Some children are naturally more content to play independently than others. I vividly remember my sister playing contentedly by herself for hours, while I would choose to play with someone every single time if given the choice.

Temperament aside, there are definitely things we can do to help our children learn to play independently, and part of this is selecting certain toys and leaving others in the toy store.

Avoid toys that hinder a child’s ability and desire to play on their own. Instead, opt for toys that help your child explore the natural world and the way things work show them that they don’t need anybody else to learn. They teach them to be an explorer in their own world, to be their own teacher.

In contrast, certain toys invite children to become lost in their own play, to the point where they may seem to forget that you’re even there. This is hugely beneficial, not just for you and your ability to get things done, but for your child. When children are deeply engaged in play, they are exercising creativity and concentration, which both grow and develop with practice.

Whether the toy explores magnetic fields, gravity or the intricate details of butterflies, here are a few things to look for when buying holiday gifts:

1. Open-ended

Open-ended toys, like blocks, have nearly infinite uses. Children can use them to build towers or cities or can make patterns from the shapes or colors. There is no one right way to use an open-ended toy, and so it invites children to be creative and explore the many possibilities their minds come up with.

2. Artistic

High-quality art supplies encourage creativity and also provides many interesting sensory experiences as children explore what paint and glue feel like, and how different writing instruments feel in their hands. Painting and drawing can also be excellent for fine motor development as the child strengthens their hand and becomes increasingly exact in their creations. To support your child’s confidence in engaging with art materials independently, try not to show them how to draw something specific. They might become discouraged when their own picture doesn’t look the same. Instead, expose them to all sorts of art, from completely abstract, to impressionist, to surrealist so they learn that artistic expression can look all sorts of different ways.

3. Imaginative

Children really don’t need anything other than free time to use their imaginations, but there are some great toys that can help them along and add variety to their games. Items like dress ups and costumes invite children to become someone else, to create a different world in their minds. Model toys, like animals, figurines or train sets, also invite imaginary play and many children can play with this type of toy for quite a long time on their own.

4. Problem-solving

Toys like puzzles that encourage problem-solving skills, can suck children into deep concentration if they are just the right level of challenge. Completing this type of activity also gives children a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Every child is different, so be sure to know what’s best for your child. Notice when they’re lost in play and seems to forget you’re there. That is when the magic is happening.

Make note of what they’re playing with when this happens and keep that in mind as you select toys for him in the future. Encouraging this type of deep engagement and independent play will serve your whole family well beyond the holiday season.

Here are a few toys to look for:

Brain Blox wooden building blocks

Brain Blox wooden building blocks

This block set inspires boys and girls to think creatively, supports logical thinking and improves spatial awareness. It’s the perfect educational STEM toy for all ages.




LEGO classic medium creative brick box

LEGO classic medium creative brick box

This build your own play toy allows kids to create toy trains or tigers for hours. It also comes in a large plastic storage box that’s great for housing all the tiny pieces.




kedudes watercolor artist set

kedudes watercolor artist set

These non-toxic watercolor cakes come in a spectrum of bright and vibrant colors. “This set is definitely a win in our book,” says one Amazon user.




Learning Resources super magnet lab kit

Learning Resources super magnet lab kit

Engage your kids with hands-on magnet play as they learn magnetism, magnetic force, magnetic fields, poles, and much more.




Sharp Brain Zone 3D wooden brain teaser puzzle

Sharp Brain Zone 3D wooden brain teaser puzzle

Let this puzzle serve as an intellectual challenge for problem solvers and game lovers. It’s recommended for ages 6 and up, but really anyone who loves a challenge will enjoy it.





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