Independent Playtime: The Ultimate Overview

Get a full overview on independent playtime. Learn all about independent playtime and its benefits as well as how to implement it and solve any problems. Get information for independent play at all ages and tips for getting started at an older age.

Baby playing with toys alone

I very often state that one of my absolute favorite parenting tools is Independent Playtime. This block of time has immense benefits to the entire family. This post will take you through the basics on what it is (and isn’t), the benefits of it, implementing it, and solving potential problems you might face with it.

Definition of Independent Playtime

Independent Playtime is a block of time each day that your child plays alone. On Becoming Preschoolwise states that “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). 

Exactly what Independent Playtime will look like for your child will vary based on the age, ability, and maturity of your child. Let’s discuss different age groups.

>>>Read: Benefits of Independent Play

Note: I call independent playtime “solo playtime” at my house, so if I call it “solo playtime,” you know what I am talking about.

Independent Play Time for Baby

When Brayden was a baby, I felt guilty if he was alone at all. You don’t need to feel guilty; it is perfectly natural to spend some time by yourself each day. It is healthy. It benefits both mom and baby.

I started the essence of Independent Playtime as a young newborn with my girls. The way I do Independent Playtime with a newborn is to put the baby at a floor gym (you could use a bouncer, swing, or even a blanket) and then sit a couple of feet away and watch her play. I don’t talk to her or wave things in her face. I just enjoy watching her. Length varies from 5-10 minutes; newborns can’t stay awake very long. 

She is playing independently because I am not interacting at all and not distracting her from her play at all. There is no interruption to her play.

Now, of course, I do spend time each day talking to my newborn, holding her, loving her, kissing her chubby little cheeks…I am talking about one or two 5-10 minute block in a day when I let her play alone.

>>>Read: How To Get Your Baby Playing Independently

I find doing this from the beginning, as a newborn, makes the entire transition to “real” independent play as older babies seamless. From the beginning of life, my baby learns that it is normal to play alone at times in the day.

Please do not despair if you are starting Independent Playtime later than this. It is totally doable at any age! See my post for Starting Independent Playtime Late for help getting started with an older baby or even older child. 

Once my baby reaches about 3-4 months old, I start to have the play time be in the playpen every so often–maybe a few times a week. I might move the gym in there or I might hang a baby mirror and mobile in there and put some toys in there. I want the baby to get comfortable with the playpen since that is the play space we will use later on.

At this time, I still sit in the room with baby, though I do need to be more creative about not being seen. If it wasn’t possible for me to not be seen, I would sit right outside the door. 

Once baby can get to toys on her own, I will leave the room but stay really close. As she gets older, I will leave the room and move about the house, but I do always keep a monitor on the baby.

I would encourage you to add independent play to your day as soon as possible. The sooner, the better. The sooner, the easier time your baby will have with it.

>>>Read: Great Toys To Encourage Independent Playtime

playing blocks by baby

Independent Playtime for Pre-Toddler

A Pre-toddler is in the age range of 12-18 months. Most pre-toddlers will be in the playpen still. Some might move to Roomtime, but most will stay in the playpen. You can play music for your child if she enjoys music. You will want to make sure you rotate the toys, dolls, trucks, books, etc. you give her to play with every so often so the toys stay interesting to her. 

Independent Playtime for Toddler

Sometime between 18 months and two years old, your toddler will move to roomtime instead of just the playpen. You want to make sure the room and play area is child-proofed and safe for your child. You still pull out the toys and books for her to play with. For more on Roomtime, see my post Roomtime: Structured Playtime Alone for Kids for more information on roomtime.

Independent Playtime for Preschooler and Older

I continue daily roomtime with my kids until they enter first grade. First grade is the first year that we have full-day school. When my kids have been gone all day, we don’t have a lot of hours left in the day.

We will do it on weekends when we have the time. We also do it in the summer pretty regularly.

For more on this, see Independent Playtime for the School-Aged Child.

Girl playing with a toy kitchen

Independent Playtime Lengths

This is taken from my post on Independent Playtime Lengths

  • 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
  • Up to 90 minutes for 21 months or older. Some people break things up and do more like 45 minutes twice a day. 

These are guidelines. Some days may be longer, some shorter. For example, say it is Saturday and you have a family thing to get to. You can have a shorter than usual independent play so you can get to your family thing on time.

On the other hand, you might have a new baby and get tied up with a fussy newborn and need to leave your preschooler in independent playtime for an extra 30 minutes while you attend to your newborn. 

Benefits of Independent Playtime

On Becoming Babywise II lists several of the benefits to Independent Playtime on page 73:

  • Mental Focusing Skills
  • Sustained Attention Span
  • Creativity – able to handle boredom
  • Self-Play Adeptness
  • Orderliness

You will also find these benefits:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Social independence
  • Comfort in their own company
  • Development of patience

I have done Independent Playtime with all four of my children, and I have found these benefits to be true. It is hard to judge the effects because for one thing, you can’t live life in a vacuum, and for another, you can’t live parallel lives where you do two different things with the same child and see which “thing” was the best. I do think that having four children who display these skills speaks volumes for Independent Playtime.

>>>Read more benefits of Independent Play here.

I also find that Independent Playtime results in happier and more patient children. If I am going to have a playdate that day, I make sure we do Independent Playtime that morning.

My children consistently play better with others when they have Independent Playtime–whether those others be friends or family.

There are also benefits for the parents and caregivers. This time also offers you some time to clean, cook, get ready, or simply relax. That should lead to a more relaxed and happy parent, and that is good for the entire family. If you work from home, this gives you uninterrupted time to get things done or have that meeting. If you have a newborn, you can take care of the newborn knowing your toddler is safely playing.

Let’s elaborate on some of these benefits:

  • Baby will learn to solve problems alone–I tend to jump in and interfere before the baby really has a chance to try. Also, with mom or dad there, baby is less likely to try to figure it out alone. And why would he? That seems to me to be human nature. I know, for example, I don’t try nearly as hard to open a jar if my husband is home. He will do it for me! If he isn’t home, I keep working on it until I get it or the jar doesn’t open.
  • Baby will learn that his own company can be fun and is good enough.
  • Brayden is honestly much happier and obedient with solo playtime than he is when he misses it. In talking with people, I have found this to be true of all children who have independent playtime.
  • Mom gets some time to get things done around the house without regard to how noisy she is.
  • Once your toddler drops the morning nap, you still have two chunks of time a day where baby is occupied.
  • Siblings have time to spend with mom or dad one on one.
  • When you have a second child, you have an older child who knows how to problem solve, knows how to entertain themselves, and has an extra period of time a day that they are occupied to give you more time with the new baby.
  • Once your child drops the morning nap, he may lay down and sleep when he is tired (if you do solo playtime in the morning). That has happened with Brayden a few times. Just yesterday I walked in and he was laying on his bed. He sat up and said, “I’m just laying down and resting.” He would never do that if he was playing elsewhere, but left to himself, it does happen.
  • Children who can work independently are at a great advantage in school. It is completely logical. It is a skill your child needs to learn.

Implementing Independent Playtime

Does Independent Playtime sound nice? Want to try? Here are some basic details on how to implement it. Now, exactly how easy this is to do will vary. Factors will include age of the child, personality, and previous life experience. A 2 year old who has never played alone will likely resist more than a 2 month old.

If you are starting from the beginning of life–or quite early in life (say the first 4-5 months), it should be pretty easy so long as you are consistent. If you are starting later in life, you might have some protesting from your child. It will take some persistence from you.

Either way, here are some tips.

  1. Pick a consistent time of day. Consistency is very important. I like mornings because I can always get it in during the morning hours. Pick what works for you.
  2. Keep toys safe, age-appropriate, and rotated. Your child will not enjoy this playtime if she has the same toys for 6 weeks in a row. Also, don’t give too many toys. You want enough to keep her happy, but not so many her brain gets overwhelmed. Open-ended toys allow for more creative play.
  3. Stay in earshot. Either through being close in proximity or through a monitor. 
  4. If your child enjoys it, start with 10-15 minutes at a time. 
  5. If your child is not happy, start with 5-10 minutes at a time. Some moms find 5 minutes isn’t long enough while others find it to be perfect. A timer can also be very effective. See my post on The Timer for more. 
  6. Clean up when playtime is over. Sing the clean up song and clean with your child. Hand her a toy and ask her to put it in the bucket/basket/ whatever. When she does, tell her great job and thank her for helping you. As she gets older and more able, she will help on her own.
  7. Know what it isn’t. Sometimes it helps to know what something is not to know what it is. See more on that below.

If you are starting late, see my post on Starting Independent Playtime Late.

 You can see more details on starting Independent Playtime here.

Acceptable Mediums for Independent Playtime

Here are things I have done for independent play. There is no one-size fits all method. You want to work toward your child being able to play alone, but there are different paths to that goal:

  • When the baby is really young, I do independent play in the form of a bouncer or gym. You could even do a swing. I put the baby somewhere with things to look at and bat at. I stay right there, but try to be out of direct sight (which is quite easy with a young baby). It is independent in that I don’t sit and talk to the baby and play with the baby. I just let the baby do her thing. I do this for about 10 minutes a couple of times a day. Waketimes aren’t really long enough to allow for longer periods.
  • As baby gets older, I continue to leave the gym and bouncer as options and add the jumperoo.
  • Once baby can start to hold toys, I add the playpen to the mix. I lay the baby down and give a toy. You could always to the playpen if you have a mobile or something to look at. I will also put a stuffed animal or something fun to look at. Use safe ones, of course. I still stay in the same room and just out of site.
  • A blanket with toys in reach is acceptable–keeping safety in mind.
  • Once baby can sit up supported, you could use a bumbo and put baby in it with a basket of toys to grab at.

My point here is that anything can work. You want your baby to be content playing without your interference for 10-20 minutes a couple of times a day. Safety is the key issue. Put baby somewhere safe and in earshot.

You do need to move out of line of site once baby can look for you and realize you aren’t playing along. I would encourage you to start as early as you can and be creative and adapt solo playtime to you and your baby.

Methods of Implementation for Independent Playtime

Many methods are listed above in Acceptable Mediums.

  • Pick a consistent time of day. There is no right time. Do it when it works for you. Be wise in your choice. Pick a time of day baby is happy, rested, and fed. You will have more success that way. I do mine in the morning.
  • Once the child can sit up well enough, I move her to the playpen. I have decided the best way to describe sitting up well enough for me is that when she falls over, it is controlled and slow. They don’t land with a thud.
  • Give some toys and keep them rotated and fresh. Also, keep them safe for playing with alone. Another thing to consider is age-appropriate toys. Not only for safety, but your child’s frustration. Your child will be frustrated if playing with a toy that is too old for her.
  • Figure out the correct number of toys for your baby. A friend of mine, Raegan, shared this about her baby, “[I do] not put too many toys in the pack-n-play, play yard, whatever. I thought “I’ll put lots of toys in there so if she gets bored with one she’ll have more options”. Every time I do that it backfires. She seems to do so much better with one basket of a few toys and seems to be overstimulated with too many toys to choose from.” I have heard from other moms, though, that the more toys, the better. So find out what is best for your child.
  • Leave the room but keep her in earshot so you know what is going on. You could put her so she isn’t facing the doorway so you can peek in. It is really fun to watch. The good thing about the playpen is you know they are safe in it.
  • If your child is happy with the whole situation, start with 10 or 15 minutes a day. Then move it up slowly.
  • At some point, you move to roomtime. You will have to decide the age for your child.
  • When I started roomtime, I first started by playing with Brayden in his room at the same time every day. We would play with his toys together.
  • Over time, I started playing less. Eventually, I just sat on the bed in the room and did not interfere. I just watched him play and move about the room. This way, I was sure the room was Brayden-proofed and safe.
  • After a month or two, I started leaving him in there alone. We started with 10 minutes a day. Then 15. Then 20, etc. Work it up to desired time.
  • When playtime is over, have your child help clean up. Even if your baby is too small and young to physically help, clean up in front of her. Tell her it is clean up time. I like to sing a clean-up song. Brayden started helping at a young age, and by the time he was a preschooler, it was not uncommon for me to go get him from solo playtime and find his toys were all put away. On days he didn’t want to help, I would tell him if he didn’t help that I have to put the toys up where he can’t play with them for a while. He always helped and never had to have toys put up.

Addressing Problems with Independent Playtime

You might run into some problems along the way with Independent Playtime. Here are the most common:

  • Resistance. You might have your child not want to do Independent Playtime, whether from the beginning or “all of a sudden.” For more on this, see Resistance to Independent Playtime.
  • Ransacking. Your child might have a very fun time during Independent Playtime, but destroys the room in the process. For tips on dealing with this, see this post on Ransacking During Independent Playtime.
  • Sleeping. You might find your child falls asleep during Independent Playtime, which then messes with nap time, which of course makes Independent Playtime annoying rather than beneficial. For tips on this issue, see Falling Asleep During Independent Playtime.

