One afternoon, when my preschooler returned from school, I dug into his bag and found a note from his teacher. It was a circular regarding the upcoming school picnic. I was astonished and my immediate reaction was NO WAY, isn’t he too young to go anywhere without me? This is definitely not happening!
As I immersed myself into deep thoughts about the feasibility of sending my two and a half year old for a school picnic, I somehow convinced myself to at least consider the prospect.
It is perhaps that phase in a mom’s life, where she has to let that little finger loose and allow the inquisitive soul to explore the world and make discoveries. Autonomy is a significant stage in a toddler’s developmental process and if a child is deprived of it, self-doubt may creep in. So no matter how difficult it is for us moms, it is time we prepare ourselves and our toddlers for an independent outdoor playtime. Here are a few tips that have worked best for me:
#1 Take baby steps
If a child has never played all by himself, he is likely to throw tantrums and get uncomfortable. But, you must start with 5 to 10 minutes a day. Assure your child that you are around and that he is in a safe environment. Gradually, he will start enjoying himself.
#2 Consistency is key
Kids love routines. Make few minutes of outdoor independent play a part of their routine and you’d be surprised with the results! I step out of the house with my son at 5pm almost every day. In case there is a delay and I am occupied, he brings his shoes and demands to be taken for playtime.
#3 Give your toddler some space
Trust me when I say this, it is the most difficult thing to do. When my son plays independently indoors, I am assured that he is within the confined walls of his room. But when he is outdoors, it becomes a little worrying to let a child be. The key is to keep a strict eye on his safety but not hover around too much. Playing with mud, pebbles, filth, picking small fights with friends is all fun and play. You must decide when you want to step in.
#4 Be well-prepared
A major aspect of preparing a toddler for independent outdoor play would be to dress your toddler in comfortable clothes. And take measures to protect him from mosquitoes. You definitely want to make sure your child is safe from mosquitoes and insects. I apply 4 dots of Goodknight Fabric Roll-On, on my son’s clothes before we step outdoors. This is a 100% natural product and is paediatrician certified. It is baby safe and I’ve been using it for quite some time now. The 4 dots are to be applied on clothes for babies above the age of 2 months. For babies younger than that, the 4 dots can be applied on cots and prams.
One can even stick the fun Chhota Bheem Goodknight Patches on their toddler’s back. These are 100% natural too!
#5 Cater to your child’s idea of fun
Within a few days, you’d be able to understand what your child enjoys the most. Whether he likes playing in groups or by himself, whether he likes to run and jump or simply walk around, whether he is attracted to nature or to other objects outdoors. To be able to prepare your child to play outdoors independently, you must provide ample opportunities for him to experience what he likes the most. Only then would he be able to comprehend that he can have fun without you being involved in play.
Before we even realize, our toddlers will learn to manage themselves! Our role is simply to eliminate the hazards which they may not see and then to let them take us on their own learning adventure.
Meanwhile I hope you and your toddler have lots of fun playing outdoors!