While play dates and group activities certainly have their place (when we’re not facing a 21-day lockdown or practising social distancing), allowing and encouraging your child to play a few fun games independently is equally important. Why? Because alone time helps to build your child’s concentration, imagination and attentiveness, says author and psychoanalyst Laurie Hollman. Also, encouraging your child to play alone sometimes fosters great independence your child will need throughout his life.
Here are a few more reasons why alone time is good for your child:
- Doing things alone helps children become better learners when they’re older, as they’ll already be used to the idea that certain tasks, like homework and reading, are solo endeavours.
- Discovering how to do new things alone helps to build children’s confidence and self-esteem.
- Playing alone boosts a child’s creativity – as they might make up imaginary friends and create their own stories through various activities such as drawing and painting.
- Alone time also builds a sense of contentment and security as children learn to rely on themselves to have fun.
The ultimate fun games for kids
Childhood educator and author of Fun and Games with Smile, Doreen Maree believes that movement is the basis of learning and little ones should be encouraged to run, hop, jump, balance, climb, skip, walk and play as much as possible.
These activities can be turned into fun games kids can do alone – such as hopscotch, balancing on beams or logs, learning to skip with a rope, going on an adventure walk in nature with a magnifying glass (accompanied by an adult, of course), climbing hills, trees or rocks and so on.
Movement for kids is critical because:
- With each new movement your child performs, he discovers new things about his own body and how it operates.
- He becomes aware of his body parts and his physical abilities and limitations.
- He begins to understand that his body has two sides and two planes: left and right and top and bottom.
- Actions such as walking, running, hopping and jumping strengthen your child’s muscles and develop agility and self-confidence.
- He learns that he can move each side of his body independently of the other.
So, if you’re ever stuck for ideas about what fun games your child can play by himself, encourage him to move!
More fun games your child can play alone:
The game: Pavement drawing with hopscotch
Why it’s fun: Kids love to draw, especially when they have plenty of space to be creative, such as on a pavement. Invest in a tub of pavement chalk and let your child’s imagination run wild! He can also use the chalk to draw mazes and more games like hopscotch.
How it helps your child: Drawing encourages a child’s creativity and helps him learn more about himself as kids often draw pictures that mean something to them or that they can relate to. Hopscotch is an ideal gross motor game to play as it involves hopping, skipping or jumping, which all promote balance, strength and coordination.
The game: Balance, throw and catch bean bags
Why it’s fun: Beanbags are fun because they’re versatile and don’t bounce or roll away. Plus, they can be used in a variety of different ways.
Let your child aim and throw beanbags into a basket, show him how to throw and catch his beanbags from various heights or show him to balance them on his head and walk from one side of a room to another. Those are three simple activities he can play on his own.
How it helps your child: As simple as they look, beanbags are brilliant educational tools because they help children to track and focus their eyes, build hand-eye coordination, balance and an awareness of distance and space, says Doreen Maree. “Aiming, throwing and catching are all important skills which all children need to develop,” she adds.
The game: At-home 10-pin bowling
Why it’s fun: Allowing your child to create his very own bowling alley at home should keep him entertained for a while. Don’t have skittles? That’s OK, you can stack items such as blocks, different shaped Tupperware or plastic water bottles, then give him a few balls to use. He can make this bowling alley as simple or as complex as he wants and see how many objects he can knock down from a fair distance.
How it helps your child: “Bowling is a great active task for building your child’s visual sense as it involves stacking objects (of the same or different sizes and shapes) and then knocking them over with a ball thus involving visual perception,” says Lesley Cullender of Clamber Club.
The game: Arts and crafts
Why it’s fun: These activities can keep little ones engaged for hours. Give your child a few supplies like different textured paper, a few feathers, some old material (such as ribbons), some glue, scissors (If he’s old enough to cut), a few crayons and stickers, and watch what he creates! You can also give him other objects to paint such as paper plates or boxes. They’re inexpensive but allow for hours of creative fun.
How it helps your child: These types of activities encourage fine motor skill development and allow children to create in their own way and at their own pace. Art specifically helps your child to develop mentally, socially, and emotionally. “Creating art may boost young children’s ability to analyse and problem-solve in myriad ways,” says Mary Ann F. Kohl, author of Primary Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product. As kids manipulate a paintbrush, their fine motor skills improve. By counting pieces and colours, they learn the basics of math. When children experiment with materials, they dabble in science. Most important perhaps, when kids feel good while they are creating, art helps boost self-confidence, she adds.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .