Building Independence Through Play

I don’t know about you, but most of the kids that I have worked with over the years are extremely social.  I love to see them interacting with their peers, and their outgoing nature makes for some fun, collaborative learning opportunities!

Since my students love to interact with one another, as well as the staff in the classroom, they tend to have trouble with independent work time.  I have also noticed that they have trouble with independent leisure activities.  Whether it is reading a book on their own, drawing, or playing with a toy after they complete their work, they just want to interact with everyone around them.  Many of my families also have trouble with this at home.  They have found it difficult to step away to use the bathroom, cook dinner, or clean up the house without their children seeking their attention.

We quite often focus on building independence during work tasks and increasing our students’ self-help skills (feeding, dressing, etc.).  We should be focusing on independence during leisure time as well!

A few years ago, I started putting together some “break bins.”  These bins were filled with activities and toys that my students could play with on their own.  I taught my expectations and added break bin time to our afternoon rotations.  Let me tell you… my kids love it!

Most of the activities in the bins are from thrift stores or toys that my son no longer plays with.  I also like to include art and sensory materials such as play-doh, floam, kinetic sand, and rice. I am often surprised by which toys get the most love.  Who would have thought that stamps, stencils, and markers would have been such a big hit!?!

Depending on the student, I have different expectations for the amount of time that they need to play with the bin before they can switch.  Some of my students choose a bin and play with it for the full 15 minutes.  Other students want to swap out the bin every 30 seconds.  I typically provide a sand timer for these students.  They can flip the timer on their own and they know that they can clean up and pick out a new bin as soon as the time is up.  

The break bins have also come in handy for last-minute changes in the schedule.  Do you have an unexpected 5 minutes to fill before lunch?  Did you have to cancel a lesson because of a fire drill?  Are the adults needed elsewhere to address the behavior of another student?  Grab a break bin!

How do you incorporate independent play into your classroom? Please share!

No comments