At Nanager, we are passionate about creating experiences for families that stretch beyond simply looking after their children. When clients return from work, the house is clean, the washing is done, the ironing is hung up and the entire house is filled with the smell of dinner cooking away in the oven. People often ask us, “How do you do it?” Obviously, we wouldn’t be doing a good job if we let the children run around unsupervised in a manic state all day, and you can’t rely on nap time to get everything in order, because it just doesn’t leave us enough time. Our answer is simple – allow the children some time in solitary, supervised play.
What is solitary play?
Solitary play is one of four play methods that children use to explore the world around them. Usually prominent in the earlier years (ages 0-3), it provides an opportunity for children to become lost in the toys around them, following a path set by their own interests, imagination, creativity and curiosity. The children become so engaged they are often unaware or uninterested in what is happening around them.
Why is it important?
If you haven’t previously looked into the method, it may seem like we have made up a fancy term for ditching the kids so we can get a head-start on dinner, but we can assure you that is not the case. Solitary play is crucial to children’s development, particularly in helping them understand the role they play in their own learning path while encouraging them to be independent and confident in day to day life.
One of our favourite things to do is sit among toys and get lost on a journey of wonder with a little one. Being the adults, we tend to play the decision-making role in the path we take and often influence the game around developmental milestones – although there is something beautiful about watching a game unfold when it is in the hands of a one-year-old.
Boredom and isolation trigger receptors in the brain that get the creative and imaginative juices flowing. You can see the different look in their eyes with the determination and concentration needed to pursue goals they have come to completely on their own. Without influence you can witness children make decisions, problem solve, experiment, reflect, build strategies and wholeheartedly absorb their environments.
As adults, we play a vital role in children’s early years by facilitating play, but it is also important to remember you are not required to entertain your child all day every day. In fact, if you continually do this, your child will come to know you as their only form of entertainment, often becoming clingy and needy for your constant attention and guidance as they discover play. As good as your intentions are, by not allowing for your child to spend time on their own, they aren’t given the opportunity to develop the techniques to learn how to think, do or explore – and we promise you, you are going to get exhausted.
As with most things childcare, Chief Nanager Lauren went to her mum for advice on this, and she came back with the most beautiful quote: