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How to teach your kids to play independently

teach kids to play independently

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Independent play. Something I get a lot of questions about. Because I often get a question like ‘how did you teach your kids to play on their own?’. But I also hear people say to me that ‘our kids are just easier than theirs’. And let me tell you something, they’re not! haha. We just focussed on quiet time from a very early age and it has saved my sanity!

Quiet time for our family means that they will play on their own , without me or their sibling(s), for a certain period of time.

Stephanie Algra

How do you start?

When Josh, our oldest, was about 6 months old I saw an article on Blanket time by Babywise. I started following the exact same steps as they mention in the article when he was about 12 months old (when he was able to sit up well on his own and could play a little, so this depends per child). These are the steps I followed;

  • Place a blanket on the floor and place your child on the blanket with a few toys.
  • Explain that the child needs to stay on the blanket until the timer goes off. Start slow and easy! We started with 5 minutes and moved those up when the time was spent completely on the blanket.
  • Sit next to the blanket and place the child back on the blanket every time he or she comes off. Don’t talk to him/her, just say ‘No, stay on the blanket’.
  • When the timer goes off; throw a dance party! I had a fun song set and we would dance together.
  • Put away the blanket and repeat daily.

When the child does well, you can move a little further away from the blanket and sit on the couch for example. Or go to the hallway at some point to see if they stay on the blanket when you are not around.

Why did I do this?

I don’t believe we need to spend every second of every day with our kids. Of course they need us around, but it is also important to teach them to play on their own, be creative without mom and develop independence. Too often I hear mamas say they are completely out when there kids are in bed, because they played with them all day long. Please don’t do this to yourself!

Quiet time

Using blanket time as a base has been very helpful, because our oldest learned very early on that he had some time every day where he played without mom. We have extended that time over the years and now he plays in his room for up to an hour. And sometimes multiple times a day.

I now have quiet time built into our days, twice a day, and both our kids play independently during that time. Our oldest plays for an hour in his room and our girl plays 20 to 30 minutes in her crib or downstairs. This gives me at least 20 minutes to get some work done, do a load of laundry or just relax and take a cup of coffee (which we all need sometimes!).

More on how I schedule my days? Here’s a post I did on our daily schedule.


Teaching this to your kids takes time! You cannot expect your little one to play on his own after two weeks. It takes time and effort, but it’s very worth it in the long run!

So just to get back to one of the things I hear often; No, our kids are not easier. I just taught them to play without needing me all the time and it took a lot of effort on my part. But now, 4 years later I am forever grateful I started doing this with our oldest! He can play on his own anywhere (no need to occupy him when we go to a restaurant for example) and I have time to get things done.

Have you taught your kids blanket time? Or did you do something similar? Let me know!


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