Independent play ideas by @leoniejanelee

Toddler | Play | Development |

I am lucky enough to work from home and although Ottilie, who is three, goes to nursery in the mornings, we are home for lunch and spend the whole afternoon together.

She was just two years old when we went into the first lockdown and since the pandemic hit, her behaviour has been understandably different. She had been confident, chatty and extremely sociable and even though she loves her nursery mornings, and has made friends, I’ve noticed that she has become clingier at home – even to the point of needing to walk from room to room with me.

For a while, Ottilie didn’t want to do anything on her own, so we sat down and developed some independent play ideas for our afternoons. I’ve based them around her favourite things, which are being outside and being amongst nature, alongside using bubbles and colours to help encourage more independence and confidence in being creative and using her imagination.

Below are some of our favourite recent activities. They are sensory focused, as they keep Ottilie’s attention longer and improve focus. I set these up for her in advance so that she can sit down and play independently with little help from me. I make sure I supervise from nearby, especially when there is paint involved.

Blowing bubbles

I encourage Ottilie to try and blow bubbles with a focus – either to blow a bubble bigger than the last one or to blow them through a hoop.

Pebble painting

I love that this produces something different every time. Sometimes she paints them to look like something specific – a lady bird or a frog – other times, if she wants them for her Mud Kitchen, she will paint them all the same colour. This is great for colour recognition and mixing – I like watching her discover which colour combinations make a new colour.

Making a snail hotel

I gave Ottilie a large plant pot of soil and told her what she needed to collect – leaves, stones, dandelions and, of course, snails! We have a small garden but there are plenty of snails for her to find. They seem to enjoy the hotel – especially if I give her some chopped cucumber to leave out for them!

Nature collection

We often take a basket to the garden or the green space behind our house and I will sit and watch Ottilie go off and collect things. Fallen leaves and blossom, sticks, stones, acorns and conkers. It takes a little while to fill the basket and then the contents can be used for collages or potions.

The Little HiPP Explorers Adventure Game is the perfect way to help littles ones engage with wildlife and the environment, click here to access the easy to play card game full of fun, informative prompts!

Garden potions

We recently got a Mud Kitchen and Ottilie will spend good amounts of time making potions and perfumes using things from the garden. I always set this up for her with things I have gathered (sometimes she will help) to make sure she is a) not picking all my flowers and tomatoes and b) picking things she’s safe with (avoiding stinging nettles). I put everything in pots and fill a jug with water and leave her to it. 

Daisy chain

This is a firm favourite – at three years old, Ottilie is not quite able to tie the daisies together but she has a good go. It may need some help, but she will spend a long time collecting the best daisies first.


Categories: Toddler Play Development