Encouraging independence

With Great Auntie Maggie

With Great Auntie Maggie

I wrote last week that Monkey’s independence has been growing of late and that he is happier to spend less time with Mummy and Daddy these days, and is happy to be with family and friends. This is still very true and in fact he abandoned Mummy and Daddy at the weekend and took his Great Auntie Maggie off for a walk without us!

What may come (and has indeed come) as a surprise to some, is that we actually love this development, and have been encouraging it for a while. I understand that for many this stage can be bittersweet, as it is a sign that Monkey is growing up. That he needs us less. I completely understand why lots of mummies and daddies feel like this, but honestly, I just don’t. I love it!

I am a very independent person myself, and always have been. Maybe it is a sign of me being selfish but I really like that little added freedom that this step of independence brings. For a start it is still only a very small step and he still needs, and wants Mummy or Daddy a lot of the time, but as someone rightly said, it means for the first time in a long time, I can actually use the toilet in peace. Not every time but more than before!

It also comes at the perfect time as at 7 months pregnant I am less and less able to do all of the things that Monkey wants me to do, so if he is happy for other relatives to step in and do those things with him, then phew, is all I can say! As the next few months go by we are going to need to ask family to help more and more, even if just to take him to the park for half an hour or something so he gets a run around while I rest. The same will be true when the baby comes, especially as it is increasingly likely that I will need a c-section and will have the recovery time that comes with it. The more he is happy to do this of his own free will, the better really as hopefully I will fell less guilty about the things that I just can’t manage to do with him.

It isn’t just my pregnancy that makes us appreciate Monkey’s new found independence though, as we have been encouraging him to play a bit more independently for some time, and I do think this is important. I read an interesting article recently about structured play vs child led lay. The article suggested that many of us parents these days feel the pressure to engage in structured play with our little ones, to help them learn, rather than leave them to their own devices. The result of this according to the article, is actually detrimental to our children.

Simple Colour Matching GameNow with many articles like this I think you have to take them with a pinch of salt and actually I like to think the best approach is a bit of everything. I do want to encourage Monkey to learn, as he is a little sponge at the moment, so we do have structured play. Things like the colour matching game and we also do things like threading pasta on a string or some of our counting games. But we have been encouraging him to play a bit more independently for some time.


As he is getting older, it is easier for him to have more independent playtime, where he potters and does things himself. Where he will push postman pat around in his pushchair, or drive a car up and down the arms of the sofa, or play with the plastic food in his mini kitchen and present me with pies and stews. This is my favourite kind of play, as it is all about his imagination and he is also learning at the same time. I guess it is the definition of child-led play. It is great, but, as any parent knows, kids aren’t always so obliging and  get bored easily, so they sometimes need a bit of prompting to fire up their imaginations.

rp_Rainy-Day-Play-400x400.jpgBecause of this a lot of our time involves me setting up an activity and then actually sitting back and seeing where his imagination takes him. He likes me to be involved but I try to encourage him to play on his own as much as possible. So once I have built him a train track, or have drawn a road for him, I then back off and leave him to it a bit. I guess it is independent play within a semi-structured framework?

Messy play and sensory play work on a similar basis, as while it means a bit of structure in that I am giving him the activity and the tools, I actually try and encourage him to use his imagination and see where it takes him. It generally involves a lot of mess but he has fun. And actually many of the craft activities I have tried to structure, with a result in mind, actually wind up being a bit of a disaster so I have learnt to have less of a goal in mind with messy or crafty play!

Maybe we are a bit cruel? Do we expect too much of our little two year old in asking him to be independent? I hope that it is good for him as we are teaching him life skills. In many ways he is incredibly lucky that he has our undivided attention. As a SAHM he has my attention all of the time, and I have worried in the past that that that may be detrimental in itself. Children at a nursery or childminder have to learn to be less dependent on their parents don’t they? If you are working then you cannot be there with them all of the time. Is my being at home with him encouraging him to be more reliant on me? Perhaps that is why I am enjoying the new-found independence so much.

As with many things parenting I am sure you can argue it from all sides and no-one really knows what the best thing is for any child, and I am sure the best thing is in fact different for different children! All we can do is what we think is best, and for us, for now, we will continue to encourage this growing independence and hope that it is the right thing to do!

Ethans Escapades

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29 thoughts on “Encouraging independence

  1. Yay for going to the toilet by yourself! My little one is only 5 months, but I also wonder if being a SAHM will perhaps discourage independence or social skills. Then again, if she was in nursery full time, I’m sure I’d probably be worried that I wasn’t with her enough or something – what I’m trying (badly!) to say is that I think as mums we’d worry whatever the situation! x

  2. Sounds to me like you are doing a brilliant job! Your approach is the same as mine and I have a very happy, well rounded, intelligent, indipendant teen and tween and I know my two year old will be the same. X

  3. My son loves it when there are other people too and he would play with them without us parents and I am okay with it. I think its him growing up and wanting more characters in his life. I support this. I love the freedom too but when he is with older kids I am a bit on a watchful eye as I don’t want the kid to feel that he is stalking them. When I feel that he is choking them I would pull him away a bit to give the kid space. He can be very clingy to older kids. #SSAmazingAchievements

