Encouraging Baby’s Self-Directed Play

Hello Janet, I have found the basic tenets of RIE philosophy to be very intuitive. I naturally see my 5.5 month son as an independent and individual human being who is, for the time being, dependent on me for his basic needs etc. He and I are each other’s daily companions, and we have fallen … Continued

Engaging in Your Child’s Play Without Interrupting


A parent hopes to encourage her 21-month old’s self-directed play by sitting with her in her play area observing, “ready to respond if she engages with me.” Lately, she says, her daughter has been asking for help with tasks she can do by herself, and also actively directing both she and her husband to perform … Continued

Kickstarting Your Child’s Learning and Play at Home (with Lisa Griffen-Murphy)


Acclaimed early childhood educator and play-master Lisa Griffen-Murphy joins Janet to encourage parents to release themselves from the pressure of making play and learning happen for their kids. Lisa shares from her vast experience facilitating children’s play in every environment imaginable. She offers specific, open-ended ideas for inspiring learning through play and assures parents that … Continued

Can Imaginary Play Be Unhealthy?


In this episode: The parent of a 5-year-old girl and 2.5-year-old boy describes their play as generally creative and happy, but she sometimes observes what she believes is “manipulative behavior and unkind talk during disagreements.” This mother is wondering if it’s appropriate to intervene and correct what she perceives as unhealthy behavior, or whether it’s … Continued

Independent Play, Bonding, and Setting Limits


In this episode: Janet responds to two comments from one of her website articles, “Independent Play: 5 Hints to Get the Ball Rolling”. First, a mother’s question about reading and her 13-month-old’s demands for attention when she has other things to do; and then another mom’s critique of Janet’s advice. Both comments bring up helpful … Continued

Independent Play: Five Hints to Get the Ball Rolling

Our obsessive focus on play and all the books, articles and websites on the subject seems a little ironic. Wasn’t exploring, creating, learning and socializing through independent play once the traditional childhood pastime? And now we seem to be struggling to get play back. Where exactly did it go? I guess I’ll save that mystery for … Continued

Help, My Toddler Can’t Play Without Me!

“The inability to play independently inevitably increases the child’s sense of dependence on the adult. Conversely, independent activity allows him to experience autonomy.”  – Éva Kálló and Györgyi Balog, The Origins of Free Play I often hear from parents concerned about their child’s inability to play alone. They perceive their child as either extra-needy, too … Continued

Outdoor Play Spaces

As a self-professed child-directed play fanatic, the only thing I value more for children than safe “yes” spaces are places they can safely and freely explore outdoors. I’m definitely with child specialist Magda Gerber on this one: “Babies thrive out-of-doors. They sleep better, eat better, look better, play better, and learn better. Fresh air both … Continued

Play Space Inspiration

Observing our children’s self-directed play helps us to understand them, become more empathetic and attuned, and it is the key to finding more joy in day-to-day parenting. These benefits (and more) are the reason I’ve shared so many play-inspired posts and videos. Most have focused on the parent’s role in nurturing child-directed play and the … Continued

7 Gifts That Encourage Child-Directed Play

In case you haven’t noticed, play is hot. Once taken for granted as a universal childhood right, in the last decades aggressive marketers of early learning products and a focus on standardized testing have horned in on this valuable developmental time in a child’s life. But lately, it seems our collective appreciation for child-directed play … Continued