Independent playtime is a set time, each day that Hannah plays on her own. Right now her independent playtime takes place in the pack n' play and I usually try to do it right after breakfast, before her morning nap. Before she goes into the pack n' play, I set out several toys and tell her to choose one to take with her. After about a minute or so, I pick her up along with the toy she is currently playing with and place her in the pack n' play. I always have at least 3 other toys in the pack n' play that I rotate every so often, along with a musical toy and a mirror. Every time I put her in, I turn on the musical toy, hand her another toy to play with, set the egg timer, and leave the room. I make sure to stay out of her line of sight, as this is a time for her to play on her own. Right now she stays in there for 17 minutes at a time. However, when we first started, it was only 5 minutes. I do not go into the room until the timer goes off, even if she is crying! However, after almost 6 months of doing independent playtime Hannah has truly learned to enjoy this time and rarely fusses at all. After the timer goes off, I go into the room with a big smile and say, "Wow Hannah, you did such a good job! I am so proud of you for playing all by yourself." I say that even if all she did was cry the entire time. This shows her that there is nothing to be sad about and that the timer is what brought mommy back, not her crying. Before I taker her out of the pack n' play we always clean up her toys (we just stack them in the corner).
There are many benefits to independent playtime:
- It teaches your child to enjoy their own company, creating independence
- It teaches your child to focus on a limited number of things at a time (mental focusing), therefore increasing their attention span
- It encourages creativity in your child
- It teaches your child orderliness by limiting the number of toys and cleaning up when they are done
- Start with a short amount of time - 5 minutes is a good starting point
- Place your child in a pack n' play or even on a blanket (if they aren't mobile yet) with several toys in reach
- Set a timer in the room (so they can hear it when it goes off) for the designated time
- Don't come back until the timer goes off (but stay within ear shot)
- Even if your child cries the whole time, praise him/her for "playing" all alone!
- Clean up the toys together (even if your child is too young to help, let them watch you)
- If your child did not cry at all, increase your next independent playtime by 1 minute. If your child did cry, keep the time the same. Continue to increase by 1 minute everyday that he/she doesn't cry until you reach your goal (30 minutes is a great goal) You increase the time when your child doesn't cry, but you never decrease the time when he/she does cry. You just continue doing the same amount of time until he/she does not cry. It may take a while, but you will get to your goal eventually. Hannah will be 8 months old in a few days and we are just now at 18 minutes, so you can see how long it might take.
Happy playing! ;-)