How to help your child work and play independently

It’s great when your kids feel comfortable coming to you with questions and ideas, but it’s important for them to know how to entertain themselves when you’re busy or can’t be there to help them. 

Teaching your kids to first look to themselves for answers before asking a parent for support or guidance will help them build confidence and avoid over-dependence. Check out these tips for encouraging your child to work and play independently:

Set clear boundaries

When you need to work or get a task done, it’s helpful if your kids can occupy themselves for a while. In order to establish a healthy boundary around your work or personal time, communicate with your children about when you need quiet time and when you’re available for interruptions.

Try setting a visual schedule with your child so it’s easy for them to follow along. Draw in your own meetings and appointments as well as any playdates or school events your child has. Treating your child like another person with “engagements” and “deadlines” will help both of you respect each others’ time and boundaries. 

Give your child an achievable goal

Setting goals with your kids that they can reach independently gives them the opportunity to excel on their own and build confidence while doing so. Start with a small goal like completing an easy chore or reading a short picture book while you’re in a different room. Let them know that if questions arise, they should do their best to answer them on their own first, but that you’re there to support them if they’re really stuck.

As your child achieves more small goals, their confidence and ability to self-direct will grow, and you’ll be able to task them with longer and more challenging ones. And having a reward at the end of the week like a trip to the ice cream shop is a great motivator!

Avoid quick fixes

It’s tempting to turn on the TV or hand your child a tablet when you need some quiet time. But if you can take the time to set your child up with art supplies, favorite books and games, or a workbook, those activities will keep your kids occupied for longer, and activate their minds while they’re at it. 

If you do want to use technology to help your children work independently, check out IXL’s summer resources page! With skill plans, activities, and games, your child will be able to keep learning and achieving goals, even when you can’t be there to help.