i stay at home with my ds who just turned two. my ds always wanted to help with everything, emptying dishwasher, preparing meals, sweeping, laundry, cleaning, etc. my dd really does not really play by himself much inside and when he does it is because he has found something new or if he is very quiet it is because he is doing something i wish he would not do, like climb upon the kitchen counters or stand on the window sills. he likes to be involved in everything. if the dogs go outside, he goes down 2 rooms, gets his chair, drags it across 2 rooms to the door to get a view of our dogs outside. if he spots something on the kitchen counter, he goes down 2 rooms, get his chair, drags it across 2 rooms to reach the wanted item.
my ds is most interested in un-toys. the other day, he was busy with an empty tissue paper box. we also have a treasure box in which the items are rotated. the items include kitchen utensils, wooden toys, and natural materials, such as shells, pine cones, beach rocks, etc. he plays with it for a while but enjoys coming and showing me what he has discovered. he really loves a set of nesting containers so i could take out to make a phone call if need be. to get some time after dinner, my ds will play in his highchair with a tray of lentils and a wooden bowl, draw with crayons (tape the corner of the paper down and offer 2 crayons) or string pasta onto a cotton pipe cleaner (to thicken, folded in half and bend tips down and flatten with pliers, as i found them to be sharp). we also have a window seat with a bird feeder in view which he enjoys looking out. one thing that my ds has always loved has been a small area to sit in. he outgrew his play kitchen cabinet, but enjoys a cabinet in the kitchen that is empty for him. he loves to sit in there and will bring his "new" discovery in there as well. i keep putting a sheet over our art table to create a little spot for him but he keeps taking it down. i think once he gets used to the sheet, he will like another quiet spot just for himself.
my ds just started pretending to cook at this kitchen set, but will bring me his laddle to taste continuously. but i think soon, he will cook for a longer period.
if i really need a little time alone, i can put my ds in his crib with a few books. this did take awhile to get to this point as my ds always needed to be with me. he now understands that i am going to the bathroom and that i will be back shortly. i am close by to verbally just give him reassurance. and after that, if i need a little more time, i can switch the books, give him a hug and tell him i am going to the bathroom again.
outside is a whole other story. my ds is off on his own in our fenced in yard. he does not seem to stay in one area too long but he goes from digging, picking up sticks, going into a playhouse, playing with a fire truck, playing with a ball, collecting rocks, watching trucks drive by, etc. he will bring me rocks and if i put them on a stair, he'll bring the next ones to the stair.