How to Encourage Independent Play to Get More Work Done From Home as a Work From Home Mom

How to Encourage Independent Play to Get More Work Done From Home as a Work From Home Mom

April 7, 2023

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Whether you work full time inside or outside of your home, or a mix of both, finding a way to keep your children occupied so you can be productive is often a struggle. We feel guilt about utilizing distractions, but know there are tasks that need to be handled each day. In order accomplish all the things as a work from home mom, it is important to learn how to encourage independent play. Learning how to encourage and incorporate independent play into our daily routines can make a tremendous impact on productivity.

There are three necessary steps required to create and encourage successful independent play in your home. Taking these steps up front will create a solid foundation for your kids. Additionally, it will give you the space needed to focus on your work. By encouraging independent play, it will allow you to enjoy more of what matters in your life. Less time will be wasted worrying about excessive screen use or that looming deadline on your to-do list.

Listen below for the entire episode on The Systemize Your Life Podcast

The Importance of Encouraging Independent Play

Unless you live under a rock, you know that children spend a significant amount of time with screens. While this is part of society today, many of us prefer our children to engage in more meaningful activities.

Unfortunately, we are also struggling with the reality of our time always being pulled in different directions. We are trying to balance our precious hours between what we need to get done and parenting. Independent Play in tandem with other systems and time management will free you from the guilt and pressure of trying to do it all. 

Encouraging Independent Play

I learned about independent play when my children were little and have always used it as a tool in my home. I love to utilize Montessori methods and believe in shaping my kids to be respectful and intentional in a world that is overwhelmingly busy and self-centered.

By encouraging independent play and making it a priority over the years, it has allowed us to eliminate the issues associated with screen time usage. Additionally, encouraging independent play has also allowed me to maintain my home and my business without losing my mind. I don’t know if there’s a greater gift I can give a mom who is burning at both ends!

How to Get Started With Encouraging Independent Play

It’s important to understand that while the goal is for your children to play independently, you do have to set the tone and environment in a way that will allow them to embrace what you’re trying to do.

By giving them the tools they need to engage in independent play, you’re eliminating future struggles for yourself and your kids. This is especially important if you are trying to lower or eliminate screen time. The sooner you implement this strategy, the more your family’s routine will flow over time.

Maybe you are wondering if you even have what it takes to start this process. If you’re struggling with everything that being a mom brings my Back to Basic Series on what to do if you’re not loving motherhood will get you right on track. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, but you don’t have to do it alone. Using the resources and community around you is not a weakness- always remember that!

The 3 Pillars of Successful Independent Play

I need to start off by letting you know that these 3 steps have to be used together in order for them to work. Each aspect of Independent Play goes hand in hand, so making setup a priority is essential to setting your kids and yourself up for success. 

As with any other aspect of parenting, the methods you use might look different from what another parent does. What matters is that you’re creating an environment for your kids to play in a meaningful way that doesn’t require your undivided attention. 

Step 1: Establish the Space Where Independent Play Will Occur

The first step you want to take for setting up and encouraging a block of independent play is deciding where this play is going to take place. Making this decision up front takes the guesswork out of what comes next. It also informs what needs to happen in the other steps.

Get Creative With Your Space

Don’t be scared to be creative with the spaces you utilize. Play can happen anywhere! Being in tune with what will work best for your family will be incredibly helpful when it comes to choosing a space. You will also be able to maximize your productivity by making this decision in advance. This might look like the living room, the park, or even the bathroom floor some days. 

Choosing places your children are comfortable will definitely make this go smoother. Mastering what independent play looks like before trying it in unfamiliar environments is ideal. You will have a system in place before adding a change, which can sometimes be difficult for kids and adults alike. With the setting in place, you can now determine the other aspects of your Independent Play block.

Step 2: Determine the Length of Time Needed for Independent Play

The second step to encourage independent play is to decide on the length of time you need your children to engage in Independent Play before they start is going to make your day run much smoother. There are definitely a few things to consider here, like the amount of time you need for a work block, and what your child(ren) can reasonably handle without distraction or you at their side. 

