Fostering independence is one of the goals of my childcare program. Many areas of my home are set up to allow the children to choose their own activity and take responsibility for cleaning up when they are done too. Sufficient time for unstructured play gives children the opportunity to demonstrate independence but structured activities have a place too.
In my home the sunroom is set up as an art area to be used independently throughout the day. Mindy’s (the dog) kennel is also in this part of the house and direct supervision of the sunroom is not always possible. For this reason independent play here is a privilege.
There is not a specific age by which children are suddenly able to play here independently and like all new skills there is a learning process. To help teach these skills I use the sunroom for the majority of our structured activities like story, circle and calendar time. Sometimes these structured activities become the basis a child’s independent play.
During free play time last week, a four year old was drawing independently in the sunroom. Knowing she was fully capable of engaging in this activity without any assistance I was only occasionally checking in on her. On one of these random checks I noticed that she had put away all her art supplies and was now sitting beside Mindy’s bed. I waited and watched to see what she would do next.
She used her newly created artwork – a calendar and an illustrated story – to lead a ‘circle time’ activity for the dog (who was thoroughly entranced).
She listed the days of the week and pointed to the corresponding coloured row for each day. She discussed upcoming special events and then flipped the page over and continued by explaining about various holidays.