The #1 Way To Foster Independent Play - The Montessori Room

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by Laura Berthiaume July 18, 2022 2 min read

Imagine I tossed a pair of knitting needles at you and told you to start working on a scarf.

If you have no experience or interest in knitting, you'd probably be a little confused... and very unlikely to start working on that scarf.

This is what it can feel like to our children when we offer them activities that are not developmentally appropriate.

As Dr. Montessori said...

Follow The Child

The easiest way to foster independent play and focus is to offer activities that your child is truly interested in and at the right skill level for them.

When we choose activities or toys that are too hard, too easy, or are unrelated to the skills they're currently working on building, it's very likely to... FLOP.

They'll have little interest and walk away from it pretty quickly.

You can see this perfectly illustrated in a video I took recently of my youngest at the shop >

Giving the coin box to my 11 month old was too challenging for him and it didn’t hold his interest for long. Instead he’s been working with the object permanence box for weeks. This holds his interest much longer.

Knowing he’s been working on the object permanence box with tray, I then offered another box but this one has a drawer that opens and closes. This is just the right amount of new challenge. It again, fully engages him and builds on his problem solving skills.

You can easily figure out what will engage your child simply by observing them. This is one of the key jobs of a Montessori teacher in the classroom.

They spend time observing each child to ensure they have access to new activities that are the right fit.

Ask yourself:

  • What is my child drawn to?
  • It is certain types of movement, gross motor or fine motor (i.e. nesting one object in another, throwing, building, climbing, etc)?
  • What are they immediately drawn to in a space (both a play area or any area of the home?
  • What do they tend to repeat over and over?

Once you figure that out, independent play will come so much easier.

Now Here's The Hard Part

Between social media and resuming of normal, in-person get togethers with other parents, it can be so tempting to compare our children.

You might return from a play date or finish scrolling Instragram and feel tempted to try out some new activity or push a certain skill because you saw another child the same age as yours doing it.

Just remind yourself that every child is unique and they will develop new skills when they're ready.

By building on the skills and interests of your unique child, you'll foster a deep love of learning, along with more focused, independent play.

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