#10 Benefits Of Children Playing Independently

Took myself out for a hike, nature is the best playground!

If a child is playing by themselves, it doesn’t mean they’re alone...

I’m not trying to set the scene of a horror movie here, I just believe that your own imagination and creativity can be equivalent if not more powerful than being in a room full of people.

This is because when children are playing in an appropriate and healthy environment for their developmental stage, they are free to explore and discover things for themselves through play.

For example if a 3 year old is free to roam around a garden they will discover different bugs and plants and therefore different textures, patterns and sounds.

When I talk about allowing children to play independently, I am not talking about sitting them in front of the TV…

Unwrap that cotton wool and let them explore!

I admit that TV can have great benefits in terms of education and entertainment; fuelling and encouraging children’s future play opportunities, but unless it is interactive, it doesn’t require them to truly play…therefore I’m not a fan.

As a child I would be sent to my bedroom if I was ‘naughty’.

Big mistake!

I loved being in my bedroom because a lot of my toys were there. I would happily stay in there and entertain myself for hours through independent play.

I had books, Barbie’s, cuddly toys, octagons, Lego, notebooks and pens and at one time or another, a hamster too…my entertainment was endless.

However, I was also sometimes sent to the bottom step on the stairs, ‘the naughty step’…that wasn’t fun.

I think maybe my Mum would choose my bedroom if it was her who was becoming short tempered and needed time to herself.

This is perfectly fine and happens to everyone.

You have to use your own judgement in the situation you’re in and know that no one is perfect and that perfect parenting simply doesn’t exist.

Forgive yourself!

The best thing you can do for a child is listen to them.

If a child wants to play independently, let them!

They know their own play needs better than anyone. If they feel like being in a quiet room alone, that may be because they’re feeling pressured or stressed or tired and need time by themselves to relax and restore themselves.

Let’s get into the benefits of children playing solo!

#1 – Independence

A benefit of playing independently is independence? What?! Obviously.

I know this seems like a cop out and an obvious benefit of independent play but it’s so important!

Children need to become comfortable with being alone.

I believe encouraging independence and self-awareness in young children is vital because with this, children are given the freedom to be in control of themselves, how they learn and who they become as people.

It is because of this, that if I was to give one piece of advice to anyone having a conversation with a child, it would be to aim to have the child walk away from you knowing

they have a voice that matters, to listen to others, but question ignorance.

Through independent play children get the independence they crave.

If you have ever watched a child play independently you will know what I mean when I say that they are literally small adults, but with one difference…

They are loving it!

They love doing things for themselves, learning from mistakes and celebrating small victories with pride.

It’s a joy to watch.

The small victories children love to celebrate will snowball into bigger victories that make up the foundation of who they are and what they do.

Being able to make their own decisions is a fundamental human right and as long as it’s safe, that right should not be taken away from anyone.

When a child is comfortable making their own decisions, they open themselves up to try new things and further their play, and therefore learning.

I genuinely believe that anyone who does themselves or a child ‘a favour’ by pouring the drink for them, because it’s quicker or saves making a mess, they are doing that child a huge injustice.

That adult is depriving that child of their independence, and in my opinion, they need to rearrange their priorities.

Let them thrive!

#2 – Imagination

Your imagination is your most powerful asset when it comes to play.

Anything is possible.

When children play alone there is no fear of judgment or dismissal. They are free to be whoever they want to be, do whatever they want to do and be as creative as they can.

When children play independently their imagination takes over and they will create things and scenarios to challenge themselves and discover new things.

Through this their imagination will grow and expand as they go on a journey of self-discovery while experimenting with the different spaces they are in.

With a cardboard box you have a car, spaceship, dinner table, office desk, cat basket, cauldron…

with a blanket you have a cape, dress, door, magicians reveler, magic carpet, picnic blanket, rope, headdress

…you get the idea.

Money is not an issue.

The only thing a child NEEDS to play is freedom and a few household objects to work with… they’ll do the rest.

Independent play is also a great way for children to get to know themselves; what they like and dislike.

Because as you know, you are the only person you can’t run away from.

#3 – Self-direction

Self-direction in play and therefor life, is vital.

You are in control of yourself and what you do.

If you’re passionate about something and believe in yourself, you can do it!

Self-direction is learned in childhood while playing independently.

You are the sole decision maker, your imagination is limitless and your only limit.

When you are alone no one is going to make you do something you don’t want to do or distract you from the play you’re trying to focus on.

You’re free to change course at any given moment, to try different things and methods without the influence of anyone else and the play needs that they have.

When someone asks me ‘Why’ I did something my favourite answer is “Because I wanted to” or “Because I felt like it”.

True, I would then elaborate, but I think it is important to do things because you have a genuine interest or spontaneous desire to do so.

If you do something because of a genuine interest you will get a sense of joy from the experience regardless of the outcome.

The process of ridding yourself of ignorance is fun.

This can only be done organically if you are in control of your own play and dictate what you do and how you do it.

You can also practice self-direction while playing one-to-one or in a group, however true self-direction isn’t influenced by anyone else and in a social situation you are naturally influenced by others.

This also applies to environment, children are going to be influenced by the environment they play in, but they control how you manipulate the space they’re in.

#4 – Self-reliance

Self-reliance and self-direction may seem similar, although they are actually very different.

Self-direction is related to the physical act of playing, whereas self-reliance is an emotional stability.

They each go hand in hand because when playing independently children are self-directing their play and therefore also being self-reliant.

It’s just you, yourself and your imagination to flourish as you see fit.

Having the emotional stability to be and play alone is one that comes naturally if you are given the opportunity to play independently as a child.

Without this opportunity or encouragement you are likely to become reliant on others and lack the know how to relish in your own creativity and be self-fulfilling as an adult.

Only having yourself to rely on makes play both simple and difficult.

-It makes it simple because there’s no argument or differing opinions.

-It makes it difficult because it’s all on you, and this can be overwhelming.

This is especially overwhelming to a child who is used to having their parent or sibling constantly by their side.

Developing self-reliance early can also help prepare children for their transition into school life.

As you know, children won’t always have a choice: they will sometimes have to work (play!) independently.

Self-direction, reliance and reflection all accumulate to form a child who is not afraid to fail, and that is the greatest gift of all because with failure comes knowledge.

#5 – Peace and quiet

Everyone needs time to themselves sometimes just to get some peace and quiet.

Children are no different.

They take in vast amounts of information all day every day and everyone needs time to relax in a calm, peaceful environment to absorb.

Children are often thought of as just ‘playing all day’, forgetting that…

As children play they are working!

Children are told what to do.

Often as a teaching mechanism.

However this, in my opinion, should not be constant. Children should be given time to make their own decisions and be their own boss and relax.

They are not only getting to know the world and the way it works, but themselves and how they fit into it.

Playing with something familiar or practicing something they already know during independent play will mean they can refocus. This will give them more drive and energy to go back and learn new things as a result.

As an adult you know that you only have so much steam and after a long hard week you have to take time to yourself. If it’s all go go go, you will burn out and your work will suffer.

The main point I want to make here is that children are no different from adults, it’s just that adults have a need to justify why they do everything.

#6 – Regulates Emotions

At some point everyone will find themselves in a situation where they feel angry, frustrated or on a positive note, ecstatic!

We then have the challenge of dealing with that emotion and asking ourselves how we should process it in a sufficient and healthy manner.

Finding a way to deal with these emotions or overcoming them is difficult, but through independent play children are given the space to do so.

This type of play regulates their emotions because there isn’t anyone there to dramatize it or diminish it.

The process children go through when these emotions arise, when they are alone, makes them easier to deal with over time.

They won’t have a choice but to practice personal patience.

This patience they learn for themselves will help them to be patient with others in the future.

Knowing how strong emotions can make you feel and can make you say and do things you wouldn’t usually do, can help children learn empathy.

This is turn may help them socially because they will show and teach empathy which is key in creating friendships with your peers, as well as connecting with siblings and other family members.

So basically it’s just a really cool and useful skill which makes you a better person to be around as well as making other people more bearable to be around.

#7 – Self-reflection

Self-reflection will occur naturally during independent play because nobody else is there to ask ‘how could it have gone better?’, ‘what could you do to improve next time?’ or ‘what went wrong?’

