Independent Playtime for the School-Aged Child

How do you handle independent play once your child is school-age? Should it still be part of their daily routine? Get tips for how to handle this with different schooling situations as well as how to handle it in the summer months.

School-aged child playing with toys

Independent Playtime is one of my favorite things from Babywise. What is not to love? Your child plays for about an hour a day–alone. This gives you an extra hour of uninterrupted time to do…whatever.

You also see great benefits in your child. Problem-solving skills improve. Independence increases. Some children really even thrive off of that time alone (I have found those children often turn out to be introverts, and introverts just need alone time every once in a while).

We put a high priority on independent play. We only miss independent play at our house if we are gone all day and don’t have a way to work it in (for more on what independent play is, see my Independent Playtime Overview).

That high priority changes, however, when the child enters school daily.

Independent Playtime with Half-Day School

When we are in half-day school (Kindergarten for us), we often still have independent playtime. It does decrease from a definite daily thing and becomes more sporadic. We will miss it if we have a friend over to play. We might miss if rest time is needed instead. We might even miss just because we are spending time together.

What we used to do in a full day is now in a half of a day, so there are days when we just need to cut something. We still do it most days, but it isn’t absolutely every day. I am very flexible in missing it. It is still our norm, but we are fine missing it. 

Independent Playtime with Full-Day School

Once we enter full-day school, however, independent play becomes the exception rather than the norm. We do not do it on school days. My kids are in school all day long. They are also getting older and more involved in things, so they have things like lessons or practice or games in those evenings they are home each day.

We also have homework, dinner,  and family time to work in, so independent play takes a backseat–like, third-row backseat.

We do still do it every Sunday consistently. This is very handy for my husband and I in getting ready for church. We will do it on Saturdays if they ask (but Saturday is an optional day for pretty much all ages over 2 so this isn’t different). It is just no longer a part of our everyday routine.

Independent Playtime for Homeschoolers

If you homeschool, I imagine independent play would be invaluable to you. It could be used as a time for one child to be away and occupied while you work with another or as a time for the older child to be away and occupied while a younger child naps so you can think a coherent sentence without being interrupted. If I homeschooled, independent play would be a part of our norm each day.

>>>Read: How Independent Playtime Saved Our Homeschool

Independent Playtime in the Summer with Older Kids

Independent play is a great tool in the summer months and long school breaks. Just because you don’t do it regularly through the school year doesn’t mean you can’t reinstate it when you need it. Having independent play each day during summer and long breaks helps separate children and cuts down on the chances of them bickering and complaining of being bored. 

Independent play school age child

Was Independent Playtime Worth Doing with Young Kids?

Despite the fact that we don’t do independent play daily with our older children, I am so glad we put the effort into it with our younger children.

It is still a tool we can call on when we need to. Since it was a part of their daily life for so many years, it is no big deal now. It also was a great avenue for them learning so much. The benefits of independent play are real and I have seen them come to fruition.

Beyond the benefits I have talked about, I have seen that it really helps my children be comfortable in their own skin. They are content being in the company of themselves. They take with them to school that confidence, along with their focusing skills, sustained attention spans, creativity, and more. So it was absolutely worth all of the effort we put in with them as babies and young toddlers. 

As life changes, your daily schedule changes. Continue to use tools as necessary, but don’t be afraid to change those tools or shelf tools as needed, either. 

Related Posts

For more on independent play, see these posts:

Independent play for the school age child pinnable image

1 thought on “Independent Playtime for the School-Aged Child”

  1. Hi Val,Thanks for this post. I would like to start independent play with my 3 year old and my nearly two year old but im not sure where i should put it in our schedule. Both my children are in half day preschool (in separate rooms from each other) three days a week and then they come home for a sleep and are up at about 3pm. They have tea at about 5pm and like to play together during the afternoon and spend time with me. Do you think I can still fit independent play in in the afternoon? Or should I try splitting the time and doing half in the morning before they leave and then half in the afternoon? Would love to hear your thoughts, and anyone elses!


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