Independent play has so many great benefits for kids (not to mention for parents who need to get stuff done!). Here are 50+ ideas for indoor AND outdoor independent play for you to save for your parenting files!
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Do you get tired of hearing your kids say, “I’m bored!” or “There’s nothing to do!”?
Do you want them to be able to play on their own part of the day so you can work or get stuff done?
Do you want them to develop important life skills like problem-solving, creativity, and emotional regulation?
Me, too. (To all three!)
That’s why I came up with this list of 50+ ideas for independent play. And the best part is — the entire list is SCREEN-FREE!
Check out the list, save it to your parenting files, and start reaping the benefits of independent play.
Benefits of Independent Play
What are those benefits? Here are just a few of the things your kids will gain from independent play:
- Improved focus
- Increased attention span
- Greater independence
- Problem-solving skills
- Emotional regulation
- Self-soothing techniques
- Increased comfort with solitude
It also benefits YOU as the parent by providing you with some downtime and/or opportunities to tackle some of your other tasks and responsibilities!
Are you ready for the list of 50+ ideas? I’ve broken them down for your convenience into indoor play ideas (for those yucky days) and outdoor ideas!
Indoor Independent Play Ideas
- Art — crayons, markers (we love Color Wonder for little ones!), paints, clay, stamps
- Crafts — pipe cleaners, beads, string art, origami, paper crafts, craft kits
- Stickers — We love sticker activity books at our house! Here’s a tip for little ones: peel off all the outside borders, leaving the stickers stuck to the page. It makes it so much easier for them to get their own stickers off!
- Books and magazines
- Sensory bins with rice, oatmeal, pasta, shredded paper, beads, or other materials
- Kinetic sand
- Activity books — some of our favorites are the Bear Grylls activity books and the Highlights Hidden Pictures books
- Building toys
- Kitchen play — in a pretend kitchen or in your actual kitchen with pots, pans, spoons, etc.
- Tea parties
- Obstacle courses
- Cars & trucks — we bring out this car mat from time to time for extra fun!
- Magnetic boards or easels — or you can use a cookie sheet in a pinch!
- Draw/write in a journal
- Sticky wall activities
- Simple construction projects
- Indoor bowling
- Sorting activities
- Magnadoodles and digital doodle pad (Aidan LOVES his!)
- Geoboards & tangrams
- Audiobooks — use the Libby app to download FREE audiobooks through your library!
- File folder games
Outdoor Independent Play Ideas
- Sidewalk chalk
- Leaf rubbings
- Riding bikes/scooters/skateboards
- Planting/tending a garden
- Play on a play set
- Squirt bottle art — with paint OR (mess-free option) water!
- Catch and release bugs & critters
- Bubbles — we LOVE these no-spill bubble buckets!
- Sprinklers, splash pads, and water tables
- Group games — freeze tag, hide & seek, capture the flag
- Make flower chains
- Finger paint
- Outdoor crafts
- Sports games
- Lawn games
- Take pictures or videos — you can get them their own inexpensive kids digital camera if you don’t trust them with yours yet 😉 )
- Roller skate or roller blade
- Water guns, water balloons, or sponge bombs
- Play with rocks — here’s a list of 10 DIY outdoor games you can make with rocks and here are 9 ways you can play with rocks
- Nature scavenger hunt
- Make “mud pies” — check out this ADORABLE “recipe” for mud pies
- Gravel or sand digging pits
- Independent Playtime: The Ultimate Overview — learn how to implement independent playtime and troubleshoot any problems!
- 6 Tips for Raising Independent Children
- 3 Tips for Getting Kids to Pick Up After Themselves
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