Humans are naturally inquisitive and children will ask themselves these questions without realising it throughout their play.

This self-reflection is beneficial because we all constantly make mistakes (yes, even you!).

Reflecting and bettering yourself emotionally and in your learning, for your own understanding, is a beautiful thing.

It is through self reflection that we can be truly happy with who we are and what we are doing, as well as being a key role in developing and giving children the ambition and thrive to improve and develop their skills.

Be the best you you can be!

#8 – The inner scientist

Given the time to play alone, chidren will bring out the inner scientist that lives within us all.

We all have an inherent thirst for knowledge and the only way to find things out for yourself is to experiment.

Not only is this the natural way we learn but it is one of the most effective.

If we go through the trials and tribulations to find out information for ourselves, we will be able to recall that information more easily.

I believe this is because of the feeling of pride we associate with the challenge that we have overcome in gaining the knowledge.

To clearly understand and take on board what we are learning, I believe that we should each use our own method of play as we see fit.

This method may change from day to day, or even hour to hour. Whatever play feels natural to you will most likely be the most effective for your learning and happiness (that’s the most important).

The alternative to this is just sitting at a desk being told information, which regrettably is how a large portion of most education systems operate…

Where there’s not enough play considering what the objective is…

#9 – Problem solving

#8 and #9 go hand in hand but ‘#10 Benefits of Independent play’ sounds better than #9.

When in scientist mode, children will become excellent problem solvers. This is, after all, what experimentation is all about; you have a problem, you do tests, you fail, you do more tests in different ways and keep going until you find a solution.

This method of learning is used throughout life and without alone time during childhood it may be more difficult to harness that “I can do it!” way of thinking, which with perseverance will turn into “I DID IT!”

Playing independently means children will have the opportunity to take in what they have previously learnt and practice.

Practice makes perfect and cliché’s are cliché’s for a reason.

Becoming a better learner is the best thing you can strive to be. If you can self-teach you have a gift that is invaluable.

It is during independent play that children are totally reliant on their own perseverance and resilience.

Through trial and error children learn.

#10 – Confidence

It is due to the other 9 benefits of independent play that confidence is also a benefit.

Being independent, self-reliant and directed, imaginative etc. gives you confidence. With this confidence you have the drive to continue to explore, discover and learn new things all the time.

The concept of confidence is strange to a child because they don’t know anything different from what they have personally experienced.

If a child is able to speak their mind and play freely, they will only know confidence.

However if I child is not allowed to speak their mind and unable to play in their own way without intervention, they only know dictatorship.

This sounds harsh and I know it isn’t this simple, but I feel very strongly about allowing children to find themselves and be themselves without any fear of judgement.

Tackling problems face on helps cognitive development and bypasses the need to ask for help when a problem is seemingly in their way.

The sense of self-fulfilment this creates is a powerful tool in building and maintaining a child’s confidence.

Why would I ask for help if I can do it myself?

Wrap it up!

Everybody needs to be selfish sometimes and concentrate on their own needs.

I loved playing independently when I was a child (and still do) because I’m in charge of how my play unfolds.

When playing with my siblings or friends this isn’t always the case.

Of course, regardless of the benefits, a child nor you can meet all your needs by playing independently, a healthy mix is ideal.

Luckily there are just as many benefits of children playing in a group or one-to-one as there are for them playing independently…

Next week I will be discussing the benefits of playing in a group!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with like-minded people and ask any questions you may have in the comments.

This weekend I had some well deserved chill time! I watched Netflix and did odd jobs around my apartment.

Ever since I was a little girl I have always pretended to be Snow White when I’m cleaning!

It just makes it more fun!

(If not Snow White, then Marry Poppins)

How did you play today?

https://www.facebook.com/Playismagic/

Adults Need To Play Too!

Play is everything, we all do it, all the time!

This concept came to me from my Dad, an artist, who once told me “everything is art”. And it is… If you choose to see it that way, which I do!

I believe art is play, they are the same thing.

Playworkers define play as “Freely chosen, personally driven and intrinsically motivated.” – PlayScotland

Art is defined as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” – Webster’s Dictionary, 2018

Play and art are creative outlets which can be executed using different mediums and tools. I think it’s safe to say they would still exist if they weren’t being observed, judged and evaluated.

