12 Easy DIY Activities That Encourage Independent Play in Young Children

While it is definitely important to interact with your child and take advantage of opportunities to help your child learn or encourage language, we also know that in real life sometimes dinner needs to get cooked and laundry needs to get done. Learning to play independently is a skill that is often overlooked, but is really important for toddlers and young children to learn how to do, and not just so that you can have time to get things done. Independent play encourages self-confidence and creativity as well. 

This can be especially difficult for children who are used to staying home and getting attention from a parent, so you may need to start out slowly. Set a beginning and an end to their play, with a timer, or until they finish a specific task (assuming they can complete the task on their own). It will also be important to find things that are super exciting to your child that will keep her interest. 

We have come up with a list of activities appropriate for children from a few months to preschool aged, so pick one and try it out! Let us know what you think!

Photo Credit: Falling Flannel Boards

1. Sensory bag

This one is really easy to make and great for children who might have sensitivities to certain textures. Get a one-gallon ziploc bag and fill it with hair gel, rice, or sand. Then put in some fun things for your child to explore - glitter, confetti, shape confetti, non-sharp figures (like small insects or animals), gems, beads, googly eyes, colored hair ties, old puzzle pieces - whatever you can think of! Fold duct tape around the whole thing so that the edges don't tear (you might want to use two bags, too), and that's it! 

For more sensory bag ideas, check out this post on SkinNurse.

2. Family and friends photo book

Print out some pictures and put them in a photo album, sealing the edges if necessary. Even if your child can't read, write the names of the people in the photos near them to encourage early literacy recognition skills.

Photo Credit: Mama. Papa. Bubba.

3. Color sorting

With cups - Find colorful cups or containers and cut a slot in the top (you should be able to find some in Wal-mart or Target), just big enough for buttons to fit through. Get different colored buttons that match the cups, and then ask your child to sort them.

With an egg carton - Color the egg cartons holes the same colors as the buttons and have your child sort.

With a muffin tin - Cut out colored construction paper circles that fit in the bottom of the muffin tin to match the buttons you purchased.

Photo Credit: toddler approved

Photo Credit: toddler approved

4. Easy-to-make puzzles

Trace the shape of a few toys (hammer, magnetic letter, car, block, etc.) on separate pieces of construction paper. Have your child match them and then show you when he is done!

Photo Credit: In Lieu of Preschool

Photo Credit: In Lieu of Preschool

5. Mosaic Picture

Draw or print a simple picture (car, flower, etc.) then cut up construction paper pieces for your child to glue on or just to place on the paper until the whole thing is covered up.

You can also do this with letters and stickers. Either draw or print a large letter and have your child put stickers on the lines to make the letter.

Other ideas:

6. Put pipe cleaners in a strainer.

7. Use a spoon to scoop pom-poms or cotton balls into cups, a muffin tin, or an egg carton.

8. String cooked pasta on yarn or shoelaces.

9. Tie fabric strips together and stick them in a an empty wipe container for your child to pull out.

10. Give your child tongs to pick up his blocks, cars, and other small toys (it will take awhile!).

11. Dominoes - they can line them up, count them, stack them, etc.

12. Make a scented playdough together (at least until the cooking part) and then let your child play with what she just made! Kids can be more invested in activities that they were involved in creating! Here are some great fall scent recipes or Kool-Aid scented recipes.

For more ideas, check out Abbie's Early Childhood Activities Pinterest Board.

Feature Photo Credit: She Knows