My history of solo playtime starts like this. First, I started it with Brayden in the playpen around 6 months. He was not an easy playpen time person (i call it solo playtime). He hated to be alone for more than a few seconds. He was one who cried at first.

I worked him up to 20-30 minutes once a day. He did really well with it until he started to pull to a stand by himself. This happened around 9 months. For some reason, it really angered him to be in there once he could stand. He wouldn’t last 2 minutes. I decided to hold off on the solo playtime.

We moved when he was one year old, and by 13-14 months I decided to give it a go again. This time, I decided to go for roomtime instead of playpen time. We slowly worked up to it and before long he was playing in his room alone. He grew to love this time. As a preschooler, he asked for solo playtime, he told me to leave his room if I lingered too long (though he was nice about it), he told me to have fun for my solo playtime, and he would likely stay in there all day happily if I left him.

With Kaitlyn, I started independent playtime from birth really. I was wiser my second time around and never let myself become her sole source of entertainment. She always did well so far and we had no issues with solo playtime. With Brayden, I worked up to the desired time. With Kaitlyn, she just did it.

I repeated with McKenna and Brinley.

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.

  • 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


You can start independent play no matter the age of your child. 4 month old or 4 year old, you can achieve success. Yes, it is easier to start them young, but it is always worth it to start, no matter what the age. Treat it as any kind of training–be consistent, be diligent, be firm.

Independent Playtime is well worth the effort it takes to implement it. Well worth it. If you have an older child and haven’t started it, you can do it! I started late with my oldest child and he did great with it–it took some time to work up to it, but we got there. You will love this and your children will love this.

Related Independent Playtime Posts

Independent playtime guide pinnable image with a girl playing with a toy kitchen

Reader Questions and Comments

Carrie said: Some kids were easier than others. It depended on the kid/personality. For my second, he does NOT like to be alone. Even now that he’s 6, he has a hard time with IP sometimes because he doesn’t like to be by himself. BUT, it’s so good for him to have a set time to practice this because it prepares him for future times when he will need to be alone and make decisions by himself. 

The Neal Family said: 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!

Muffy said: 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! 

Maryea said: Thank you for this reminder! IP is a lot of work, but so worth it.

Laura said: 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!
Plowmnators replied: Laura, see this post: Best Toys for Baby: 12-18 Months

Naomi said: Starting was Rough! In the beginning she went through several phases of crying either at the beginning of IP or if she threw all her toys out of the PNP. When her brother was born she had a rough time with many things but especially IP and was always whining for me to play with her. When she moved to her room she started getting into mischeif (chewing on the window sills, picking apart the screen, playing with diaper cream) so we REALLY had to babyproof. As she got older she wouldn’t cry or whine so much but would keep calling to me and asking me for things. I have worked very hard to establish roomtime, especially once she stopped napping. Even now she still comes down or calls to me sometimes but things are much better than they were. Things that have helped her immensely are the visual timer so she can see how long is left (you can actually set it for up to 2 hrs but the red doesn’t start going away until after 1 hr) and readalong books from the library, puzzles, sticker books etc.

Keep on keeping on! IP is seriously my favorite thing about BW. I need a break to exercise, get things done or just relax! Find what works for your child, some kids take to it much more easily than others but it is especially worth the effort in those for whom it doesn’t come easily.

Ellyn said: 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.

Ruth said: 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
Plowmanators replied: 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.

Ellyn said: 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).  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.

Carrie said: The journey was pretty good, but right at the beginning it was tough learning to let them fuss a bit so they could experience frustration and work through it. To clarify, I always went in and helped if something was actually wrong, but 9/10 they were totally fine because they were safe in their cribs. start small and set a timer so you know that you’re making progress and not to run in too quickly. It’s INDEPENDENT playtime after all. I can remember starting at 2 min and never feeling like were going to make it to 5, then 10 minutes happened, then 30, then one day I lost track of time and no longer used my timer and realized it had been 45 min. That became our new norm for a long time. Give them a few learning toys and a couple books to keep them occupied. I learned that if they had lots of stuff to play with, they didn’t really play well and got frustrated easily. The awesome thing about doing IP everyday is now I can trust them to play independently around the house when I’m cooking or cleaning and have faith that they won’t be right under my feet the whole time.

Emily said: none of them liked it at first and would sometimes cry the whole time, but I used a timer and they quickly learned they had to stay there until it rang. Now they LOVE their alone time and don’t complain at all. it’s SO worth it! I agree that it is my favorite thing about Babywise. The benefits are tremendous.

Christina said: Honestly, I started when they were very young — just let them sit in their cribs and hold a safe toy or stare at their mobiles — for very brief intervals. As they grew older (6-9 months), they developed a greater fascination with toys and would easily entertain themselves without me there. One thing I also did with my kids early on (as in 2-3 months old) was to seat them on a play gym right next to me at first, then gradually move them further across the room so I could still observe them without them necessarily seeing me the entire time. My daughter seemed to really enjoy this period of time in her day at that age — and so did I! It seems that IP time takes readjusting as kids get older as your space where it happens and the toys that kids use change. But the idea of spending periods of time alone without relying on a parent to entertain you is crucial and can be established early on.

Kimberly said: No matter how long your child has been doing IP there will be times when he or she just doesn’t want to. Don’t think you have to give it up forever. Keep it up. And if life happens and you have to miss it for awhile, that’s okay! You can always bring it back in. It is a like skill to be able to think and entertain yourself. You are giving your child a good thing when you do this.

Emma said:   With my first two kids I tried doing independent play in a playpen at an early age but I found it just too difficult to enforce and with guaranteed naps, I decided it wasn’t important to me. But I did enforce it around the time that they stopped sleeping in the morning – between a year or 20mths? Found that all 3 of mine transitioned to playing without too much hassle. Each went through a short season of objection but fairly quickly accepted that this was the new way of doing things. Independent Play is a great thing and I and they would struggle without it. It boost their confidence playing alone and encourages independence, dealing with boredom, creativity and problem-solving. It also makes way for older children having room time, which my 6yo and 4yo still do. Sometimes I feel it’s cruel leaving them alone, but I really think it helps them be at peace with themselves.