  4. I love watching my ids in their imaginary worlds, sometimes they create something together, and at other times, alone. My son’s definitely less independent than my daughter ever was, as he likes mummy around a bit more, whereas she would play endlessly alone and happily, so I’m not sure it;s always about us being around or our attention, as she had mine totally, yet didn’t always want it. So with Little Man, I let him get on with it on his own, when his sister’s not here, for spells of time, and he’s happy enough now x Thanks for sharing with #WotW

    • hmm it is interesting and I guess kids are all a bit individual anyway so difficult to pin it down to any one cause! glad he is getting a bit more independent now 🙂 xx

  5. As mum to a 13 year old, 10 year old and 8 year old and has someone who loves her independence, I empathise with you I think. I know I would be slated but I am looking forward to my youngest starting secondary school so that I can have more time freed up without the long school runs etc.
    As for play, I think we are such an odd generation. I am sure my parents left me largely to my own devices play wise unless it was something like painting a shed or washing my dad’s car. I read, I had collections, I climbed trees, I explored building sites. I was loved and cherished and they protected me but I was allowed much more freedom than I have allowed my children. I do like seeing my children come up with ideas to amuse themselves and then throwing myself into things with them too. It is just a balancing act. If they have magical memories and came to no real harm, don’t we do well enough?
    As for messy play, I go with that freely now after being far too obsessed with getting things “right” back in the day. We learn as we go along and we work out what is right for our individual children and us as individuals too. Interesting post and will be checking out that link

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment, we do seem to have similar ideas and I don;t blame you at all for looking forward to that extra little bit of freedom! Things have changed a lot in terms of allowing kids freedom I think and like you say as long as we find a balance then we are doing fine! xx

  6. What an interesting post! My son is only 11 months but he’s already happy to play in his play area in the living room by himself. He’ll sit there for ages flicking through his board books or putting his toys away and then back again 😉 It’s so sweet watching him be independent like this as I was the exact same as a child – I have big age gaps between my siblings so was always happy to be independent and imaginative. Well done to your little one on these big steps, especially as you’re expecting and need some moments to put your feet up x

    • Oh that does sound good and I think it really is different for different kids, I was a very independent kid but hubby wasn’t so I think Monkey gets it from him! xx

  7. I think you’re doing the right thing, especially being pregnant. I found it so hard and sad that I couldn’t do anything with Ethan as my pregnancy went on. I still find it frustrating now as I can’t do the stuff I want to do having two to deal with. I think your attitude to play is right. I find it hard that Ethan needs my direction every step of the way. I think children should be able to play by themselves.

    Thanks for linking up with Small Steps Amazing Achievements :0)

    • Thanks Jane, it must be so much harder with Ethans needs obviously meaning he needs more attention than many boys his age would. I am starting to find it really hard not being able to do things I previously took for granted too and am hoping that is a little less when baby no,2 is here, but we shall see! xx

  8. Really thought-provoking post, it’s great that Monkey is gaining that little bit of independence and is happier to accept your support network (which sounds fab btw!).
    My children (different ends of autistic spectrum)rely on structure and up until very recently, they were unwilling to take on any non adult led activities, they have definitely moved on from that and it’s great to see and hear.
    Sounds like you’re doing a great job with getting the activities started now so that he’s more willing to do things with others/play when the baby arrives.
    Thanks for linking up 🙂
    Jeannette @autismmumma

    • Thank you, I can imagine it is a whole different ball game when your children are on the autism spectrum! Glad to hear they are doing better though 🙂 xx

  9. It is great to read about how Monkey is changing as he is growing up. I think encouraging independence is a good thing in young children (to a point) as they need these skills to grow, learn and develop, it will also help Monkey be a great big brother and allow you a little bit of rest that you need. x #pocolo

    • Thank you and I really hope so! He is doing so well and growing up right in front of our eyes, which is lovely to see 🙂 xx

  10. Sounds like a perfect time to encourage greater independence and I think it’s really good for them, sounds like you have balance too! They want to be more independent and you are encouraging it safely. Love this post! Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

  11. Very interesting post. Although I understand your point about it being bittersweet, I would also LOVE for my toddler to be more independent. Not just for myself, but also for him – realising the world won’t end if you’re left to your own devices is a crucial part of growing up. We’ve just spent 5 weeks in the company of his grandparents, so of course he has been utterly showered with attention. Fun while it lasted, but I don’t think it’s done him any good in the long term… So we are looking for ways to readdress the balance a little. Thanks for providing inspiration. #brilliantblogposts

    • Thank you and good luck! I am with you, I think it i so important for them to be that bit more independent from us! Good luck 🙂 xx

  12. What a great post! With Carson I wrapped him up in cotton wool (ashamed to say it!) but I refuse to do that with Finley (ashamed to say that too!).
    I guess we do what we feel we’re ready for, just as much as we do what we feel they’re ready for xx

    Thanks for linking to the last #babybabble, I’m really sorry it’s taken so long to come back and comment and I know there have been a few absent weeks, it’s been an incredibly sad time for me at the moment. I’m getting back to it now though – slowly but surely 🙂 xx

    • no apologies necessary at all honey and I am sorry to hear your news Hope you are all coping ok. Thank you for your lovely comment, we all have to do things in our own way I think and i am sure we would all admit we would do some things differently with 2nd babies! xx

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