Starting with a lower amount of time and then adding more incrementally is a great way to build confidence and positivity into this routine. Lower time amounts are helpful specifically for uneasy kids, or breaking that screen time habit as I previously mentioned. This will also increase attention spans since your goal is to have everyone focused on their work.

The Importance of Play as Work for Children

A tenant of the Montessori philosophy is acknowledging that play IS work for children. Referring to their time of play as work is often empowering, so that is something to consider as well. You might call this time period their working block too if it gets them excited for this part of their day.

You can utilize a few different strategies to help with time management, especially when you get started. A manual timer is a great way for kids to be able to see how much time is left while keeping devices out of reach. You can even color sections of the timer to give extra support to children that need more visual cues.

“We are trying to take the environment and specific time frame and bring it to a child at their level and where they are most excited to be. ” 

Step 3: Select an Independent Play Activity

The final step in how to encourage independent play is choosing what activity is going to take place during this time. You might be toying with the idea of just letting this time be free-play. That’s going to be a recipe for disaster at some point during your work block when someone gets bored.

Choose an Activity Ahead of Time

Another great way to encourage independent play is to choose the activity. This creates clear boundaries and expectations for your kids. Furthermore, it makes them feel secure and gives them a purpose. It is also an essential step to help them stay focused on what they are doing. If they are busy being in the zone, they are less concerned with what you have going on. That’s a win for everyone!

A predetermined activity also aims at eliminating arguments about what can and can’t be done during that time. There will be no reason to ask if it’s okay to play on devices or repetitive questioning about what is going on.

Encourage Independent Play by Getting Them Involved!

A great strategy to empower your children and to help encourage independent play is to get them involved. Work with your children to create a list of activities they enjoy. You can then add your own ideas and utilize them for independent play. This is also a fantastic shortcut for you on those days when you just need things to be simple. Just choose an activity from that list, and you’re good to go!

How to Encourage Independent Play At Different Ages

Just like any other aspect of motherhood, encouraging independent play looks different with varying ages and developmental abilities. There are a few things you can do to make the most of your play/work block.

It’s really important to consider what works for your family, even if it doesn’t look the same as what someone else is doing. Knowing the difference between what your oldest and youngest children can handle, for example, is crucial as well. 

Do What Works for Your Family

This may look like a longer block of time in a place you do not have direct oversight of, like a bedroom, for older children. A younger child may have a shorter block of play on the other side of the room you are working in.

You might need to insert breaks into play to account for diaper changes or bathroom breaks, a snack, or to avoid sensory overload. Mentally preparing yourself to meet your kids where they are ahead of time will keep you from getting discouraged with the process.

Implementing Independent Play With Confidence

Let’s leverage the knowledge only you have from pouring into your family day in and day out. You will be able to foster an appreciation for independent play and change the way rhythm of your days. Utilizing the strategies I’ve outlined for you to encourage independent play, will help you approach this process with confidence and positivity. I guarantee you will see a huge shift in your family dynamic and productivity.

Stay the course and let me know how it works out! Please check in and comment below with your experience. I would also love for you to join my Facebook Group with other moms on this very same journey.

If you could use extra support in making the most of your days, check out my FREE Time Blocking Workbook. This goes hand in hand with utilizing Independent Play! I have every confidence that you will rock this process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Being a Work From Home parent is overwhelming. How do I keep myself from drowning?

This question is precisely why I began reaching out to moms just like you and me. We are called to make the most of every day with our children while stewarding businesses and homes that require our attention and dedication. Don’t worry- I’ve got plenty of resources to help you gain the structure and confidence you need to feel great about your work in every part of your life!

Begin by using the Fundamental Needs Workbook to determine a baseline for yourself. Then listen to the Podcast weekly for inspiration and motivation. Make sure you join Systemize Your Life so you can take part in the amazing conversations we have and feel supported, regardless of whether or not you have a “village” to help you on this journey. We’ve got your back!

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