Why It’s Important for Children to Play by Themselves

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Whoever started the whole “a priest, a Jew and a rabbi” genre of jokes must be given credit.  These jokes are simply timeless and never fail to crack people up.  But why didn’t the priest, or rabbi, or Jew go to the bar alone?  Was there any problem with that?  Were they just so dependent on each other that they couldn’t bear going out by themselves?

This is why we should allow kids to play solo.  The ability to entertain oneself is a lifelong skill which, when acquired early on, proves to be beneficial not only to the kid, but to the people around him as well.

When a child learns to keep himself amused without help from his parents or siblings, he is more likely to grow up doing things independently.  You can expect him to do his homework with minimal supervision, and he’ll be more capable of solving other problems on his own.  The kid realizes that one goes through life mostly by trial and error, without having to fearfully cling to Mommy’s skirt.

If you see your little one happily playing with her dolls, for instance, just leave her be.  Don’t break her concentration and ruin her train of thought.  Through this type of play, she lets her creativity flow without any outside interference.

My daughter sometimes complains to me that she’s bored, but I don’t take responsibility for that.  Whenever that “boredom” neon light starts to flicker over her head, I point her in the direction of her dolls, jigsaw puzzles, crayons and art materials.  I show her that there’s lots of stuff for her to do, that she simply has to choose from the gamut of activities at her disposal.  I’ve also come up with a checklist of options for her- that includes folding the laundry.  So, she gets to help around the house and be entertained at the same time.

It’s not about ignoring your kid.  It’s about giving him room to be absorbed in a task, and having him revel in his accomplishment.  Stay in the background and keep a watchful eye, just so you know that he’s not about to set the house on fire or anything.


About Pepper

I am a single working mom, trying to raise my kid the best way I know how. Join me as I navigate my way through the jungle that is Single Mom-hood, armed with rose-colored glasses and strength of spirit. As pepper adds spice to food, so does my daughter add spice to my life. She makes life no less than…PEPPERRIFIC!

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  1. We were just talking the other night about first born children are often the ones that are not good at playing by themselves…even later in life! I suspect it’s because we as parents “smothered them.” On the other hand, our third child has always been able to entertain herself, and suspect that’s because she rarely was able to get full attention with 3 toddlers in the house!

  2. I concur… this part is equally important as it is to show a child attention and for them to play with other kids. When it comes to my kids, it is my oldest who is better equipt at playing by herself… my youngest is so used to having people around that when she has alone time she gets bored easily and has a difficult time entertaining herself –she is getting better at it, though… she is discovering things like SHE likes.

  3. I try to encourage my own children to play by themselves but I want them to learn how to play together. Both are an important life skills. They will need these skills in the corporate world.

  4. I am at the older chunk of the kids in our family, but the 3rd down and 4 under me, so I guess that’s pretty middle. I had two imaginary friends, and my teachers at school had to have teacher conferences with my parents, because I was too independent. It’s funny to read your post now, and realize that I took all of that and applied it to my adulthood, and it’s probably the reason why I invent things. All of that day dreaming and weirdness pays off;) Do you want to hear the strangest part though? I was Homecoming Queen. Huh?

    • Haha…seriously? Homecoming Queen? :) I guess that’s the reason for your creativity. Having imaginary friends does pay off in the end, I see :).

  5. My son plays by himself all the time. Sometimes so much that I feel quite sorry for him. There’s definitely gotta be a balance. These are really great points!

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