“Work From Home” might be challenging for parents who have to take on dual roles as caregivers and workers. Especially for homes with little support from extended families or domestic helpers, it can be a feat to manage the needs of the child and work responsibilities. We gather some tips on how to encourage our children to play independently from seasoned mums. These mums are also known in the Instagram space for their valuable advice for parents.
WFH parents, you are not alone in this! Here are some tips on how to encourage your child to be engaged in activities independently!
Tips From Insta-Mums On How To Encourage Children To Play Independently
A Mindset Shift
Sometimes, it might take a shift in mindset in parents to help themselves and their children to adapt to the new norm. Jasmine from @3mm.montessori shares it simply about #pandemicparenting. First know that it is a privilege to stay home, instead of thinking we are stuck at home, how about “I get to stay home”. Jasmine also gives tips on opportunities for free exploration such as open-ended toys, making stay-home days extra special with activities like indoor camping. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
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Have clear schedules in place
Jacinth from @Ourlittleplaynest has a great tip for visual schedules. She puts simple illustrations of the activity and personalises them for each child, using sticky notes to create a sequence of events for toddlers. She also draws stick figures to indicate if the activity is accompanied or independent activity. This helps the child to understand that his or her parent will have to be busy working and can play at certain times.
Jacinth encourages the toddler to be involved in colouring and arranging the sticky notes. This means more buy-in! See all the tips here.
“Meeting in Progress” Sign
Zoom meetings are common and may last for a longer duration in a typical workday. Jacinth @ourlittleplaynest has this nifty tip. To help your child understand why WFH parents are “locked up in a room”, gently explain that you have meetings. Engage help in making a sign “Meeting in Progress” on the door and let the child know that the door cannot be opened when the sign is hung. Setting boundaries help children feel safe, hence Jacinth advises parents to pre-empt children of any changes. Clear and consistent rules are also helpful to maintain these boundaries.
Have a self-help snack and drinks station
How many times do you hear “Mummy! Daddy! I’m hungry!”, “I’m thirsty!” when the children are home? We love this tip from @2mamas4kids to have a DIY snack and drink station. The self-serve station is where the kids help themselves with cups, bowls, cutleries, water and snacks! You can reuse baby food containers to portion out single servings of snacks so the kids get an appropriate portion of the right snacks. Tiffany from @2mama4kids also includes access to fruits and rotate snacks.
Some other rules she has shared include – children have to eat proper meals, sweet treats are permissible occasionally, healthy snacks are encouraged and permission has to be given by parents before snacking.
Instil good home learning habits
The queen of home learning aka Fynn from @happytotshelf has plenty of tips on a consistent home learning rhythm. Apart from her resources on her site for toddlers, she shares countless tried and tested activities that her three children have loved on her IG feed. @Happytotshelf ‘s highlight reel on “focus” helps parents to learn how to engage the children at home. Tips include providing a conducive environment, fewer distractions and engaging materials. Scheduling large blocks of uninterrupted free time is also important to get them deeply engaged in an activity.
For families with multiples, start with activities everyone can do together first. Give the younger one’s choices to either observe their older siblings or other activities. Have some backup activities too if they lose interest.
No magic toys, but an accessible and inviting setup helps
Jules, play parenting coach from @storiesofplay, is passionate about self-directed, independent learning through play. She believes in good quality open-ended toys with an accessible and inviting setup. Less could be more, and knowing your child is critical as a parent.
Jules’s advice is to be attuned as a parent – to be present, observe and be attentive to the child’s interests, personality, learning styles, developmental stage and strength to set up an environment for play. Toys should be developmentally appropriate and aligned with current interests so the children will gravitate towards them and be engaged for prolonged periods.
Self-directed play yields plenty of benefits. It helps the child develop autonomy, a sense of agency, control over their environment, decision making and consequences. These choices lead to them developing their identity, sense of self and who they are as unique individuals. It might look messy, loud, chaotic, but these are all opportunities to learn.
Independent play while you WFH means Everyone is Safe at Home
As a WFH parent, I know how challenging it can be with everyone home. But this also means everyone is safe, we hope the tips will help with a fruitful time at home. Encouraging your child to be independent learners can yield many benefits and instil good habits for life.