In fact, I would argue that if you remove observation, judgement and evaluation you have them in their purest forms.

They are a human need.

Children’s play and adults’ play: are they different?

In some ways, yes.

However the reasoning behind it is exactly the same: to enjoy life, learn and develop.

An example of adult play could be gambling.

When you hear the word ‘gambling’ you probably think of a casino in Las Vegas, smart suits and skimpy dresses, with bad hangovers and wasted money.

This is all true. However adults ultimately gamble to fuel adrenaline, you take your chances and see what happens.

Wait for the rush!

Any situation in which you don’t know the outcome but invest anyway is a gamble!

Children do this all the time!

-Can I jump from here to there without falling?

-When I mix two different colours of play dough what colour will it make and will they be mixed forever?

-If I shout at you will you stop playing with me?

Many methods of ‘adult play’… that you would in no way associate with children, can be translated into a child’s world.

Especially when it comes to why the play is taking place.

  • Adults use alcohol to change their mood; children use sugar.
  • Adults play cards against humanity to laugh with friends; children play snap.
  • Adults go to clubs to find companionship; children go to the park.

They’re all fundamentally the same.

When you’re a child you play with sand and you add water.

You see and feel the differences in texture, colour and consistency. You want to do it again and again to see if it happens every time.

It’s like magic.

You can make patterns and shapes, you can manipulate it differently in each form and it’s interesting to touch… just by adding water!

Me playing at Haeundae beach, Korea!

I don’t know about you but I still love going to the beach. I love playing in the sea and in the sand; splashing, digging holes, building sandcastles and sculptures, decorating them with shells.

The only difference between an adult enjoying these activities and a child is that to a child it’s new, they often want to take it further, and test it.

When a child is free to take it further and test it, they’re in a world of their own exploration.

Is there more it can do?

If we add glitter and feathers and paint and glue, what will we get?

A boring adult might answer “a mess, you get a big mess”.

In reality you get a creation, a potion, a medicine, or a stew.

Your imagination is your only limitation.

Why do many adults see play as a diminutive act?

Alas, society flicks its wand and to a certain extent, we all conform. That’s life.

According to western society we have a list of things we need to achieve and if we don’t we’re lacking some part of the big picture.

Before I go into a list of clichés I have to say the world is changing and I don’t believe the following list is guaranteed to make you complete or happy. You can probably tell by how it’s written…

(But I also appreciate the need for stability, money and love which these things can provide.)

How to be a functioning member of society:

  • Decide what you want to do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, as young as possible. Preferably academic or at least high paid with little risk.
  • Prove you’re a good test taker by getting high grades in school.
  • Get into debt by going to university.
  • Get a job straight out of university and pay back the acquired debt with a job that may or may not have actually required you to have said degree in the first place.
  • Get married – Preferably to the opposite sex.
  • Get in more debt with a mortgage – buy a house.
  • Be the epitome of health.
  • Have children and expect the same conformity from them.
  • When you’re old and useless; sit quietly in a room and don’t make a fuss, until you die and your hard-earned (and taxed) cash – which is now your children’s inheritance – can be taxed yet again.

I could go on, in a never-ending list of contradictions and stereotypes.

That’s just how the world goes ‘round, right?

NO!

The only reason I say NO! so dramatically is that no two people are the same, so this idealised life we’re taught to adhere to isn’t going to make everyone happy.

It could in fact make you miserable and forget what actually makes the world go ‘round: Science.

Just kidding, it’s PLAY, obviously it’s play!

The beauty of play in childhood is that you don’t realise you’re playing because it’s so natural.

I think we need to carry this on as adults more mindfully.

If play is natural then that must mean we are taught to stop playing…

We are told to stop doing something that’s inherent to us as humans, not even as humans, but as living beings; all species play.

Yet, we are the only species to shame it as we age. Why?

If we learn through play yet discourage play after a certain age, in a way, aren’t we discouraging learning?

As an adult I have a different and fresh appreciation of events in my childhood.

I love being with my family and talking about things we did and places we visited ‘back in the day’. 

