Even when they're still tiny, children start to develop the ability to play alone. The role of parents in these situations is to just – leave them alone.
All parents sometimes wonder if they spend enough quality time with their kids.
This often happens if the child is involved in an activity parents didn't encourage. Let's say you notice your child is observing her shadow on the wall. Feeling almost a little guilty, you think this is the perfect moment to offer her a more engaging activity, because it seems your child is bored. What you're doing, in fact, is a perfect way to slow down the development of independent play.
Watching her shadow is at that point the biggest deal for her – and if you interrupt this activity with something you think it's fun, you're adjusting her interests to your interests, and her opinion to your opinion.
The thing that every parent should have in mind is that the child needs the time and place for self. If you let them play in their room or in their little corner, you're actually doing them a favor. In this way you show them that you trust them and give them the chance to enjoy their own way of having fun.
I found myself in this kind of situation a hundred times – I tried to help my child, even when I didn't have to. But with time I learned that it's better to just observe and wait until the child asks for help. In this way, they make a bigger effort, become more independent and learn not to give up that easily.
Let's just take the simplest example: your child is trying to read a sentence. Starts with the first letter, then gets stuck. Tries again, makes a mistake again and starts again. But then you read the whole thing, thinking you're helping. In fact, you're sending a message that your child is still not up to the task. Again, no matter how hard it seemed, letting them struggle a bit is the best thing you can do for them.
The development of independent play doesn't just happen – it's a process, and not a simple one. However, with the patient and timely encouragement, every child can learn how to do it. And then have the same, independent attitude for the grown-up life, too.