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The importance of solitary play

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  A blog by Lauren Brown

As a career nanny I am passionate about creating an experience for my families that stretches beyond simply looking after the children. When my clients return from work the house is clean, the washing is done, the ironing is hung up and the entire house is filled with the smell of dinner cooking away in the oven. People often ask me, “How do you do it?” Obviously I wouldn’t be doing a good job if I left the children run around unsupervised in a state of manic all day, and you can’t rely on nap time because it just doesn’t leave enough time.  My answer is simple – allow the children some time in solitary play.

What is Solitary play?

Solitary play is one of four play methods that children use to explore the world around them. Usually prominent in the earlier years (ages 0 – 3), it provides an opportunity for children to become lost in the toys around them, following a path set by their own interests, imagination, creativity and curiosity.  The children become so engaged they are often unaware or uninterested in what is happening around them.

Why is it important?

If you haven’t previously looked into the method it may seem like I have made up a fancy term for ditching the kids so I can get a head-start on dinner, but I can assure you that is not the case.  Solitary play is crucial to children’s development, particularly in helping them understand the role they play in their own learning path while encouraging them to be independent and confident in day to day life.

One of my favourite things to do is sit among toys and get lost on a journey of wonder with a little one.  Being the adult, I tend to play the decision making role in the path we take and often influence the game around developmental milestones – although there is something beautiful about watching a game unfold when it is in the hands of a one year old.

Boredom and isolation triggers receptors in the brain that get the creative and imaginative juices flowing.  You can see the different look in their eyes with the determination and concentration needed to pursue goals they have come to completely on their own.  Without influence you can witness children make decisions, problem solve, experiment, reflect, build strategies and wholeheartedly absorb their environments.

As adults we play a vital role in children’s early years by facilitating play, but it is also important to remember you are not required to entertain your child all day every day.  In fact, if you continually do this your child will come to know you as their only form of entertainment, often becoming clingy and needy for your constant attention and guidance as they discover play.  As good as your intentions are, by not allowing for your child to spend time on their own they aren’t given the opportunity to develop the techniques to learn how to think, do or explore – and I promise you, you are going to get exhausted.

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As with most things child care I went to my Mum for advice before writing this and she came back to me with the most beautiful quote:

“If we spend too much time making them feel special from the outside, they will miss the treasure of discovering how special they are from the inside.”

 

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2 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Thanks Lauren, this is great. I totally agree – what are some good articles/writings etc you have found about solitary play?

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  2. Great blog Lauren – such great advice that really makes a difference. And that quote is just gorgeous.

    Reply

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