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How to Create the Perfect Play Space to Encourage Independent Play

Play Room

By Chandler Marburg, Montessori educator and contributor to Little Partners

As children grow, we as parents are forever rearranging and organizing their rooms and play areas. What is the best way that we can encourage our children to play and work independently? It’s important at an early age to create a dedicated play space that will encourage a child to explore on their own while also building their independent skills and fostering self-esteem.

So, where to begin? 

Establish a space that you can dedicate solely to your child and their playthings. This does not have to be a large area. For example, a simple age-appropriate shelf will suffice for a young toddler. Make sure it is reachable for their height (and safely secured to the wall) so that they can put their things away without assistance from an adult. 

Place items sparingly in the space; 4-6 materials will do. If your child can see the material or toy displayed neatly on a shelf, they will have a deeper respect for the item. Every few weeks or so, swap out the materials out to keep your child engaged and curious. It’s important to set little ones up for success. Be sure that the selected play materials are manageable for a young child. They should be able to grip and transport pieces independently. Place items in baskets or small containers to encourage organization and so as not to overwhelm the child. 

You will also want to add an age-appropriate table and chairs. Toddlers love to pull chairs out and sit down, then push them in once they are done. Research has shown that children can focus better when their feet are planted on the floor while sitting. This works to build their confidence and self-esteem. 

Establish a sense of order in the cadence of your child’s play. Encourage your child to choose one activity at a time and then return the toy or material to its designated place before moving on to the next activity. This will promote a sense of order and structure and establish an appreciation and respect for their things.

As a parent, observing your child’s developing needs is key to providing them with a successful play space to encourage independence. Guiding our little ones to always be mindful of their materials and their environment will help them develop into thoughtful and successful individuals with a respect for the world around them.

 Photo by: @lifewithrowan

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*This website has been developed by Ahimsa LLC. This site offers health and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. While many of our experts are practicing clinicians, viewing this site, receipt of information contained on this site or the transmission of information from or to this site does not constitute a physician-patient relationship. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Any information provided is not meant to address a specific situation, person or event, even if you provide information about a specific person or situation to Ahimsa. Always seek the advice of your child’s own physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Please click here for more information on our disclaimer. Effective Date: October 7, 2019, Updated 6/17/2021. © 2021 Ahimsa LLC, All Rights Reserved