Through looking at the -wise books, the suggested age for roomtime (instead of playpen time) is 18-22 months. On Becoming Toddlerwise says 18-20 months old (page 150). Babywise book II says 18-22 months old (page 76).
There will, of course, always be exceptions to this general age suggestion. Brayden started roomtime around 14 months because we started independent playtime late. Plus he was a big mover, and I think in general, big movers are going to be happier with a move to roomtime earlier than the sitting-type.
Kaitlyn moved over at 12 months. The reason for this, though, was that the floorspace in her room was not much larger than a playpen would be, and this way I could lazily not set up the playpen and take it down every day.
McKenna was just turning 20 months old when we finally had roomtime success. It scared her at first for some reason, but she was ready at 20 months.
Here is a key point: "It is important to increase a child's boundaries as the child develops" (Toddlerwise page 151). Don't wait too long to start roomtime or you will greatly frustrate your child. Also, don't start it before your child has developed to the appropriate point. This quote is very applicable not only in roomtime, but in all aspects of parenting. You let go of control over time and give the child more freedoms. Hard? Absolutely. But part of growing up.
Roomtime takes place in a room, but which room is up to you.
My choice is the child's room. I know it is a child-safe room without me right there telling them what they can and cannot do. Not all people can do bedrooms--you might have a sleeping child in the bedroom or the bedroom isn't a safe room to play in.
In those cases, simply choose another location. The room does not fundamentally matter.
What is roomtime? Here are some basics:
- Structured learning time
- Something the parent decides. Mom decides when and where this happens--but that means mom has great responsibility for finding out when and where is the best time for it to happen. This means you tell your child when roomtime starts. Your child running off to play alone for an hour when he feels like it does not equate to roomtime.
- Child plays alone
- It is the extension of playpen time
- A gate might be necessary (or the shutting of the door) initially
- Eventually, you want the child to stay in his room without physical restrictions. For my older two, this happened as three year olds. McKenna is 24 months old and still requires a door shut (I do doors--not gates).
What isn't roomtime?
- A time to "ransack the room" (Toddlerwise 150). This doesn't mean your child won't. Each child is unique. Brayden made little to no mess and usually cleaned up all of his toys right before I got him out of roomtime. Kaitlyn played with the toys before her and created a mess you would expect to see. Initially, McKenna made little to no mess, but then she went through a "tornado phase" when she got great pleasure in making messes wherever she stood--so of course roomtime turned into "ransack" time. It lasted 2-4 weeks and she then she moved to a normal sized mess.
- For more on this, see the post Independent Playtime Is Not...
"Yielding to parental instruction as standard behavior is part of the learning structure you're attempting to establish. The self-control inherent in obedience is the same self-control that advances the child in other disciplines" (Toddlerwise page 151).
Here you are developing so many skills, one of the greatest being self-control. Self-control is, in my opinion, one of the hardest qualities to master. Think about adults. Who do you know who lacks self-control when it comes to finances? Do you know anyone who lacks self-control in eating habits? (um, you know me and sometimes I really don't control myself, so answer yes). Know someone with a temper (other than your toddler)? Compulsive shopper? Gossiper? Procrastinator? The list goes on.
Self-control is not easy. Giving a child the opportunity to exercise this skill is a great gift. If self-control is achieved, you are setting your child up to be a healthier, kinder, more stable, more patient, better student, etc etc etc of a person than he would be otherwise. See why I sing its praises constantly?
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