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How to Help Your Toddler Play Independently

How to Help Your Toddler Play Independently

I learned a lot from my firstborn, Adalia. She was a high-needs baby and a high-energy toddler. She was easily overwhelmed and not-so-easily to consoled. 

In watching my daughter play as a one-year-old I quickly noticed something. If her toys were organized, her play was organized. If her toys were chaotic, her play was chaotic. The more organized her toys when she approached them, the longer she would sit and play with them.

If Adalia's toys were neat and tidy she would choose a toy and play with it for a few minutes. She would pull the doughnuts of the stacker and try to put them back on. She would pull her blocks down and stack or line them up. She  would pick up a book and look through the pages. If she approached her shelf and her toys were strewn around in a jumble her play was disorganized and she was restless. She would pull items off the shelf, toss them around, walk on her books, and wander off looking for something to do. 


I very quickly learned to tidy up her area after her playtime.

Now that I'm on my eleventh toddler, Apollo, I'm using the same strategies I used with my first. 

I have a toy shelf set up in our living room entirely for Apollo. I keep his toys on it low-key and spread out. His toy shelf is never cluttered. If has too many toys, I pack some away to be brought out later. 


None of his toys use batteries or make noise (unless Apollo makes noise with them). Items are laid out with plenty of space between them. I use baskets (mostly picked up a Goodwill) to contain smaller toys that go together. Apollo's toy rotation varies, but at the moment he has:

A small wooden doll house, trucks and people.

A wooden excavator.

A toy dump truck.

A basket of wooden animals.

Stacking cups.

A wooden rainbow.

A basket of DUPLO LEGO.

A basket of rubber ducks.

Aside from the DUPLO, nothing is too brightly colored. The shelf is aesthetically pleasing to look at (for both children and adults). It takes only 2-3 minutes to tidy up, even if he's played with every toy. Apollo can approach his shelf and select an item or items by himself. Best of all, it's easy to have him help clean up and learn along the way. It is so much easier to find something and easier to manage than a traditional toy box.

When Apollo is bored with his current toys, we simply swap them out for something else, one item at a time, so he isn't overwhelmed.

Go ahead, give it a try, I bet you'd be surprised how long your toddler can focus and play with a little organization.

Image Source: Renee Bergeron

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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