Back when your toddler was a “taby”—that’s the post-baby, pre-toddler phase around 1 when they start becoming little people—they were constantly moving, touching, and tasting everything in sight. And as parents, your job was simply to try to keep up and prevent them from killing themselves in the process. (Check!) But toddlerdom brings with it some different challenges. While your kid is making major strides in becoming more independent at this age, teaching them how to play independently feels nearly impossible (time to yourself while raising a 2-year-old? Pfft.).
Thankfully, we’ve got some great advice on the issue. Melissa Minney, a speech and language expert for kids, posted a video on Instagram with a genius tip for encouraging toddlers to play by themselves. It’s called an “invitation to play,” and in the caption, she explains what’s going on.
“An invitation to play is an early childhood education concept where an adult arranges toys or materials in a way that is meant to spark a child’s interest and imagination and that encourage exploration and activity,” she writes. “It doesn’t have to be elaborate; for example, in this video, I took these wooden peg dolls that my daughter loves already and arranged them in a new and interesting way on the shelf (lined up across the top) with a wooden wagon on the floor with one doll already in it. And that’s it!”
She continues, “My daughter came into the play area and I didn’t say anything, she noticed something was different and immediately went toward it to explore. I sat off to the side and drank my coffee 🙌”
Not only is this a clever way to help toddlers develop, but it also grants parents that elusive free time we mentioned above. Even if your little one plays on their own for just five minutes, that’s five minutes of not pretending to be Princess Buttercup of Unicorn Land (not that we don’t love being royalty).
Minney continues in the caption, “Invitations to play can also be a great way to introduce new toys and figure out what your child gravitates toward. A great tip for getting started with this is to think about a toy that your child currently likes or how they like to play right now and try to offer invitations that include/support that—if you’re not sure, you may have to try different things to see how they respond.”
Yep, we’ll be trying this out ASAP.