Guest Post - Toys that encourage 2 year olds to play independently (and keep you sane!)

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching other toddlers play independently, while your 2 year old clings to your leg and won’t let you get more than two feet away. Don’t despair! By using toys which are age-appropriate and will gently encourage their independence, you can take your first steps towards having a toddler who will happily play alone.

Toys to avoid Some toys are definite No’s if you want to encourage a 2 year old to be independent. This applies to any toy that is beyond their current level of development. A child will inevitably need your help if their toys are too advanced. For this reason, avoid toys such as jigsaws and puzzles that a 2 year old is likely to need help with, toys that require supervision for safety reasons or toys which require assembly.

Toys that encourage independence The following toys are the right stage for most 2 year olds. They’re fascinating to this age group and are simple enough for them to play with alone.

Ball pools 2 year olds love ball palls. They’re safe, fun and brightly coloured, which fascinates and captures their attention.The Bestway train-shaped inflatable ball pool is a fantastic ball pool for 2 year olds. Children can pretend they’re riding in a train as well as having fun with the balls.

Pretend play toys  2 year olds are just starting to be interested in pretend play. To encourage a 2 year old to play alone, provide simple pretend play toys that don’t require adult help. For example toy cars without any complex accessories, or a doll and pushchair. Show the child how to do a simple activity such as pushing a car around or putting a doll in a pushchair.

Popular pretend play toys for 2 year olds:

·   Bing soft rabbit toy - cute cuddly rabbit with no removable clothes or parts that require adult help. My First Baby Annabel with the Quinny dolls pram - a smaller-than-average doll for 2 year olds with a genuine Quinny pram to push her around in. VTech Baby Toot Toot Car Carrier - slightly simpler than a toy garage, 2 year olds can push the car carrier and the included toy car around and put the car in the carrier

Sorting toys  A 2 year old’s mind is getting more and more organised. They love simple toys that involve sorting things into shapes and colours.

Popular sorting toys for 2 year olds:

·  Leomark Wooden Farm House Shape Sorter - this is a fantastic shape sorter because it’s a pretend play toy too. Toddlers can enjoy putting the animals in the hole that matches their shape, or they can use them as actual toy animals for twice the fun. Stacking and sorting rings - 2 year olds will love sorting the rings into the correct colours and putting them back together. Some 2 year olds will spend ages concentrating on this toy but only buy it if your 2 year old isn’t the type who will constantly ask for help. Elephantastic Wild Animals - a well-made wooden shape board where the 2 year old has to put the animals into the correct shaped space

Push along toys  2 year olds love push and pull along toys. Now they have mastered the art of walking, they can easily use these toys without adult help. My favourite is the wooden push-along lion which is brightly coloured and makes a pleasant tinkling noise when you push it.

How to encourage 2 year olds to play alone With all the toys I’ve listed above, start by joining in with the child. Don’t plonk the toy in front of them and expect them to entertain themselves straight away. Play together at first and give them some ideas of what to do.

As the 2 year old gets more and more engaged, gradually decrease your own involvement. Move slightly further away and do your own thing close by - whether it’s reading a book, using your mobile or doing housework. If the child asks for you, go back and play together again. Wait until they’re starting to play on their own again, and repeat the process. If the child is ready then over time, they will be able to play on their own for longer periods. You have to stay close at first, but they will eventually realise how much fun they can have playing on their own. It’s a slow process and requires lots of patience, but it will be worth it!

Katie Keith is a Mum and writes the Best Toys for 2 Year Olds blog. She loves to help other parents to make informed decisions on choosing the right toys for a 2 year old’s level of development. Katie lives on Dartmoor in Devon with husband Andy, daughter Sophia, cat Popple and 4 alpacas. 

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