To help your child play on their own without electronics, firstly, ask your child why it’s important. It might be that you have a job you want to do, or you might want to introduce sometime in your home where everybody reads, or plays quietly, or you might want to spend some quality time with each of your children and not be interrupted by the other children. Also ask your child about why you don’t want them spending so much time on computer games or watching TV.
how good free play or reading is for their emotional health and well-being, for their imaginations and for their problem-solving abilities.

Secondly, let them know how long you want them to play alone and help them work out what to do.
Initially see if your child can entertain themselves for between 5 and 30 minutes, and you can set a timer so your child knows when the time is up.
And help them work out what sort of thing could they do. It might be…

  • reading,
  • drawing,
  • building bricks,
  • playing with their favourite toy,
  • playing solitaire,
  • doing something arty,
  • playing an imagination game,
  • playing outdoors or
  • practising ball skills.

Then ask your child questions like…

  • So what are you going to play or do?
  • What sort of things do you sometimes need me for?
  • How will you wait until the timer goes off?
  • If you think of something important,
  • How will you remember it?
  • If there’s an emergency, you can come and get me, but what does an emergency mean?
  • WHY do you think I’m asking you to play or read and not watch TV or play computer games?
  • Why’s that important?

Then finally, after they’ve managed to play on their own until the timer goes off, reward your child with positive attention and some quality time with you.
When the timer rings, say to your child cheerfully ‘you managed to play on your own until the timer rang. That showed a lot of self-control.’
Often your child will be enjoying what they are doing and will be happy to carry on – so let them.
Just reassure them that if they want you now, they’re welcome to find you.
Also, children are generally happy to play alone if they know they will get some quality one-to-one time with you for a while every day. So make sure you spend some specific time to talk, play and interact with your child.

So 3 tips to teach your child to play on their own without electronics are:

  1. Ask your child why it’s important.
  2. Let them know how long you want them to play alone and help them work out what to do.
  3. And then reward your child with positive attention and some quality time with you.

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child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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