Games for unathletic kids
Ease into it.
Instead of joining in, sit silently beside your child as she plays. Once she’s absorbed in what she’s doing, move to another part of the room. Independent play doesn’t necessarily mean your child has to be alone. How long she’s able to play on her own depends in part on her age too. While a 12-month-old may last for only five minutes, a 24-month-old may be capable of ten minutes of solo play.
Set the stage.
Once your toddler is happily playing on his own, try not to hover or specifically direct his play (“That’s a truck—you can drive it around on the floor”). However, to encourage independence, you can help your kid set up a pretend-play scenario, such as “driving” his toy truck to Grandma’s house. Ask questions about the car ride there and what will happen once his truck gets to her house.
Provide fun props.
Pay attention to the stuff your kid is naturally drawn to. If she’s always trying to get into your beauty supplies, give her a clean powder puff and a brush so she can mimic what you do. Offer plenty of other open-ended items like blocks, pots and pans, and cardboard boxes. But limit the quantity of toys you keep out at once, as toddlers can become overwhelmed when presented with too many choices. Stashing some items in a closet and then reintroducing them is a simple way to stimulate your toddler’s interest—and inspire her to play with them for an extended period of time on her own.
Sources: Linda Acredolo, PH.D., coauthor of Baby Minds: Brain-building Games Your Baby Will Love; Kathy Hirsh-pasek, PH.D., coauthor of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards; Georgene Troseth, PH.D., associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville.