Independent Playtime for Sweet Pea

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
  • Creativity
  • Self-Play Adeptness
  • Orderliness

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.

Little Bug to a T and Buckets of Tears

The following sums up Little Bug to a T.

We were having some trouble with Independent Play recently. Little Bug was opening her closet and pulling out every.single.toy. in there and opening her drawers and pulling out sheets and clothing.

It was a HUGE mess that was taking over half an hour to clean up! When Sweet Pea came along I didn’t have half an hour to clean all that up.

She was also climbing over the gate in her door way during her playtime. She was making up every excuse known to man of why she needed to climb the gate. I was having to put her back in her room multiple times.

So now every day before her IP time I tell her, “Little Bug, no opening closets and drawers and no climbing the gate. Do play with your toys and do choose to be happy!”

That solved the problem.

A few weeks ago I found a play kitchen on Craigslist and it is now in Little Bug’s room. It is a pretty big one and she has enjoyed playing with it since we brought it home.

Well, today I hear her say, “Mommy, I knocked over my kitchen!” (Again, if you know Little Bug, she is just trying everything she can to get me to come to her room. She waits to poop every day during IP so I have to come change her diaper. I am not even kidding.)

So, I come running to her room and sure enough, there is her huge kitchen leaning on it’s side. I asked her why she knocked it over.

And then, Little Bug proclaims, “But Mommy, I didn’t open my closet, I didn’t open my drawers and I didn’t climb the gate!!”

That right there folks, is the epitome of my Little Bug.

That is all very true, Little Bug. Thanks.

Always pushing the limits, that child is.

And here is another example. But this, I love. Because my child experienced a natural consequence and, in my opinion, having your child experience a natural consequences is the best way to teach them a lesson on obedience.

Let me set the stage: It’s naptime. We are sitting in the rocking chair in the living room reading some books before going to bed.

Little Bug sees her beloved Frosty the Snowman sitting on the kitchen counter.


She wants to hold it while we read. I told her that was fine as long as she did not play the song while we are reading. I told her if she chose to push the button we would have to put him back on the counter.

She goes to get Frosty and we settle in for a book. In the middle of a sentence, the song begins to play.

I just think, But of course, she just HAD to make him sing.

So I stop reading and get up with Frosty in my hand and go put him back on the counter.

Let the waters fall. Little Bug was completely and utterly heartbroken.

But I want my Frosty, Mommy.

To which I said, “Well, Little Bug, I told you if you make him sing we will have to put him up. You chose to not obey Mommy and you pushed the button, so the consequence to your disobedience is that you can no longer hold Frosty right now.”

But I want my Frosty, Mommy. I really want him.

I can see how it would be so easy to give in and give her another chance after seeing her broken little heart and her big blue eyes gushing tears of sorrow.

I thought for a millisecond about giving her another chance. But, no.

She went to bed crying for her beloved Frosty.

In this life, we have boundaries and limits and if we chose to cross those boundaries and limits, there are consequences.

She might as well learn this lesson over a stuffed singing Frosty the Snowman than over some other situation down the road when she is older that might actually for real break her heart or harm her in some way.

Parenting is so much more complicated than I ever thought it was going to be.

We always say to Little Bug, “What are we going to do with you, Little Bug??”

And she replies, “Love me forever.”

Yes we will. We will love this girl forever, testing-the-limits and all. After all, everything I do as her mother is grounded in my love for her. I hope she understands that one day.

Q&A: Independent Playtime, uninterrupted sleep

My question for you is about independent at time. My almost 2.5 yr old and almost 1 yr old seem incapable of playing independently. How do you start it? What were your techniques? What rules did you instill? How should I go about doing for a 1 yr old and. 2.5 year old? How should I do it different for each of them?

At just over a year old, Little Bug was incapable of playing independently, too and this was when I knew I needed to help her learn this valuable skill.

I started Independent Playtime with Little Bug at the age of 14 months. I put her in her room with several toys laid out on the floor for her to play with, put the gate up on her bedroom door, set the timer for only 5 minutes and told her, “Have fun playing in your room with your toys!! Mommy will be back when the timer goes off!”

She cried the entire 5 minutes the first time. You just have to stick with it and be consistent.

Here are my top 5 tips for successful Independent Playtime.

1. The timer is KEY! Set the timer and say you will be back when the timer goes off and then come back as soon as that timer beeps! Eventually she will learn that it is not her crying that brings Mama back, it is the timer going off.