Leah said: Be patient. It took a couple weeks for her to stop sobbing for 10+ minutes at the beginning. I’ve never let her cry longer than 15 minutes, because I know that if she’s going to cry that long, it’s just not going to happen. (Your kid may be different.) But I do let her cry for that long because I know she’s safe. She’s not going to hurt herself in her playpen – and she has toys and books to play with, plus her burp cloth (her chosen comfort object), so she’s really okay. 

Also, I love independent playtime! It gives me a chance to shower, read a book, make phone calls, bake, or get some deep cleaning done. It’s good for my sanity, so it’s good for her sanity, too. 🙂

Ashley Gregg said: 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!

Carrie said: Do it!! (ha!). I cannot imagine my schedule without IP in it. It’s a sanity saver for sure, for everyone involved!

kristin said: Hi I’m new to this blog. My son Caden is 1.5 yrs old and I am a dedicated Babywise/Toddlerwise mom who goes to a great mom’s group in SE Michigan to share tips with and learn from other BW mom’s. I just want to add that it helps me a lot (since Caden is at a very active age) to alternate independent playtime with focused time with him. So each day I have a consistent routine of 30 min with him, then 30 min of solo playtime in one of several “stations” like:1) High chair time with playdough or other activity2) Playpen time with cars/trucks or puzzles3) Crib time with books (use music and lights on to delineate from sleep time)4) Play yard time with larger toys like blocks, etc.I also try to get him out once a day to a place where he can run and get physical for about 30 min to work out some energy that may otherwise manifest into some inappropriate behaviors at home (like climbing on furniture, throwing things, banging on stuff, running where its not safe). I use an egg timer so Caden knows that I decide when activity starts and ends (not his whining, which he rarely does now that we are well into this routine). I give him big praise when the timer goes off for playing solo and/or being patient. And he gets very excited because he knows “now I get to play with ___,” or “now mommy is going to play with me.” There’s something new coming his way when the timer goes off. Thanks for this great blog!

Salina said: Thanks for detailing this out. I’ve been working on this. Some days my son (8.5 months) is fine playing in his playpen alone for 20 minutes. Other days, at the same time, he cries. I need to be more consistent with this to make it a DAILY thing, but I seem to not want to work on this, especially if I’ve had to hear him cry at naptime. I appreciate your blog! I don’t know how blogs work, but I hope this is around when it’s time for my second child!

BabywiseMom said: You are welcome! I do plan to leave this up–part of my reason for making it was to help myself with #3! Doing it daily will help the resistant come to accept it and the non-resistant continue to enjoy it!

Kate said: Hello again. I was curious… Currently, my 4 month old boy spends his solo playtime in his happy hippo gym or on a blanket with some toys. I put him in an infant seat when he watches me cook or clean. He has loved his infant seat since he was born, but now seems to be frustrated with being “reclined” in it. I often see him trying to lean forward in it attempting to sit up more. Because we have such a small apartment, I’d only want to invest in one type of seat that he could also use for his solo playtime. Would you suggest an exersaucer, bumbo, jumper, or something else? Thanks!

Babywise Mom said: From my experience, here are my thoughts on the items:1-Jumperoo–my first LOVED this item. He was such a jumper. If your LO is a mover and a jumper, he will love it. The Fisher Price Jumperoo has toys with it and you can use links to attach other toys also. My second has enjoyed the jumperoo, but it wasn’t her favorite. If it were for her, it wouldn’t be the ONE item I would get. For my first, it might be.2-Exersaucer–my second enjoyed this–they have lots of stuff. But it wasn’t her favorite and it would have severely annoyed my first to be so stationary. I think new jumperoos are more like exersaucers but jump, and maybe some exersaucers jump now.3-A bumbo is nice and small, but it is of little value to a baby if you are going for something to entertain. I really like the bumbo once they can sit and play with toys but you don’t trust them to sit alone without crashing to the floor, but for both of mine that happened around 5 months and by a little over 6 months they could sit quite well. 4-Highchair–you could use the highchair in the place of a bumbo. Some even have toy bars. You could put toys on the tray (some have toys attached). If he loves to watch you in the kitchen, this might be a good thing. Plus you will get one anyway. My second spends a lot of time in the highchair watching me in the kitchen. She is an observer.5-Walker–Both of mine have really enjoyed the walker. There is controversy over walkers (makes them walk later), but the same controversy and reasoning behind it applies to the exersaucer and jumpers. The walker can be really cheap. I got our at Babies R Us for about $30. It has a toy bar that can be removed, but you can also link things to it so toys don’t go flying. My first LOVED the walker. The walker is also smaller than an exersaucer and a jumperoo, and can be easily folded up and made smaller.You will have to decide what your son’s personality is and what would make him happy.

Kate said:Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed response!

susie said: I computer is not letting me go to the blog page today for whatever reason! I read your blog page daily. It is sooo helpul. I love all the topics. I have left several comments before, so I am not new to this, just my PC ascting crazy today. ANYWAYS, my daughter is 7 1/2 months and we have been doing playpen time for a few weeks and has done fine with it. Before playpen, we used a floor gym for her alone time and she did fine. Well for 2 weeks now she HATES it. She gets hysterical when you even put her in the floor to play! I know she is teething but I make sure I give her teething tablets before playpen time to see if that helps. But it doesn’t. Her naps are going well. What do you think is going on? Do you think it may be just getting used to mom/dad around and doesn’t want to be alone? What do you do? Thanks, Susie

Babywise Mom said: Susie, She might be experiencing separation anxiety. If this is the case, she should grow out of it at some point. My son did this once he could stand up in the playpen. Before that, he would play for 30 minutes happily. After he could stand, he hated it.I would continue it. Start with only 5 minutes a day and work up from there as you can. If you stick with it, she will do it, but be aware that it might take months before things are at a good point. It will come!

susie said: Ok, now my computer is working. I left a similar comment under “waking early from naps” due to computer issues. My question is what/how to handle my 7 1/2 month daughter hating to be left alone and therefore HATES playpen time???HELP! I love this blog site. I feel like everytime time I am having issues with training, I can look here and find answers!!! Susie

Babywise Mom said: Susie, I responded to the other one, but here it is again in case you don’t see it: Susie, She might be experiencing separation anxiety. If this is the case, she should grow out of it at some point. My son did this once he could stand up in the playpen. Before that, he would play for 30 minutes happily. After he could stand, he hated it.I would continue it. Start with only 5 minutes a day and work up from there as you can. If you stick with it, she will do it, but be aware that it might take months before things are at a good point. It will come!

