Independent play and the art of observation

Thank you to K'NEX for sponsoring this post, all opinions are my own.
Thank you to K’NEX for sponsoring this post, all opinions are my own.

Establishing Independent Play by Observing

“One of the many positives about independent play is that once it’s established in a safe space parents can usually leave their content, occupied child alone briefly while they do chores, use the bathroom, check email etc. But the most valuable child-directed play is fostered when we learn a new way to enjoy playing with our kids, one that is mostly about observing and responding, less about actively participating. It’s natural to want to interact, but parent participation has a tendency to take over. The more we are playing, the more our child is following our lead, rather than creating and initiating plans of his or her own.” ~Janet Lansbury (7 Myths That Discourage Independent Play)

Observing independent play with building sets

It was with this mindset that I thoroughly enjoyed watching my two kids dig into their latest set of toys, a K’NEX building set tub. Both my son and daughter just dug in, finding the pieces that suited each of them individually, and started assembling. They didn’t really have any direction or plan as to what they were making, they just enjoyed being able to fit pieces together and at times reveled in the fact that they had created something. That something may not have always been as recognizable as a car or bike, but to them it was just what they wanted.

My daughter actually made a few pieces and brought them over to me, then told me what they were and insisted I use them properly…as she imaged they should be used. Perfect!

KNEX building set

K’NEX Building Sets

If you want more info on the building set my kids are playing with, you can find this set exclusively at Toys “R” Us.

About the K’NEX 521 Amazing Value Tub Building Set

Build anything you can imagine with the 521 Piece Value Tub!  Loaded with 521 parts for lots of building fun! Includes instructions/ideas for 35 unique models including, dragsters, Ferris wheels, dinosaurs, creatures and more!  Parts and built models can be stored in the convenient storage tub.  Made in the U.S.A.  Suggested retail price $24.99. Ages 7+.


So tell us…

Do you encourage independent play in your children, or would you rather be a part of the action as they are playing?


Jesica H

When she isn’t drowning in a pile of never-ending laundry or picking up Legos, Jesica is busy helping other parents make their lives a little less stressful with homemaking hacks, easy recipes, fun DIY projects, and more. On her successful blog, The Mommy Bunch, her Cricut crafting tutorials are the most popular articles and are what sparked her passion for helping others build a business of their own. Jesica started where you can find loads more craft tutorials and business advice. In her FREE Facebook group, Rock Your Craft Business, Jesica teaches other entrepreneurs how to take their craft business to the next level by building their brand, targeting the right customers, and utilizing smart social media strategies. Join us!

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9 thoughts on “Independent play and the art of observation

  • November 26, 2013 at 1:25 pm
    I think there should be independent and social play. Independent helps build creativity and self esteem while playing in groups helps to teach children how to cooperate and work as a team. Reply
    • November 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm
      Yes very true, but in this case it is more about independent play at home versus needing you as a parent to dictate their play or always be a part of it. But social time is always important as well! Reply
  • November 26, 2013 at 7:34 pm
    This is something my son would really enjoy. He loves lego's and the concept is similar. Thanks for sharing! Reply
  • November 26, 2013 at 9:03 pm
    I am trained to know how to encourage independent play with children but I tend to get right on in there with my own kids and stay fully engaged (dare I say a little bossy too) - lol I didnt think of it before these would actually make a FAB gift for my son!! Reply
  • November 26, 2013 at 9:05 pm
    We have our time where we interact but being able to entertain yourself even at a young age is so important. I hear myself saying far too often that a creative person is never truly bored. We just have to decide what want tio do next. Reply
  • November 27, 2013 at 5:31 am
    My kids always had both, there are times when they play by themselves and there are times when I play with them. There has to be a balance. Reply
    • November 27, 2013 at 10:26 am
      That is great! There definitely should be a balance! I love having time where the kids and I play together, but them having self-directed play is just as nice. :-) Reply
  • November 27, 2013 at 9:58 am
    This is a struggle in our house. My son wants us to ACTIVELY play every moment of the day. I love playing with him, but I need to be able to do other things. I also want him to lead at time and just have me respond etc. We are getting better though. Great post, thanks! Reply
    • November 27, 2013 at 10:27 am
      We are working on it too Natalie. My kids are very much used to playing 'by the rules' and I even have to remind my husband that it is okay to let them just play. If they want to make up their own rules, that is okay. We are getting better at it too! :-) Reply

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