Independent play is an important part of a child’s development and should be encouraged throughout your daily routine. I love doing crafts with Roo. We try to find time to do some kind of arts and crafts project twice or more a week. But I have my own grown-up crafts I like to spend time on too. A busy three-year-old with a short attention span makes it hard to find time and space to do my own projects. Here’s how I use independent play time to find time for my own crafts.
1. Create separate work areas
When I’m ready to work on my project, I’ll set up my work area. Then I’ll set up a separate work area for Roo close to me. For example, if I’m sewing at the table I’ll set Roo up at her table. If I’m sitting on the floor I’ll lay out blankets or towels and we each have our own to keep our project on. What independent play project I set her up with depends on her mood, my project, and what I have on hand.
Playdough is a favorite independent play project for Roo to work with. As long as I’m not working in a carpeted room, I don’t have to hover over her constantly. I’ll provide a couple of colors and tools, sometimes some beads, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners to make a creation. She stays occupied with this for anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour. (Longer if it’s in the bathtub! See my recipe for bathtub playdough here.)
3. Watercolor Paints
This may not seem like something you want to leave your toddler alone to their own devices with like most independent play options. But if I provide a large workspace covered in a huge piece of paper, watercolors, and a cup of water, she stays put for a good amount of time. I like to use this when I’m painting too. Not when I’m working on something time-sensitive because she will inevitably be “all done” right when I’m in the middle of something and unable to clean her up. What I like about watercolors, is it doesn’t usually leave wet messy globs for her to track everywhere!
Coloring is an obvious activity to set kids up with while you work on your craft. Not all kids are into coloring a single picture in a coloring book with crayons. Roo prefers a blank paper and markers or flipping through several pictures in a coloring book.
Or try a large paper workspace like with the watercolor painting. If you’re concerned about markers making a mess, there are wonder colors that only color on the specific paper or coloring books!
5. Sensory Bins
Always sure to keep Roo occupied for long periods of independent play are sensory bins. I try to have at least one prepared at all times so I can easily pull it out for her to play with while I work. Sensory Bins are a fantastic independent play tool. If you need ideas, check out my previous posts.
6. Mini Versions of my Craft
My favorite way to keep Roo entertained while I craft is to give her a miniature version of whatever I’m working on. She has a sewing box with buttons and sequins, ribbon scraps, fabric, and lacing toys that I pull out when I’m sewing. I set her up with some paint if I’m painting. I let her design mosaics with her own pieces and mold, just without the messy parts. Get creative coming up with something similar for your toddler to do that is age appropriate. Sometimes she just pulls out crafting supplies and makes a craft completely unled by me!
Include Independent Play Time In Your Daily Routine
Toddlers and Preschoolers especially thrive on routine. While we as adults crave spontaneity, a well defined daily schedule is important for a child’s development and sense of security.
I get asked often how I find time to do these crafts with Roo. Most often I get asked how I get her to play independently so well. The answer to both questions is the same. I schedule it into our routine!
Do you find your toddler (and yourself for that matter) wandering around aimlessly trying to find something to do? Do you often wish you had more time to spend on activities with your child? Or even wish that you had more time to yourself to get projects done beyond your usual housework?
I’ve developed this daily creativity routine based on what Roo and I do most every day to keep creativity a part of our daily lives. I say routine and not schedule because we are not bound by time constraints usually. So if independent play time is going well, I can stretch it out. If she’s not feeling it, I can move on to the next part of the routine and try again later.
This Daily Creativity Routine printable is yours FREE today just for signing up to my mailing list!
It is mainly for preschool age and under but can be tailored to any age. Feel free to play around with our routine and find what time of day your child is most receptive to independent playtime or together crafting time! Just sign up today and the printable will be in your inbox to keep on your phone or print and keep on the fridge. Anywhere you can easily access it when you need a reminder of what to do next.