Angela said: I’m a little confused between the difference of roomtime vs. blanket time vs. freetime. What is the difference? They all sound the same to me. My 15 month old son has learned solo time. At this point he can do 30 min. in his playpen with 4-5 toys. He does whine once or twice at the 15-20 min. mark, but I find that if I ignore it then he just gets on playing. I do want to move him out of the play pen as he is getting too big for it, but not sure if I move on to blanket time or room time, or are they the same?

Babywise Mom said: Roomtime (independent playtime) is when the child plays on his own in his room. Blanket time is on a blanket. You give the child some toys and instruct to stay on the blanket– has a post on that. Freetime is similar to independent play except the child chooses what to play with. They are all similar.If you want to move from playpen to something, you would replace that with roomtime. Good luck!

Jennifer said: I LOVE your blog. I just wish I would have found it sooner. My LO is 9 months. I had soooo many questions (and still do)…so I know this blog will be such a great help. About Independent Playtime…she is now experencing separation anxiety. I just simply walk out of the room and she breaks out in tears. I really want her to have some independent time. Should I just start out slowly? How long does the separation anxiety last? Right now we are giving her a lot of supervised Tummy Time because she has not started to crawl yet. She likes to be on her tummy, but LOVES the fun of rolling over. She seems to have no desire to crawl! Thanks again for this wonderful resource.

Babywise Mom said: Hi Jennifer, I am glad you found us. I would work on independent play with your daughter, but do it slowly. I would start with 5 minutes and do that until she can do it happily. Once she gets that down, move on to 10 minutes, etc. Don’t stress out if she takes a long time to get there–she will do it. Just start with small goals so you can have less stress and more success. Separation anxiety can last anywhere from a minute of the life (or less) to months. Just hang in there and keep working on it. As she understands object permanence more, she should be better about it. But I have a friend who has done BW since birth. Around 19ish months her son suddenly had SA and that lasted for about a month or two. He still did independent playtime well, but wouldn’t stay in the nursery by himself anymore. It passed and he is back to normal.

Jennifer said: Thanks! We are working on it right now! I appreciate your time and help.

lsmith said: I enjoy reading your blog for the helpful information! My question is whether time in the car would count as independent play for my 6-month old daughter. We frequently take trips of 20-40 minutes which she spends alone in the backseat in her rear-facing carseat. I hand her back toys occasionally, if I’ve got them in the car. What do you think?thanks!

Babywise Mom said: Thanks! If you need to have that as your solo playtime, then that is good, except you wouldn’t want to interfere. You want to have independent playtime for your daughter to learn focusing and to solve problems on her own. Having it in the carseat might not teach her that. So, if that needs to be it on ocassion, that is fine, but I would also try to have it at home.

Sabrina said: How can I incorporate this at daycare? Can they put her in her crib? When I’ve tried this at home she screams, and I know she will do the same there. Do you have any suggestions? Do you think she will benefit if we can only do solo playtime on days when she is not in daycare?

Babywise Mom said: Sabrina,I don’t know that this would be something for daycare. I would try to do it at home. Once she gets better about it at home, I would then talk to them about doing it.

Firecracker said: Right now my husband and I and in the middle of moving. My son sleeps in his pack and play. Is it ok to use the pack and play for sleep and independent playtime? Will it cause confusion? Danielle

kristin said: Hi firecracker, I think you can totally use pack & play for both sleep and play. I would relocate the playpen – ex: bedroom with room dark for nap and nighttime, and living room/family room with music on for play time. Your son wont be confused. My son is 2 yrs and we’ve been using his pack & play for solo playtime since he was an infant. We also use it often for naps and bedtime when he sleeps over gramma/grampas house. We also use his crib for solo playtime as well and then for naps and obviously bedtime. I just open the curtains and turn on the light and put on a CD for him and he plays in the crib with a few toys as well. I think kids understand the “context” of when these boundaries are being used and they dont get confused. Hope that helps!

Babywise Mom said: Firecracker,I agree with Kristin, you can definitely do independent play and naps in the same place. Some moms even do both in the crib. We did it in the pack and play, and Kaitlyn had one or two naps a day in there. There is an obvious difference to them. I just kept it in the same spot, but had the room bright and she had toys to play with.

Kristin said: Solo playtime/Discipline Question -During 30 min solo playtime (which my 2 yr old son enjoys a lot, weve been doing it twice a day since he was born) he always throws his toys out of the “boundary”. Pack & Play, crib, play yard, etc. He isnt angry or acting out per se, he just always likes to toss them out. I even get the impression he enjoys clean up time when the alarm goes off. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why he throws them, just so he can clean up? I try to be good at rotating toys as well, so I dont think its necessarily b/c he is tired of playing with them. It always happens about 1/2 way through solo playtime (around 15-20 min), and he is content to just lay there and sing or talk to himself without toys until the alarm goes off. Then he says “YAY!” because he knows I’m coming to change the activity.Anyway, I’ve been telling him almost every day before I set the timer not to throw his toys out. He does it anyway and doesnt seem to be affected when I scold him. Most of the time Im trying to get somethign done in another room (the purpose of having him play alone anyway) and I really would prefer NOT to have to constantly watch to see if he is disobeying my instruction. Of course I always reprimand him when solo play is done and make him pick up the toys, but he doesnt seem to mind. Note: He is sanguine personality and nothing rattles him -NOTHING. He’s very happy go lucky. In fact, its hard to get any kind of reaction from him during discipline because being in isolation is fun for him and he doesnt get upset when I squeeze his hand and scold him or even swat him on the hand, thigh, etc.I’ve read that Sanguines are prone to throwing toys. Sometimes he hits other furniture and makes marks. That is when I really get annoyed with it and maybe scold him in the middle of solo playtime instead of at the end (I can hear things hitting my dining table from upstairs!). In those cases I scold him and make him sit in the playpen for the rest of the playtime without toys. He doesnt mind at all. Any suggestions?In addition, does anyone have ideas on how I can make discipline more effective. I’ve even moved the isolation place to the stairwell and made him sit and fold his hands, but he almost never cries no matter how severe or in his face loud I am. On days when he is perhaps more disobedient than others I find myself feeling almost abusive trying to get a tear out of him and it just doesnt feel right or effective. Most of the time I just put him in isolation, dont get tears, leave him there for a min or so, then come back and move on to the next thing. I wonder if I’m getting to his heart? Its like this with most offenses – hitting, throwing food, etc. He’s overall not a bad kid, usually very happy and these behaviors are from lack of self-control, not anger.In true Sanguine form, he always wants to kiss me when isolation is over. He knows that makes me happy. =) Help? thanks

Babywise Mom said: Kristin,One thing I would consider is to give him a larger boundaries–at least for one of his independent playtimes. I started Brayden having it in his room at about 15/16 months, and Kaitlyn at about 12 months. I would say he is old enough for more freedom there.He is also old enough to understand some consequences for actions. If you know a toy has been thrown out, I would choose some consequence. Maybe it gets put up in the closet for a day or two. You would have to be sure it was that he threw it out and not that he was, say, driving his car on the edge and it fell out. You are going to have to find something that phases him. It sounds like little does, but everyone has their “currency.” You will have to find out what it is for him.Also, it sounds like you are wanting to see how you would react from him. Remember that he is a different person, and it sounds like you two have very different personalities. I don’t ever cry when I get in trouble or have done something wrong. Neither does Brayden. My husband does visibly show his “hurt” when he has done something wrong. I imagine Kaitlyn might be similar. Time will tell. My sister-in-law is always wanting to see things from her oldest daughter that she (my SIL) did when she was a girl and got in trouble. It isn’t going to happen. Different people.Also, you are entering the age of 2. It is normal to have these behaviors. It doesn’t mean he is bad or you are doing something wrong. It isn’t something you just sit back and accept; this is an age for training. But keep that word in mind. Training. Not consistently perfect behavior. He needs to learn, and it will take time and practice.

Stephanie said: My baby is 7 months and I just found out about this playpen time and would love to start doing it. Is it OK and will it still successfully work if I start in the playpen without first doing blanket time? She’s almost crawling, but not quite yet. I just feel that it would be less stressful if she was in the playpen, but I also don’t want to just take the easy way out if that’s not what’s best. And how long is the goal to leave her in the playpen?

OK, I know I am bombarding with questions, but I just came across this site and am so excited to have some help! I just started doing the playpen time thing, just now actually. She did great for exactly 5 minutes and then lost it. I’m pretty sure the main reason was because she fell over (from sitting) and couldn’t get back up. She hasn’t reached that milestone yet. I sat her back up after I realized she absolutely could not get it on her own. After that, she wasn’t as happy. Would you take her out since she did 5 minutes happy or leave her in for another 5 being unhappy and that’s how she’ll learn to do things on her own and eventually stay there longer?

Babywise Mom said: Independent playtime is not dependent upon blanket time, so yes, you can do independent playtime without it

I would start with 5 minutes. Do that for a few days, then work up to 10 if she will. One thing is since she can’t get to sitting on her own, the playpen might not be the best option or she might not be able to stay there for an extended period (at least until she can sit for a long time without falling). Just keep that in mind with your expecations for how long she can last.

Harthouse said: Hi! My son just turned 2 and we totally missed out on the solo playtime. He does enjoy playing by himself several times through out the day if I am cleaning or nursing. He is a well-behaved boy and does not mind playing with his toys in his toy corner. I was wondering if we should still start a solo playtime. We use the playpen for discipline and his room is upstairs away from the “social” rooms of our house. I dont want to confuse him with the playpen and I worry that his room is to isolated. We are going to start the solo playtime with Haylee(3months). Wish I would have known this before:)

Babywise Mom said: Harthouse, I would start independent playtime, but not in a playpen. Do it in his room.

Lauren said: Valerie, I’m not sure the best place to post this…What is your opinion about a toy in the crib? I know there are toys designed to occupy babies while in their cribs, and my first inclination is to think that would discourage sleeping. However, my chronic short-napper spends a lot of time alone in his crib, and while some of those times he’s cranky and needing to get back to sleep, there are just as many when he’s happy, cooing, and content to just be awake. I start to feel bad about the amount of time he spends there not interacting with me or being stimulated at all. Under these circumstances, would you consider something in the crib to encourage learning or development? Or, am I just worrying too much?

Babywise Mom said: Lauren, it all depends on the baby/child. Some sleep well with a toy or two, some don’t at all. Something I would worry about with toys in the crib is creating overstimulation. He could become overstimulated if he plays with toys in the crib. Resting in the crib is some down time for him. My 20 month old has some stuffed animals. My 3.5 year old has some stuffed animals and at nap time he gets to pick 2-3 cars to take with him. These usually help him fall aslee for some reason with naps (maybe he plays with them until he falls asleep rather than watching the clock and how much time is left in naptime), but I don’t allow them for bed.

Savage Family said: I have an 8-month-old little guy (my second). I fear I have created a monster. My 1st was a preemie, so I didn’t have the birth/beginning babyhood experience I was hoping for. With #2 (healthy), I have loved, cuddled and enjoyed every moment. Almost. He is very attached to Mommy. At first it was cute, complimentary even. Now I realize something needs to change! I cannot put him down during the day. He will not even play with me in plain view. I am his only source of entertainment. Sometimes he will play with big bro around. How do I begin solo time when he screams and cries to such extremes? Start with 10 minutes and work up? A side note: while he is an awesome night sleeper (12 hours), he takes 45 minute – 1 hour naps twice a day (not a happy camper when he wakes up – never gets happy). This definitely contributes to his mood and clinginess during the day. Any advice? I really want to help him feel secure wven when I’m not around (improving my sanity would also be a great benefit!). Thanks!

Babywise Mom said: Savage Family, One thing you have going for you is that you realize you have created this situation. Your son is at the normal age for separation anxiety, so his anxiety at having you not around should be at its highest right now. One thing to do is to play things like “peek-a-boo” with him so he learns about object permanance. Also, when he does cry and you go to him, go to him cheerfully. Don’t go to him with a “my poor baby are you okay” demeanor. You just go and tell him cheefully that he is okay, you are right there, etc. I would start solo playtime at 5 minutes at a time.I would also recommend you get Dad involved as much as possible. I started to notice some Kaitlyn dependence on me somewhere around 5-8 months? I can’t remember exactly. I realized I did 99% of her care. When DH got home, he was with Brayden. So we established some things. One is that I had DH feed Kaitlyn her solids for dinner as much as possible. Another is that DH did her bedtime. He got her into her PJs and read her stories and everything. He still does that every night. These things really helped her to get a bond with people other than me. You might want to read chapter two in The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. She outlines a scenario just like yours and how they solved it. For short naps, see the naps posts for ideas, especially this one: 5-8 Month Sleep Disruptions

Melissa said: what do you consider acceptable roomtime? what are the differences between roomtime vs solo playtime vs independent play!?!

