I didn’t start Independent Playtime with Little Bug until she was over a year old and I am not going to make that mistake with Sweet Pea!
Being that I was so excited to finally have a baby, when Little Bug was a baby, I would move her from room to room with me as I accomplished the things I needed to do in the day. And while there is nothing wrong with that, as a result, I had a 14 month old that could not and would not play independently!
Looking back, I can see now that since Little Bug already has such a social personality, teaching her that she had to be with me every second of the day (which is what I essentially did!) only made me have a toddler that literally could not entertain herself.
And that was when I started Independent Playtime in her room.
On Becoming Babywise II lists several of the benefits to Independent Playtime on page 73:
- Mental Focusing Skills
- Sustained Attention Span
- Self-Play Adeptness
At almost 3 years old, Little Bug now has an hour of “room time” where she plays independently in her room with select toys.
I knew I wanted to start Independent Playtime with Sweet Pea as a young infant.
When she was able to start playing under her floor mat, I started letting her have independent play on there. She was probably 3ish months old when we started this.
I would lay her on the floor mat for about 15-20 minutes and she played until I came back to get her. I placed her in a spot where I could see her but she couldn’t see me because I wanted her to learn that she can play and be happy without Mommy’s constant entertainment!
Sweet Pea is naturally better at entertaining herself than her sister was at this age. I think part of it is because of her easy-going personality and part is because she is the 2nd child. And perhaps part of it is because I have been teaching her essentially since birth to play on her own at certain times.
Babywise has suggested time lengths for independent play:
- 5-10 minutes once or twice a day as a young newborn
- 10-20 minutes twice a day for first few months
- 15-30 minutes twice a day for the independent sitter
- 30-45 minutes at least once a day for the crawler
- Up to 60 minutes for the 15-20 month old in playpen or room
My plan was to keep Sweet Pea on the floor mat for Independent Playtime until she was sitting independently. I don’t do this twice a day, like suggested. One 20 minute block of IP time seems to be appropriate for Sweet Pea at this time.
After she was all better from her first cold, I started putting her in the pack n play for Independent Playtime. She does IP after her morning bottle from around 8:30-8:50ish, while I am getting Little Bug dressed and fed.
I do set the timer because I wanted her to learn from the very beginning that it is the timer that makes me return and not her fussing to get out. And, of course, with Sweet Pea, she has not fussed while in IP! One day she did fall over from her sitting position and her talking turned to a fuss and I knew she had probably fallen over. I went in and sat her back up and she continued to play happily until the timer went off.
There is a time for everything: a time to play with Mommy and a time to play independently. Independent Playtime (or room time) helps balance all this out, teaches my girls some useful skills and it gives me a block of time in the morning get some things done.