Independent Playtime is Not…



On Becoming Preschoolwise (affiliate link) has some good tips on what Independent Playtime is not. “Concentration and creativity are developed during independent play. The most important aspect of this time is that your child is learning to focus on what he can do with the things he has” (page 120).


If that is your goal of independent play, you want to make sure you are doing it correctly. Sometimes knowing what something isn’t helps you understand what it is. This information is found on page 120.


Independent playtime is not…

  • Not a time your child chooses where to play
  • Not a time your child chooses what to play with (though I must say, I pretty much always let my kids pick things to play with during roomtime)
  • Not a time your child chooses how long to play
  • Not something you put off to the preschool years–by 18-24 months, your child should be able to play for 45-60 minutes uninterrupted (but don’t let this stop you from starting late–just let it encourage you to start early if you can)
  • Not a group activity
  • Not time for computer games, video games, television, etc
  • Not in a place your child can see you or easily hear you
  • Not a time for developmentally out of reach toys–don’t make them too hard. It will be frustrating
  • Not a time for developmentally “too young” toys–keep them challenging enough

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12 thoughts on “Independent Playtime is Not…”

  1. We just started independent playtime last week at our house. My daughter is 16 months, we got started a little late. But she stays in her crib (it's the only safe place for her that she can't leave) for 2 fun songs on her cd. She has special fun/engaging toys just for this purpose. Right now she is spending her 2 songs standing at the edge and screaming until the time is up. I am very hopeful we won't have to do this much longer before she starts playing and lengthening her time. Screaming is no fun for anyone!

  2. That's a great way to look at it. I haven't read Preschoolwise yet because I have a 9 month old. But I just noticed a dramatic improvement in her independent playtime when I moved her where she couldn't see me! That was more by accident because she stood up in her crib the other day & I moved her pack & play into her room for naps until my husband had a chance to lower the crib. The first time I had her in her room where she couldn't see me, she played for 45 minutes!!! Before, I had her in the dining room, and she would start fussing for me every time I walked by. She barely lasted 15 minutes! Now she LOVES IP! 🙂

  3. I have no doubt you can train your baby/toddler to play independently, I'm just having a hard time knowing what kind of toys could occupy and entertain my 15 month old for 45 min? Any help or suggestions? We are just beginning to do blanket time and would love help on great, entertaining toys for this age. Thanks!

  4. My son is 17 mo. old and really loves IP time (in playpen). I sneak a peak at him and he plays with his toys in ways I never could imagine. IP time builds so much brain power. It's priceless. He goes through stages where he seems bored with IP time but right now he's super into it and does 50 min. When he gets bored I think it's because I have toys that are too easy for him. Right now he has 4 books in IP and it seems like he concentrates the most on books that show pics of real objects, like apples, cars, insects, more so than story books. I put puzzle pieces in a bowl and he takes them out and fits them into the puzzle board. He always plays with his jumbo legos and his stacker toy with rings. Sometimes he hammers on his xylophone. Another toy he loves is the hammer peg toy. He also loves shape sorters so I put the shapes in a bowl and then he has to take the pieces and place them in the shape sorter. I rotate the toys in his playpen every couple of days. I rotate his books everyday.

  5. Ellyn,You are inspiring! I like your details about what you put in the playpen and how often you change them.My little boy is 18 months, and he loves IP too! He seems to like things that make noise, like a leap frog drum and his singing doggie named Spot (also Leapfrog). I put at least 1 book in there per day. I think he likes non-fiction books too (real photographs).Questions for Val and Ellyn:1. Since his interest are things that make noise, should I have more than 1 toy that fits this category?2. When should I put away the playpen and move to room time?Thanks,Ruth

  6. Ruth,My son loves Spot too! Just recently I had to take Spot out of IP because my son was bored with him and he wasn't getting used. I will probably reintroduce Spot again soon. To answer your questions, my son likes noise toys too but I lean towards Montessori learning with is more about natural toys, real life objects, problem solving, etc., so I am careful about how many noise makers I introduce to him. So I try to balance everything. So let me think about this. I guess the only electronic toy I have in IP is a piano and I rotate that so it's not in there much. I also rotate a xylophone and flute. Sometimes I have to sit down and really think, what will challenge him? He seemed to be too good at the big legos so I took those out and put in smaller more challenging legos. And man, oh man, puzzles are his new thing. We have 6 or so Melissa and Doug puzzles that really challenge him so that is the new hot item in IP. Sometimes I make a grab bag with random around-the-house-items like house keys, a flashlight, containers, pouches with zippers, mini cardboard jewelry boxes, a mirror, a glass container with beans so he can shake that (I make sure everything is safe and secure). Ya know, before I get too long, here is a blog with good Montessori activities. As far as roomtime, I am going to start that in about 2 weeks. I am really excited because the playpen is so small. I hope my post helps.

  7. Hi there! I've followed your blog since before my 19month daughter was even born. It has been so very helpful…I refer all new mom's to it!Anyways, I thought I would write to let you know of the independent play success we had this past week. Until now this has been the one area that is just too much for me. My daughter is a great sleeper, very obedient, great eater etc, but not so great at playing by herself. I think this is mainly due to her having ear infections almost her entire life. She had tubes put in about two weeks ago and the difference has been amazing! After this I was ready to tackle independent play etc. I put a blanket in her room and gave her clear instructions as to the toys she could play with and that she was not allowed to get up. After about 45 minutes of protesting (crying etc) she played nearly an hour by herself and has been doing so ever since.Thank you so much for you encouragement to stick with this aspect of babywise. I just want to give hope to moms that even if you have a toddler it can be done!

  8. Laura, see this post:Best Toys for Baby: 12-18 Months :

  9. Ruth,1. I would vary the type of toys and I wouldn't put more than a couple of noise-making toys in at a time. 2. You can start any time from now forward. Some start at your son's age (or earlier) and some wait until closer to two. I prefer closer to 18 month side.

  10. Thanks to everyone for sharing your stories about how you do IPT and how your children are learning from it! Great to hear!


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