Babywise Mom said: They are all basically the same.Solo playtime is just what I call independent playtime, whether it is in a playpen or in a room.Independent playtime can happen in a playpen or a room. It is just time spent playing alone.Roomtime happens at an older age (BW says around 18 months, though I started with both kids earlier) and is in the room rather than the playpen.

Christina said: I have a question about independent playtime. My daughter is 15 months old and I would like to start this. I have never really used independent playtime mainly because I work during the day and our weekends just end up being very hectic, but I have found that my daughter now hates to be alone. What would your suggestions be on how to start at this late age? If I start in her bedroom, I can try what you did, but I’m just worried she’ll cry as soon as I leave like she does now! Do you put a gate up so your son can’t leave the room? Should I let her CIO, or will that just traumatize her into not ever wanting to play alone? I would really love to hear any advice you may have. Thanks!

Babywise Mom said: Christina,My son was 13 or 14 months old when we starte the process, so your daughter definitely isn’t too old. Start slow just like I did. First get her used to playing in the room at that point in the day. Then slowly remove yourself from interacting with her as she plays. Then leave. I closed the door. A gate works too (I don’t have one). If she cries, do no more than 5 minutes at a time. Set a timer so she can see the timer, not her cries, decides when playtime is over. If not, still only start with about 10 or 15 minutes and work your way up. Good luck!

Kim said: Hi! My son is 17 months old and I have just recently started “roomtime”. I was never very consistent with playpen time, so its a little new for him, but I recognize that he’s getting too dependent on me, so I want to take care of it now before habits get worse. I start out playing with him, then leave (I keep a gate in the doorway). Most of the time he just stands by the gate and cries on and off, but I try to be consistent in hopes that eventually he’ll enjoy it. My problem though is that as soon as “roomtime” is over, he’s back to following me all over the house and I’m not sure how to handle that. I don’t always pick him up, even though he wants me to a lot. And there are times that I set aside specifically to play with him. So when he’s constantly wanting to be held, do I politely “ignore” him? I am also trying to get my husband to be more involved with him when he gets home from work so that my son isn’t so dependent on me. Any other suggestions? Thanks so much!

Babywise Mom said: Kim,One thing to consider is the possibility that his love language is physical affection. I know Kaitlyn’s is. She will often come to me wanting to be held. If I stop what I am doing and give her a cuddle for a couple of minutes, she is content and moves on. If I try to brush her off as I finish something, she gets more clingy. So first be sure he is getting the physical affection he needs. Then, I think it is wise for him to have another person to “cling” to (your DH) :). Then, be sure you have an activity for him to do in replacement for following you around. An oldest child often wants to be with mom and/or dad all the time. They are the playmates 🙂 As kids get siblings, they don’t follow mom and dad around as much because they have someone to play with. Children like to play with others. That is why having independent play is a good idea so they can play alone, but few children will choose to play alone when there is a person available.

Morgan Joy said: Okay, I know I have left similar comments on other posts, but I am still trying to wrap my mind around all this. After reading hours of your blog, I am still a bit confused by the different types of play. I think I finally get Independent play. (In a room or playpen or location where they play by themselves without me around.) My question is, do I pick the toys/activites or do I just give her a play center in her room like free play, except that I am not there? And if blanket time is considered independent time, how do I make sure she stays on the blanket if I am not right there? Or is blanket time considered a different type of play? Also,for structured play, I know I choose the activity, but does she do it alone or with me? The way we do it now is I have three play times built into our day: Independent play where I am not in the room (we do a roomtime in the morning and a playpen time in the late afternoon while I cook dinner). Then, we do Structured Play two or three times a day(depending on what is going on in our day) with me where I choose an activity and we “play together.” Finally, there is free play where she plays by herself, but I am in the room doing something else. We do it once in the morning at a play center in the kitchen while I get lunch ready, and once in the afternoon in the living room. We also have a separate blanket time where she plays with toys on her blanket with me close by to “monitor” that she stays there. But she plays alone. I don’t know exactly what type of play that is, though. So, to recap, for us, it kinda breaks down that Independent Play is WITHOUT me, Structured Play is WITH me, and Free Play is BY me. Does that make sense? Sorry so long and confusing. Maybe I’m making more of this than I need to.Oh, and by the way, she just turned one and she does really well playing by herself.

Tracy said: Morgan Joy,It sounds to me like you have really got it down, though I am kind of confused on the different play types too (despite a great effort on this blog to delineate them). Is your daughter walking yet? I just wonder because mine is 11 months and just about to walk, but still needs me to get around (she really prefers to walk using my hands rather than crawl by herself), so I am worried about leaving her in her room (she’s way too wobbly) and yet, I’m pretty sure she’s going to balk against the playpen as she really wants to be mobile now. Cooking dinner with my daughter happily playing in the pack-and-play sounds like a distant dream to me. Also, do you have toys deposited in “stations” throughout the house? We do- and I think I read somewhere in Toddlerwise that this is not a good idea. I’m just not sure how it would work otherwise- do I have to be constantly putting toys away during the focused/mommy’s toy choice time, and then bringing them out again during free time? Also, I’m feeling nervous that all we really ever do is free-play, which lately seems like one big LONG day of her pulling me from toy to toy at her will. Does any of this sound familiar, and if so, how did you go about getting her to keep playing with one toy of your choice? I agree that “structured play” seems to require your presence. Any ideas?