The conversation would end by saying “I’m gonna do that with my kids, it was so much fun!” or “We should go back and do it again!”

I think we sometimes forget the things we once did could still be happening if we just did them!

How can I hold on to the joy of play in adulthood?

Look back on your childhood and see yourself through their eyes…

Would they like you?

Would they be excited to spend time with you?

You are still that person – you’ve just had more experiences. Let your experiences shape you for the better, without losing your inquisitive love of life.

I have another list of clichés for you. A few do’s and don’ts for embracing the joy of play:

  • Embrace natural pleasures. Just being outside could fill you with joy; fresh air, sunshine, birds singing, trees that need climbing and stones to be skimmed.
  • Make time to do nothing. Do what you enjoy, what you feel like. Take time away from ‘the man’ (this term is used to describe society’s harsh demands and is in no way sexist… men are lovely).
  • Be more spontaneous. Life is often very structured and there is an appointed time for everything. Once in a while just say “let’s go on a drive” or “let’s go to the park” – and actually go. Have an adventure!
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh at yourself. You will enjoy life so much more. Just trust me. I make fun of myself way more than anyone else. Some people test that statistic, but I win every time and in more ways than one because I’m happy, I know and embrace my flaws.
  • Don’t spend time thinking about other people. By this I mean don’t spend your time thinking about what other people are thinking about you or what they want of you. Say it with an attitude: you do you, flaws and all. Those that love you will love you because of those things or regardless of them.
  • Find your passion! Just keep trying different things that seem cool until you get that light-bulb-moment of… ‘Ah, ok, yeah…this is it’. You might never find it and that’s fine. Just learn as much as you can.

These things can be hard to achieve, but it’s possible!

What’s more important to you:

-Being a genuinely happy person or having a million likes on Instagram?

-Having a happy and healthy child or what the neighbour thinks about your parenting?

You could have it all, but you still have to prioritise and work on what’s important to you.

Some may say adults don’t need to play because they’ve learned everything they need to learn through play.

False.

We are constantly learning and therefore playing!

Play is anything you do for fun, anything you do because you’re fascinated or curious.

Why is it that if you see two women in their mid 40’s sitting in a café chatting, they’re having a catch up, but if you saw two 8-year-old girls doing the same thing they’re playing?

It’s your own perception of what is taking place, try to see it for what it is.

Are the two older women playing or the two young girls having a catch up?

Free tip: You could get home from work and watch a few hours of TV… OR you could go to a class and learn something new. Take a drive to a place with no one around and watch the sky change. Go bowling with your friends or to a new restaurant for dinner or simply take a walk.

The list is endless.

As I said at the beginning, I believe that “we all do it, all the time” (we play).

I think it’s the word itself some people have a problem with rather than the act.

Which makes sense…

The definitions of words as broad as play or art are perceived differently person-to-person and that’s ok… as long as you’re aware of your biases.

I am biased because I love to play, I also love learning about play and the many different aspects of it (risk, psychology, health, disability and social interaction – just to name a few).

So, I’ve set up camp in my bias bubble, but it’s transparent and I invite you to come and share your biases and we can learn and understand each other.

Wrap it up!

Play is just as apparent and complex in adults as it is in children. It’s just that adults are (generally speaking) less open minded and have lots of opinions, which combined with a ‘my way or the high way’ attitude is a quick way to end a potentially great conversation.

If you don’t take yourself too seriously and unwind, you will be happier, less stressed and free to play!

As my sister would say “get over yourself”!

Do what makes you happy, learn as much as you can, listen to other peoples stories and share your own!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post.

Please share it with like-minded people and ask any questions you may have in the comments, let me know what you think.

Me in my happy place!

Yesterday I went to ‘Ilbung-sa’, which is a temple in my town, Uriyeong, and my favourite place to go in korea.

I saw beautiful lilly pads, architecture, paintings and people showing their respects.

The art work is incredible, the statues and wood work are all carved and painted my hand.

It blows my mind every time I go!

I like to lie down on the floor of my favourite temple and marvel at the intricate design of the ceiling and the stories it tells.

I also saw a group of monks perform a ceremony for the people there. The drums and chanting were calming and surreal.

How did you play today?