2. Each day I would increase the timer by 2 minutes. We slowly but surely worked our way up to 30 minutes. Then, once she did 30 minutes well we extended to 45 minutes and then 60 minutes. (Here is a link for the appropriate IP times by age.)

3. Rotate the toys that the baby/child plays with to keep things interesting. I rotate toys about every other month.

4. Stick with it and be consistent. It is hard work to get your baby/child doing IP when you start implementing it during the toddler years. But, if you stick with it, your children will learn that it is a fun time!

5. Pick a time of day to do IP that you know you will be home. This was it can be a consistent part of your baby/child’s routine. We do IP right after breakfast for one hour.

Your 2.5 year old can do IP in his/her bedroom. Your one year old, depending on maturity level, might would benefit doing IP in the playpen (pac n play) for a few months until he/she is older. If you feel he/she is ready for IP in the bedroom, then start there. I think Babywise recommends using the playpen for IP until somewhere between 18-24 months when you transition them to Independent Playtime in their bedroom.

I honestly don’t know what I would do without IP, especially since Sweet Pea’s birth! IP allows our mornings to just run smoother in every way possible. While Little Bug is doing IP, I have one hour to: get dressed, spend time with the Lord, get Sweet Pea to sleep for a nap and, on certain days, I use half that time to do some household chores around the house (although since Sweet Pea’s birth I haven’t actually been able to get back to doing chores during IP). IP just helps us start our mornings right! It is amazing what I can get done in just one hour’s time when my little one is doing her Independent Playtime.

Babywise Mom wrote about the developmental benefits of having your baby/child do Independent Playtime here.

To see an index of all her “Independent Playtime” blog posts, click here.


When following Babywise, what do you do if the baby wakes up before the normal 2.5 to 3 hour feeding time in the middle of the night. When my little guy was a newborn, and all the way up to about 16 weeks, he would wake up every 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. I finally just let him cry and that worked but I was wondering what BW would say? Go in? Rock? Feed?

Babywise would suggest sleep training for a situation like this once you are 100% sure that baby is not waking from hunger, dirty diaper, cold, hot, pain, etc. If you are 100% confident that baby is waking out of habit and just needs to learn to put himself to sleep and stay asleep, sleep training is the answer! (Again, not for everyone. You have to be comfortable with letting baby cry.)

I reached this point with Little Bug. She was 15 weeks old and she would wake after 40ish minutes of napping. She needed to learn to fall asleep and stay asleep. A baby’s transitions from deep to light sleep every 30-45ish minutes and many babies will wake at this point of sleep instead of transitioning themselves to deep sleep. Because of everything I read about how important uninterrupted sleep is to a baby, I desired to give my child that gift.

One day, at 3 months old, I laid Little Bug down for a nap and sure enough, like clockwork she was awake (but not ready to be awake) at the 45 minute mark. I let her cry it out. For an hour. The longest hour of my parenting career! Smile But, you know what? Each nap from then on out the crying decreased dramatically. Within a week (yes, just one week), she was taking uninterrupted naps of 1.5 to 2 hours in length. That week of crying was so worth my daughter learning the skill of putting herself to sleep and staying asleep. I have created healthy sleeping habits in my daughter that she will carry with her as she continues to grow and develop.

And think about it this way. Do you feel your best when you go to bed only to be woken up by the dog puking 3 hours after you have fallen asleep and then the baby needing to eat about 2 hours after you’ve cleaned up the puke? (Yes, that night recently happened for me. I was a tad groggy the next morning and dysfunctional.) Clearly, I am in a phase of life right now where I am getting very interrupted sleep and I don’t feel like I felt before Sweet Pea’s birth when sleep was uninterrupted! We all need sleep and when we are well rested we tend to cope with what life brings much better. This is simply my opinion, but I feel many parents underestimate the importance of sleep for their baby/children.

To you, I say “way to go” in giving your son the gift of sleep when he just needed his Mommy to teach him the skill of uninterrupted sleep!


Little Bug is currently at 49 minutes of Independent Play! I’ve decided we can shoot for the 60 minute goal I had at the beginning but then cut it back to 45 minutes because I didn’t think she could do 60 minutes.

Now that she is almost 18 months (don’t get me started on that!), I think she’s ready for 1 hour of daily Independent Play.

Here are some key tips to making IP work (that I have learned through experience!):

  1. The Timer is your best friend. Set it and don’t come back until it goes off. When IP was a sob session for Little Bug when we first started doing this, she quickly learned the timer – not her dramatic sobs – would bring Mama back and end IP. The only cry I pay any attention too now is an “I’m hurt” cry. I go in and attend to the “boo boo” and then leave again saying, “Mama will be back when the timer goes off. Have fun playing with your toys!” Overall, IP time is actually spent playing! Dramatic crying at the door is a thing of the past!
  2. Music! I turn on a Children’s CD and it plays the entire time. Little Bug loves music and I think she really enjoys having the music on as she plays.
  3. Rotate toys! I rotate the toys she plays with during IP every month or so. This way things are always new and exciting for her.

I still have more Babywise posts coming! I haven’t had time to write them out yet, but it is moving up on the to-do list so you’ll start seeing some more soon.

helping Mama and piñatas

We now block Little Bug’s closet door or else this happens during Independent Play:DSCN5334

Little Bug helped Mama clean the fridgeDSCN5340

I had pulled out expired foods and put them on the kitchen floor. I told Little Bug to throw them in the trash can …DSCN5343 

…which she did!!DSCN5341 I was a little leery in doing this while Little Bug was awake, but she did fabulous! She helped some and went off and played with her toys in the Living Room some too.


Little Bug still loves to chew on washcloths in the tub!DSCN5349 

We went to a birthday party for Little Bug’s friend who is turning 2! Little Bug hit her first piñata! She did great! She went out there with all the kids and had her turn!DSCN5355

Have I told you lately that my baby girl is growing into a little girl more and more every day?!

trial and error

If you know me well you can probably guess I’ve been a research maniac lately on the 2 to 1 nap transition!

I’ve found most toddlers who wake around 7am are napping from 12 to 2. So, I’m thinking Little Bug’s naptime of 1pm should be pretty accurate considering Little Bug wakes at 8am.

So, hopefully these short naps are due to her little body needing to adjust!

I’ve decided to try this:

8am wake

1-3pm nap

8/8:15 bedtime

Well see what happens. Right now, it really is just trial and error.

Oh, and Little Bug did IP this morning while her Daddy was taking care of her (and I was sleeping!) and Dave reported she happily played for 30 minutes!

Monday morning we will start moving the timer towards 45 minutes!

One Nap not going well

And it’s not because she’s not ready for only one nap.

It’s because her one nap remains to be short. That first day of a 2.5 hour nap must have been a fluke.


She is doing fine staying up during the time she would have been taking her morning nap. But, yesterday and today she is sleeping 1.5 hours and then waking up crying. Waking up crying means she is not done sleeping. Yesterday I left her in the crib (crying) until 2 hours was up. Same story today. 🙁

So, what to do???

I read on the babywise blog that it is not unusual for the toddler to take shorter naps once transitioning to only one nap. Within a week or so, their bodies get used to only one nap and the nap lengthens.

Back when I did that experiment in August to determine whether Little Bug was ready to drop the morning nap or not, I found that Little Bug needs 11 hours of nighttime sleep and 2 hours of daytime sleep (nap) for a total of 13 hours of sleep per day.

I am hopeful that this waking after only 1.5 hours is just her body needing to adjust to only one nap. However, I do realize that it could also be because I haven’t quite nailed down what time bedtime and naptime need to be for optimal sleep to be achieved.

I did put Little Bug to bed at 8:15 (instead of 8:30) last night since she had only had the 1.5 hour nap. She went right to sleep and I had to wake her today at 8:15am. 12 hours of sleep. Which means she has technically gotten her 13 hours of sleep today with just a 1.5 hour nap…BUT she did still wake up crying which is a for sure sign of waking before getting adequate sleep. (And no, she isn’t teething or sick…)

I guess it is just going to take some time to figure all this out…

On the other hand, Independent Play is going GREAT!

We made it to 30 minutes this morning! She played happily the entire time!

I think maybe the key here is alternating the toys I put out for her to play with very frequently. I usually put out 3 or 4 things to do and I’ve been trying to alternate what is out so she isn’t playing with the same thing two days in a row.

Another thing I know that has helped is being very consistent with the timer. I set the timer, tell her it is time to play with her toys and leave. I don’t come back until the timer goes off (or if I hear an “I’m hurt” cry, which has happened once). Consistency pays off in dividends with kids in every matter (eating, sleeping, discipline, etc…), I am convinced!

Next goal: 45 minutes!

And as far as a sleeping goal, I really hope by the time we go on a trip at the end of this month, we’ve figured out naptime and bedtime (although I know travel can mess all that up very easily!).

What are we gonna do now??

Now that we’ve officially dropped the morning nap (today is day one and we will see how it goes over the next 3-5 days) the big question is, “So now what are we gonna do with all this time in the morning??”

