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Your kid needs alone time just like you—to explore their own thoughts, to practice motor skills without your help, and to engage in open-ended, unstructured play. This is when they’ll learn to tell themselves stories, invent games, and be their own friend—skills you just can’t teach any other way! Explore these benefits of independent play.



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Emotional regulation

Independent play provides your child with a safe space to decompress with their most trusted inner circle (of plushie friends). It also gives them a chance to practice self-soothing when their block towers inevitably topple—and you’re not there to comfort them.

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When your child controls the pace and focus of play, their creativity flourishes! Whether they’re finding new uses for old toys, playing pretend with spare pots and pains, or inventing stories about their fearless stuffed bunny, kids benefit from unguided self-directed play.

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Social independence

When your baby is old enough to play with other kids, they’ll find that playmates don’t always agree with each other. If your child learns to entertain themselves, they won’t feel isolated if no one else wants to play what they’re playing.

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Skill mastery

When you’re a playtime participant, your child may fall back on your help to solve puzzles or stack blocks for them. When playing alone, they’re more likely to exercise their growing motor control, cognitive skills, and persistence to solve their own problems.

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School skills

Your little one is going to start school in a few years—and you can’t go with them. Independent play today helps your child get used to the idea that their favorite person can’t always be physically beside them, but they’ll still be okay!

Baby’s brain / developmentally targeting

Putting cognitive, motor, and emotional skills to the test through solo play.

  • Children are more likely to discover a toy’s special features (what noises it makes, what certain buttons do, how it moves) during independent play.
  • Parental involvement actually slows them down. So let your curious kid figure things out for themselves!

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Panda Crate product insight

Bin there, done that—sensory discovery your child will truly dig.

A sensory bin is a world of discovery for your little one.

  • Fill it up with dried beans. (For easy cleanup, lay a towel under the bin. Some beans may spill out, but it’s worth the fun!)
  • Gather small toys that match your little one’s interests—like animals, cars, or buttons.
  • Add the toys to the bin and mix with the beans.
  • Let your little one discover and play. You can switch out toys to keep it interesting.

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A word from the parent toolkit

Easing separation anxiety with helpful words from experienced parents.

  • “My twins used to have a meltdown every morning when I dropped them off for daycare. I tried leaving them in the ball pit or surrounding them with toy cars. Nothing worked… until I discovered I could distract them with a snack (like blueberries or cereal)! Nowadays I might even get a smile and a wave goodbye.” —Jamal, Greensboro, NC
  • “I talk my daughter through all the fun things she’s going to do that day—ride in a car, go to a park with her sitter, then come back home to me. I find pictures online to help give her a visual (car, park, home). Separations are scary when you’re not looped in. But when you know every adventure ends with coming home, they’re exciting.”—Lindsey, Piano, TX
  • “I can’t always be around, but my son’s lovey can (no matter how ragged that giraffe-head blankie gets)! I also make sure to sound really excited before I leave instead of guilty (even if that’s how I feel sometimes). Your babysitter’s coming! He’s going to make a yummy dinner, and then you’ll play with all your new toys. It does the trick!“—Erin, Baltimore, MD