15 best toys for independent play that will keep your kids busy for hours

Best toys for independent play

Independent playtime is one of my favorite parenting tools.

Just imagine having a child who is happy playing on their own while you can get things done around the house or just simply take a minute to relax.

With independent play, you can.

For some kids, it comes naturally to entertain themselves. For most, though, solo play has to be taught. And that’s where toys for independent play come in.

In this post, I’ve listed my favorite independent play toys for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers to help you get started.

This post contains referral links for products I love. Danish Mom earns a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. Thank you for your support ♡

Benefits of independent play

Independent play is great for several reasons. For starters, it’s when kids learn to be resourceful, solve problems on their own, engage their imaginations, and build their own worlds and stories.

It’s during independent play that their imaginations take over and they get to flex their creative muscles.

They build things with their minds and their hands. For this reason, knowing how to encourage independent play is vital for their development.

How to encourage independent play

The best way we can encourage independent play is to provide our kids with a safe, comfortable space where they feel warm and encouraged to play alone and let their imagination take over.

We can do this by removing screens and other distractions, and by providing them with the best toys for independent play to flourish and engage their hands, eyes, and brains.


Babies (0-12 months)

toys for independent play

1. Activity stand

An activity stand is one of – if not THE – best baby toys for independent play. Lie your little one on their back and let them grab, bat, and bite the soft and smooth toys hanging from the activity stand.

The wooden rings and soft clouds all provide different textures for your baby to explore. Buy here.

2. Mirrors

Mirrors are fantastic toys for independent play as they allow your baby to recognize, understand, and read facial expressions, especially their own.

We’ve hung ours over the changing table and it fits right in. Shop here.

3. Water mat

Very simple but brilliantly effective. This water mat helps to build your little one’s motor skills and even their muscle development.

Filled with water and completely leakproof, this water mat has a fascinating texture and is decorated with bright, beautiful sea creatures, encouraging the early development of their imagination. Buy here.

4. Teether

We love Sophie the Giraffe; both our boys have had one. It’s perfect for teething and it also encourages independent play.

Shaped like a giraffe, it helps your baby to explore their imagination and even develop facial recognition.

The fact that it can be used as a teether is a bonus and your baby will love to chew on it as much as they will to hold it tight. Buy here.

5. Ball

Another favorite in our house is the Oball. Holding, rolling, throwing, and catching a ball provides hours of play and important development of a child’s motor skills.

This ball is unique thanks to the finger holes which allow it to be easily held by even the youngest baby. Buy here.

6. Puppet book

While independent play is, as the name suggests, independent, you can still be a part of it. One great way to do that is by using a puppet.

This fantastic Curious George puppet book allows you to read your little one a story while also bringing that story to life with an adorable puppet, sparking your baby’s imagination. Buy here.

7. Brio toddler wobbler

As your baby starts to walk into toddlerhood, a toddler wobbler is the perfect toy to encourage independent play. With this, they can get around a lot more freely and easily by themselves.

There’s nothing more independent than that. As a bonus, this toddler wobbler allows your little one to bring their favorite toys along for the journey. Buy here.


Toddlers (1-3 years)

8. Blocks

Blocks of all kinds are some of the very best toys for toddlers’ independent play. Especially these blocks, which come in a variety of colors and shapes.

They are fantastic for building your toddler’s hand-eye coordination, their dexterity, and especially their puzzle-solving.

The ideal independent play is something that fully engages their problem-solving skills, and these blocks provide exactly that. Buy here.

9. Hopper ball

Our son has been jumping around on a hopper ball since he was 2.5 years old. It’s a fun way to get around and has strengthened his balance and coordination skills.

I highly recommend it. Buy here.

10. Puzzle

Jigsaw puzzles are some of the best toys for independent play that you can get for your toddler.

Puzzles help to develop their dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and, of course, their puzzle-solving skills. This Peppa Pig puzzle is perfectly suited to a toddler’s age. Buy here.

11. Musical instruments

Percussion instruments have been our toddler’s best friend. This set includes a xylophone, maracas, and a tambourine. They’re bright, colorful, and full of joy.

With the endless discovery and creativity that making music provides, there are no limits to the independent play that is possible with a set of musical instruments like this one. Buy here.

12. Wheely bug

Cow, hedgehog, ladybug, tiger — all different designs available for your little one to choose from as they hop on their first vehicle.

Independent play means giving your toddler some responsibility and a wheely bug certainly embodies that. Buy here.


Pre-schoolers (3-5 years)

13. Play Kitchen

With a play kitchen — especially one this realistic and detailed — your child learns personal responsibilities and social skills even while engaging in independent play. Buy here.

14. Play-Doh

Like Lego, Play-Doh offers limitless opportunities. Whatever your little pre-schooler can think up, they can mold and shape with Play-Doh.

Safe, soft, textured, and colorful, Play-Doh is one of the best toys for independent play. Buy here.

15. Lego Duplo

Duplo is simply themed Lego. With Duplo sets, your toddler can build a themed world of their own that they can populate with people’s stories and rules of their own.

One of the most perfect toys for independent play. Buy here.

FAQ – Best toys for independent play

At what age should babies have independent play?

Babies can start having independent play as early as a few months old, around 6 to 8 months when they can sit up and engage with toys on their own.

Begin with short periods and gradually increase as they grow and become more comfortable with playing independently.

How do I help my only child play independently?

Helping an only child play independently involves setting up a safe play space, providing a variety of engaging toys, and encouraging playtime without adult intervention.

Start with short sessions and gradually extend them. It’s also helpful to foster a routine that includes regular independent play.

Is independent play good for 3-year-olds?

Absolutely, independent play is great for 3-year-olds! It helps them develop creativity, problem-solving skills, and self-reliance.

Plus, it gives them a chance to explore their interests at their own pace. Just make sure they have a safe environment and some cool toys or activities that spark their imagination.

What toys encourage cooperative play?

Toys that encourage cooperative play include things like building sets, board games, puzzles, and playsets that mimic real-life scenarios like kitchens or markets.

These types of toys require kids to work together, share, and communicate, which are key aspects of cooperative play.

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Discover the best toys for independent play that will keep your kids busy for hours. Let them have kids activities with these open ended toys for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

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