I let Little Bug sleep as late as she wanted today, which was 8:10. I usually get her up at 8. By 9ish we were outside in the backyard with a bucket of water and outside toys wearing only diaper and crocs (Little Bug was the one in the diaper and crocs, by the way! 🙂 ). That provided entertainment for about an hour. Then I put her in the bath to rinse off the dirt. And now she is doing Independent Playtime (with the timer set to 28 minutes!).

We are almost to our goal of 30 minutes, but I think I will extend this goal to 45 minutes, since we have now dropped the morning nap.

If we could reach 60 minutes, that would be really nice. 🙂 It would help break up the morning and still give me time in the morning to get household stuff taken care of. But 30-45 minutes would accomplish that too, so we will just see how things unfold.

Little Bug’s schedule with 2 naps looked like this:

8am wake + milk + breakfast

10:30-11:30 nap

11:30 milk

12 lunch

3:00-4:30 nap

4:30 milk

6ish dinner

7:45ish bath + milk

8:30 bedtime

What time should naptime be now that we have dropped the morning nap??

Would love to hear your thoughts/opinion. Thank you to those of you who have already left comments with what you did with your child(ren) during the 2to1 nap transition!

getting closer

I hope you are not tiring of reading about Little Bug’s nap saga. I’m sorry if you are, but I really want a record of how this all went down so I can have a reference for #2.

So, without further ado…

We’ve had two days this week where it’s taken Little Bug 45 minutes to fall asleep for the morning nap. I thought that was a great step in the direction to drop it completely!

Thursday, however, she was asleep within 30 minutes (which is still more than usual), but she fell asleep…so she’s not quite ready to completely drop it yet, I suppose.

After those two days of taking forever to go to sleep (afternoon nap too one one day), I saw two options:

1. Move morning nap time to 11 instead of 10:30.

2. Go ahead and drop the morning nap.

I decided to wait out the rest of the week and see what happens. Little Bug has proven that she can go two days in a row with no morning nap, but she only did okay during those two days.

And okay isn’t good enough, in my opinion, because I know optimal rest means optimal alertness which means optimal learning.

A baby/toddler/child, if well-rested, should not spend their day fussy, whinny and clingy. Those are sure fire signs that that baby/toddler/child is not well-rested. (Of course, there could be other culprits too, such as teething or sickness…) There was a period of time on both Saturday and Sunday where Little Bug was not herself. She was tired. Her little body was missing that morning snooze.

So we aren’t quite ready to make that leap to only one nap yet, I don’t think. We are certainly getting there and making progress towards only having one afternoon nap as these weeks go by.

Friday and Saturday Little Bug napped as usual for two naps. She fell asleep quickly so I guess I won’t move naptime to 11. I’ll keep that as an option though this week if she goes back to not fall asleep until 11am or after. 

While I’m at it I might as well give an update about Independent Play…

We are up to 24 minutes! She is doing pretty well. She may holler out “Mama” once or twice but overall she is pretty happy during IP.

Yesterday when her Daddy put her in her room for IP, he moved the rocking chair in front of her dresser drawers. She had been opening the drawers and I was afraid she would pull the whole dresser down on her so I felt we should block the dresser until we can attach the dresser to the wall.

I had been putting the rocking chair in front of her closet door to keep her out of there.

Well, can you guess what she chose to do during IP that day?

Yep. Dave said when he went in there after the timer went off she had pulled everything out of her closet and was having a good ‘ol time playing! 🙂


Little Bug skipped her morning nap on Saturday and then took a 2 hour afternoon nap. Morning nap was skipped again on Sunday and she took a 2.5 hour nap after church and lunch.

Usually, on Mondays she takes a morning nap. However, this Monday she laid down at the usual time (10:30) but didn’t go right to sleep. It was around 11:15 when she did go to sleep.

This is good! More steps in the direction of dropping the morning nap, because if she can skip the morning nap for two days straight and then almost skip it again, that’s wonderful!

I’m going to still lay her down each morning at 10:30, but I won’t be surprised if this pattern continues more this week. (And I really hope it does because it will mean we are that much closer to dropping the morning nap!)

Little Bug did awesome today during Independent Play! She hollered out for me once, but then it was like she remembered what she was supposed to be doing or…

maybe she got sidetracked being a little stinker! When the timer went off and I went in to help her clean up her toys, I found she had gotten into her bottom dresser drawer where I store blankets. She had pulled some of them out and apparently had a good ‘old time dragging them all over her room. 🙂

Time to go wake Sleeping Beauty up.

***This is the second post of today! Don’t miss Little Bug’s 15 month update below!