remember the days when our small toddlers needed and wanted every moment of our attention. "Play with me, Mommy" are words that many of us love to hear, but they can also wear us thin as we try to balance our children, chores, careers, and so much more. But those days went by all too quickly, and pretty soon those toddlers were confidently exploring their own spaces, making their own decisions on play, and becoming the strong and engaged individuals we'd hoped they would be.

Challenging our little kids to make their own fun is so important. Through solo play, especially play that does not include an element of technology, children can learn how to entertain themselves and find their own joy in activities. There is value in boredom because it forces children to think harder about the options available to them. Whether inside or outside, children can surprise us with their creativity and ingenuity when challenged to create their own entertainment.

Imagination can also be strengthened through ingenuity. So many of the activities children engage in today are created in a way that allows a child not to be required to think too hard. But thinking hard and stretching one's imagination is just like stretching any other muscle; it gets stronger. The ability to use one's imagination and really taking the opportunity to flex that muscle is something that can also serve them well in life and empower them to think creatively as they grow, explore, and learn.

Confidence is also gained by playing alone. Children can gain confidence in their ability to problem-solve and create when they don't have another person there to actively steer them in one direction or the other. Playing alone, children are responsible for making their own decisions, and while that may feel daunting to some children, once they practice their decision-making skills through play, they will be better equipped to make decisions within a group and outside of play.

New hobbies and interests can also be born out of playing alone. Without the influence of others and peer pressure to like or dislike specific activities, children may be more willing to try something new and find that they really enjoy it. There is so much to be said about "dancing when no one is watching", and lifting the social obligations felt by many, both children and adults, in a group setting. Playing alone, children can try new activities unfettered by public opinion.

So, as your little ones grow and social pressures push socialization and group play, don't forget the value in playing alone. Build up their independence and confidence through solo play and those skills will serve them very well in so many different ways.

Psychology Today on the Benefits of Alone Time

Playing Alone Promotes Creativity and Self-Esteem

School-age Play Options

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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