You guys know I love me some independent playtime. Independent playtime is easily one of my favorite concepts from the Babywise series. I’ve written about it before, but just to provide any folks unfamiliar with I.P. a quick run down of the benefits:
- It teaches kids to entertain themselves
- It encourages creativity and imagination
- It provides structure to the day
- It improves focus
- It gives mom a break
Focus and imagination are best developed during Independent Playtime if the child is given only one or two toys to play with during the time frame that he’s in I.P. The point is not to get all legalistic about it, but I have found that some toys seem to reap the benefits mentioned above better than others. Here are a few of my favorite toys for Independent Playtime:
For the record, these are not affiliate links because Amazon denied my application to become an affiliate. Go figure.
Wooden Blocks – I really think every house should have a set of these. Wooden blocks are pretty much the most basic toy you can purchase, giving them the maximum potential for creativity. A one year old can use them to practice stacking (and knocking down towers) and a five year old can build complex architectural cities. Heck, I’m twenty-nine and still genuinely enjoy building little houses with wooden blocks!
Duplos/Legos – This is the same concept as the wooden blocks, but they require more dexterity, making them a good choice for developing fine motor skills.
Lincoln Logs – Lincoln logs take building one step further. They require the creativity and dexterity of wooden blocks and Legos, but they also depend on some level of planning and thinking ahead. They hone skills of focus and concentration.
Shape Sorters – This is a great toy for the baby or toddler just starting Independent Playtime. I specifically like the Fisher Price one linked to because the shapes all go through the top (as opposed to the cube shape sorters) and the lid comes off really easily (so even babies can dump out the shapes from the box).
Memory Games – Kids love games, and this is one they can play by themselves. Memory/matching games improve focus, recognition, and memory.
Wooden Train Track – Train tracks are a good choice for the same reasons as Lincoln Logs.
Toy Jewelry Making / Bead Sets – These are so good for little hands! Making necklaces hones focus and creativity, dexterity, and provides endless opportunity to work with patterns and design.
Calico Critters Doll House – These are great for imaginative play. Moving the tiny pieces around (like setting the table with that miniature fork and knife) can improve fine motor skills. These are obviously more geared towards girls, but my son has been known to ask to play with the Calico Critters Doll House on occasion.
Animal Sets – We have a set of dinosaurs that I bought for a dollar each from Walmart and a wooden Noah’s ark set. Like the Calico Critters, animal sets provide lots of imaginative play. Kids can come up with infinite story lines about the animals, making them talk or arranging different match ups for fighting. The opportunities for pretend play here are endless!
Books – Generally I leave my kids with a toy and a few books during Independent Playtime. If they are uninterested in the toy and just finish playing with it, they can sit and look through books. Since I am not there supervising, until I can trust my kids with library books I leave them with board books.
In addition to benefits like developing focus, spurring creativity, and sharpening fine motor skills, the toys above are my favorite for Independent Playtime because they are easy to clean up and put away for the remainder of the day. Certainly if my kids want to get out the blocks in the afternoon they can, but because they are tucked away in the cupboard, they usually don’t think to do so. Because of that, when I take them out during I.P., the toys have some level of novelty and tend to hold their attention for longer.
If you’re curious, my lease favorite toys for Independent Playtime are:
Toys that Make Noise – in addition to being annoying, I generally feel like the lights/sounds/colors/action can be overstimulating and basic toys that require active involvement from the user are better suited for development.
Dress Up – Dress up is fun for kids, but until a certain age it requires a lot of help from the parent. I don’t want to be getting called into the room ten times to button this or tie that.
Markers – For the younger child, having markers in an unsupervised setting is just asking for trouble, but even with my older one they have the potential to roll off the table and accidentally bleed into the carpet. I’ve determined that markers are just too much of a hazard to be suitable for I.P.
Well there you have it. My favorite toys for Independent Playtime. If you do I.P. regularly in your home, what are some of YOUR favorite toys?
And be sure to check out what the rest of the BFBN has to say about Independent Playtime today!