In the world of toddlerhood, every day is an adventure filled with wonder and exploration. As parents, we know these humans can bring both the sweetest moments and a few not-so-sweet meltdowns—especially when it’s time for you to get things done. Let’s dive into something that will not only nurture your keiki’s development but also provide precious moments of calm you’ve been yearning for.

Play is the cornerstone of your keiki’s growth, offering not just joy but also essential developmental milestones. We’ve all been there, surrounded by the constant touch of little hands, yearning for a moment of peace, quiet and space from feeling like you have to constantly entertain. So, what can you do?

The key is in transforming that want into a teachable moment with open-ended play. Rather than simply wishing your toddler would give you space, let’s guide your keiki on a path to discovering the joy of independent play. As they immerse themselves in independent play, you’ll find those much-needed moments for yourself, creating a balance in your parenting journey.

What is open-ended play and what does it look like? Imagine sensory bins transforming into endless worlds and stickers finding a home on wax paper or board books. Building blocks become the architects of your toddler’s imagination and fun miniature worlds with cars, trucks, and figurines. Open-ended play doesn’t have a concrete ending to it like a puzzle. Provide your toddler with 2-3 of their favorite open-ended activities and let them choose. It’s an effective way to encourage autonomy and decision-making.

As your keiki plays, gently fade back your lead and presence, allowing them to take the lead. Watch as they weave their tales and create their own worlds. 

Now it’s your turn: May your days be filled with joy, creativity, and a touch of well-deserved peace.  Enjoy those precious moments for yourself, finding support in the newfound independence you’ve taught. 

Tara Vellella MA, BCBA is a behavior analyst, mom to 3, founder and toddler parent coach at Holistic Parent Coaching. She is on a mission to support families who are struggling with tricky toddler behaviors by looking at the full scope of what’s going on and using her background in effective behavior change. Learn more at