Our playroom was a God-send when the kids were young, both when they played together or needed to play on their own. So how do you get your children to enjoy their playroom when they just want to be with you the whole time?
To get young children and toddlers to play in their playroom, by themselves if necessary, you firstly need to look at the space from your toddler’s perspective and then reorganize it. Secondly, you need to rotate the toys routinely to stimulate their imagination.
Let’s consider this subject in more detail, and discover how you get your kids to play in their playroom, what items should go in the room, and why children learning to play by themselves is so important…
How Do I Get My Toddler To Play In His/Her Playroom?
Got a great room with tons of interesting toys and books but your toddler just won’t play in it? Turns out, it’s a pretty common problem. We’ve got two good pieces of advice: first, look at the playroom from your toddler’s perspective and then reorganize it. Second, rotate the toys routinely.
Sure, after a hard day, you may think of your toddler as a tiny evil genius. A minuscule mastermind. But the reality is that toddlers really aren’t that smart. Or coordinated. They don’t have any muscles to speak of. And – they are seriously short.
See The Playroom From Your Child’s Perspective
So put yourself in their shoes. Try to see the playroom from your toddler’s perspective. Get on your hands and knees and see if you can see and reach most toys in the room. The toys that will be played with will be easily seen, either right on the floor or no higher than toddler eye level.
Invest in some open shelving, like cubbies, and organize it by activity. Make each cubby hold just one activity. Stuffed toys. Cars. Music makers.
We adults love to keep stuff tidy in big baskets or drawers. But if your toddler can’t see the toys inside the basket, chances are they won’t use them. Baskets are still good to use, just choose shallow ones and keep them down low.
Or, consider using lightweight trays, muffin tins, egg cartons or cookie sheets with rims in the cubbies to keep small stuff organized and accessible.
Check out this article with some space-saving, thrifty ideas for playroom organization.
Got books? Invest in some (toddler) eye-level shelving. Experts say to buy the ones where the front of the book is facing out – not the spine – because the artwork will attract your toddler’s attention.
Then create the perfect reading area with a snuggly rug, a giant, furry, triangular reading pillow or a kid-sized foam sofa to lounge on.
If you have the space, put that beat up (but sooo comfy) Barcalounger in there so you can enjoy a cup of joe while your toddler plays.
Be sure the playroom is a safe space for your toddler or several playdate toddlers. Store heavy stuff safely away from toddler reach. If shelving can be tipped over, it will be. Get some heavy-duty drywall anchors and anchor all the shelving so you’ll have no worries.
Rotate The Toys
Once the playroom is toddler perfect, experts say that you should start a toy rotation – as in yesterday. So, after you have redesigned the playroom from a toddler’s perspective, develop a toy rotation schedule. If you have a handy closet in the playroom or a basement, use it to hide toys.
Here’s a great video about toy rotation in a playroom:
Your toddler’s favorite stuffed animals and books should always be available, all the time. For all the rest, rotate. The idea is to keep the playroom interesting with “new” toys.
Let’s face it, our toddlers have more toys than they can possibly play within a single day. Experts say that too many toy choices will overstimulate – or bore – toddlers. Overstimulated or bored, the end result is the same – the playroom just isn’t played in.
Here’s the article from the University of Toledo.
So – how and when? How many toys should you leave out in the playroom? Experts say to start with four or so toys – ten is too many – and then watch your toddler play.
Once you have a good handle on the number of toys that will keep their attention, you can start the rotation. Experts recommend rotating toys every two weeks or a maximum of once a week.
Is a Playroom Even a Good Idea?
Nope, not just a good idea – but an essential, pivotal, crucial must-have. That’s our opinion. Not everyone agrees, of course. For the flip side, here’s an interesting article about how playrooms can ruin your kids.
As adults, we may like the idea of a playroom as a space to store toys. Just close the door and voilà, no more toy mess!
But while playrooms can be handy for adults, they can be important developmental tools for toddlers. They can help get them ready for school.
Think of toddler play as their job. A toddler’s job is to learn coarse and fine motor skills. To learn about pretending and creative play. To spot patterns and problem-solve. To learn about languages. To begin learning about social interactions and sharing.
A functional, fun playroom can be just the space they need to get all that work done.
What Should Be in a Playroom To Encourage Play?
The following items are nice to have in a playroom:
- Play station – kitchen, tool workbench, log cabin, dress up area.
- Stuffed animals.
- Block set.
- Music makers.
- Forward-facing, toddler-height bookshelves – with lots of books.
- Ground level shelving.
- Finished art masterpieces. Pin them on the walls, create a clothesline to display them, buy a cork board or magnetic board or paint a wall with magnetic paint.
- Art and crafting items. Crayons, markers, Play Dough, slime, buttons, paints, brushes, sponges, pasta. Most items should be supervised but some may be OK.
- Indoor slide, jungle gym, play tunnel, toddler trampoline or foam climbing forms for high-energy toddlers on rainy days
- Rugs or mats. Make sure your choice is easy to clean.
- Toddler size, snuggly seating for reading and chilling
- Kid sized table and chair
How Do You Encourage Kids To Play By Themselves? (What Are The Benefits?)
The first step in encouraging kids to play by themselves begins with the parents – you have to let go of parent guilt. Encouraging children to play by themselves isn’t child neglect or being a lazy parent. Just the opposite.
When you encourage your kids to play by themselves (aka independent play), you are giving them tools to cope with life. When they get to school, they may not always have a gaggle of friends around them and that should be OK.
Independent play teaches kids to be, well, independent. It teaches them that they are capable of thinking up stuff all by themselves – for taking initiative. They know they can rely on themselves, so when change comes around, they are OK.
Kids who find things to do all by themselves have to use their imagination. They invent stuff. They dream up crazy scenarios and make rules themselves.
Kids who are encouraged to play by themselves grow accustomed to thinking for themselves, an important skill. When your toddler is in charge of their own playtime, they will find it easier to make decisions and take initiative in a group.
So how do you start? Start with the tools they need. A functional, fun playroom with toys, games and books. Then, encourage them to go build a house or a city. Or draw a picture of their family. Or look at a book.
Then, step away from the toddler.
If they get stuck, give them another idea but no hovering. No helicoptering. By the time they go to school, the transition will be so much easier – for both of you.
At What Age Should a Child Be Able To Entertain Themselves?
Most experts say, the earlier the better. Start at several months old (under watchful supervision), and encourage your babies to be OK on their own for up to 10 minutes.
How Long Should a Toddler Play By Themselves?
When your baby is a toddler, between one and three years old, the goal should be up to an hour a day. When your child is three or over, they should be fine with playing by themselves for at least an hour a day.
We view our playroom as an essential part of our children’s development. They are crucial for helping your kids use their imagination, and learn to play together and by themselves.
You don’t need to have a whole room for this either. Before we built our extension, we had a designated play area in a space behind the couch – and it worked just as well.
I personally spent many a happy hour with all three of our children playing trains and railroads back there! 🙂