How to Cultivate Self-Directed Play
TV damages a child’s instinct for discovery and self-directed play. Not only is increased TV viewing linked to shorter attention spans, but TV viewing encourages the need and desire to be entertained over interest in discovery and exploration.
Observe and follow your child as they explore their surroundings. You will learn more about which materials she enjoys and which ones she ignores (those can be put away).
Resist the urge to help. Allow your child to struggle a bit. It’s all part of learning. Don’t show them the “right way” to use a material. Let them explore! If you choose materials that are age appropriate then your child will be able to use them without your help anyway. There will be times when you may need to offer some support and that’s ok too.
Don’t interrupt. Children are doing very important work when they are playing. When you let them explore their environment on their own terms they are learning that what they are interested in is worth being interested in.
Trust him. Let him decide what to play with, how to play with it, and for how long. Some days he may focus on one toy for a long time, others he may jump from one toy to another. Both are ok. The important thing is that he learns to follow his inner compass and develop the ability to direct his own play for long periods of time. It will take time and effort but soon you will find that your child is so focused on what she’s doing that you can read a few lines of the newspaper, get dinner started, or just relax… Phew!
What about you?
How do you limit screen time and encourage actual play in your home?