Do you ever ask your child what they plan to do today? What they will play with? Which materials they will use? What they hope to achieve?
Simply by asking these questions, you help imbue your child's play with a sense of purpose. They become more focused and stay on-task for longer.
That's not to say that they have to stick with their chosen activity for the whole session, only that they have to start it.
Asking children how they plan to spend their day is a feature of the High/Scope approach, a preschool programme developed in the States. It's well worth looking up if you get the chance.
The counterpart to planning is the review.
How did the play go? Did you make the thing you planned to? Was it a success? What would you do differently next time?
Can you see how drawing your child's attention to their play helps them to be more intentional about their choices and can dramatically increase the amount they learn?
Give it a try today. Keep it light-hearted. There's no need for a 20-minute mission debrief. Just a couple of questions are all you need to get started.
Here's the rest of the series:
Encourage open-ended play for creativity and focus
Understanding schema play in toddlers
Independent play and why it matters
Insider Guide: Small World Play and Language
Tell Almost Any Story with Just a Handful of Figures
A simple guide to choosing the right toy