Morgan Joy said: Tracy,My daughter will turn 14 months old tomorrow. She has always been a bit behind her peers in the major “milestones” like rolling over, crawling, cruising, walking, etc. (Mostly due to the fact that she had terrible reflux from birth and always HATED to be on her tummy.) But right now she is on the verge of walking, like your daughter. She cruises and pulls up and crawls, and she loves walking all over either by pushing her “walker” toys or by holding my fingers. Yes, we kinda have certain toys/stations in different parts of the house. I think I also remember Toddlerwise saying that isn’t good, but I can’t remember why. For us, it works. I don’t really know how else to do it, especially with a two story house and basement. (Though, the way our schedule is set up, she has certain times of the day that she plays at each spot. She doesn’t move around the house going from play station to play station. When I make lunch, she plays with the stuff in the kitchen, free play is always in the living room, blanket time is in our den so I can check email and do some work, etc.) My daughter went through a stage when she learned to be more mobile where she just “flitted” from one toy to the next at a play center, never really PLAYING with any one toy, and it drove me crazy. But she has always done a pretty good job of not having to have me right by her, so at least I could be in the next room. We started playpen and roomtime with just ten minutes at a time. And for roomtime, I stayed in the room with her (but reading a book as I kept an eye on her) for a few weeks making sure the room was “safe” and that she knew what she was not allowed to do (like open up the drawers.) We started training her early on to obey our commands, so luckily, it only really takes a few times of “Stop. That’s a no.” before she really doesn’t even try to do that again. I began to then stay for like 8 min. and leave the room for the last two, then I’d stay 5 and leave 5, etc. Now we are up to 20 minutes, and I dont’ really stay in at all. I put a baby gate in her doorway, and I peek in often. I also turn on her monitor so I can hear what is going on. I have been setting out her “room toys” that I rotate every month or so, and she just crawls around and plays with them. Now, when she really does start walking, we’ll see how it goes. As for playpen time, she went through a time when she was learning to cruise and pull up that she didn’t want to be in there, but now that the novelty has worn off, she sits in there and plays for 20 minutes. I can tell though when it’s about her limit because she starts to stand up and try to cruise around inside the playpen among her toys. I still don’t know if I am doing things “right” but it seems to be working for us for now. This had become a long post, and I don’t know if I’ve even answered your questions or not. Hopefully it helps some!

Babywise Mom said: Morgan Joy,For independent play, mom is supposed to pick the toys and the time/place. You picking the toys is really easy when baby is in the playpen. Harder for roomtime. By then, I let them help me decide what to play with and really don’t stress about what they decide to play with, personally.Blanket time is not independent time. It would be more of structured playtime, but you need to be there (so you can keep baby on blanket).Structured is with you. You don’t always have to play with her (though you can), but you are there.It sounds like you are doing it right–and really well. That is all great for a one year old 🙂

Roberjen said: My 10 month old has always done solo playtime well. Unfortunately, since she has learned to pull herself up, when I put her in the playpen, she will play for about 1 minute, and then pull up and stand and look around for about 5-10 minutes and then start crying. This doesn’t seem like the idea of solo playtime. I’ve contemplated doing room time already because she loves her room, but she seems awfully young for that. Plus my mom almost passed out when I mentioned leaving her in her room alone. Not that I wouldn’t watch her of course. Thoughts?

Babywise Mom said: roberjen,I would set the timer for an amount of time she can do happily for now. So it sounds like 5-10 minutes. When it goes off, go get her and be very happy. As she gets used to her new skill, she will go back to playing and you can gradually extend time back out. You could do two 10 minute sessions a day for now.

Roberjen said: Thanks! One other thing I’ve learned is her playpen time doesn’t work well in the late afternoon. I know, duh. But I work until 4ish and so I would try to do playpen time when I got home. This isn’t working. So, I’m just going to do it on the days I’m off and have “grandma” do it some during the day. It’s amazing that she loves it even though she only gets it 2 or 3 days a week!

Babywise Mom said: Yeah, for most, late in the day doesn’t work so well 🙂 But some will do it.

Caitlin said: My 9 month old son is really good at playing by himself, and evenwhen he was much younger I could put him on the floor and make dinner, or tidy, or whatever. I thought this was a good thing until his being OKAY with exploring on the ground turned into him HAVING to be exploring on the ground. Now my son is very wiggly while he’s being held because he just wants to be on the ground, though he is still good in the high-chair and stroller. Now that he can really move I’m realizing that sitting still when appropriate is also a necessary skill!! :)I live above my office; mostly we’re up in our apartment during the day though. But occasionally when a customer comes in, I want to be able to put my son in playpen in the play room off to the side of my office instead of what I do now, which is just let him crawl everywhere. Keeps him quiet, but he gets dirty, and gets into things, and goes over by the door where someone could open in into him. When I do put him in the playpen, he screams bloody murder. Same thing upstairs- we just got a play yard, and before his feet even touch the ground he’s screaming. If I put him down in the living room or his bedroom NOT in a play pen or play yard, he can play quietly for over an hour, but our living room is big and opens into the kitchen, and we can’t baby proof the whole thing! So it’s the restriction that bothers him, I think. I noticed on posts above that you recommend starting with five minutes– do you mean even if they’re crying? TO just wait five minutes and then get him, and do that until he can play for five minutes and then extend the time? I just tried that, but afterward my son who is almost never clingy held me so tight I could have let go and he wouldn’t have fallen. I really see the advantages of solo time, and I know it needs to be in an area that’s safe and not necessarily in the same room as me- so how would you recommend beginning?

Also, I want to do this to help him learn to sit still on our laps in church- right now he HAS to be on the floor or he cries, at which point we take him out so we don’t distract anyone. I’m hoping that solo play will also help him learn to be more content without having free reign to crawl. Do you think it will?

Babywise Mom said: Caitlin, Yes, I mean five minutes if crying. If the child were happy, I would start with 10. I have a post on starting independent playtime late, so my recommendations would be in that post. It sounds like you have a boy who likes to move. I also have a boy who likes to move so I get that 🙂 It sounds like he doesn’t like the restriction, which would mean he has “too many freedoms.” I have posts on that (see “the choice addiction”). Read those posts and it should help. Good luck!

Lorna said:

Hi Valerie, I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I’m a reader of your blog and follower of Babywise with my 21 month old son and 3 month old. I remember reading a post about your experience with your firstborn where you mentioned feeling guilty if you weren’t entertaining him 24/7, but went on to do things differently with your subsequent children. I could really relate and was exactly the same with first born. I purposed that if the Lord blessed me with another child I wouldn’t do the same thing, but now my son is here I’m finding I don’t know how to be any different, and still (despite experience!) catch myself fussing and feeling guilty if I’m not playing with him. This effects our daily routine as I can’t settle on what to do with him.

I just wondered what you did with your other 3 children at this age? I’m really in need of a routine that I can stand behind and does not allow me to fuss, and want to encourage him to be content in his own company.

Also, are there any training opportunities for this age (aside from playpen time and sleep training) you would recommend to ‘start as you mean to go on’? With my first son I started out well, however a change in our circumstances when he was six months old meant that I neglected many of the training opportunities as it was quite a stressful time. Because of this I don’t feel I have a ‘reference point’ of experience and want to do right first time this time round, rather than retrain, which I’ve had to do with my second.

Any advice would be so very much appreciated 🙂

Kind regards, Lorna

Babywise Mom said: Hi Lorna! I would recommend you look at my toddler summaries to see what we were doing around the age of your toddler:

If you have independent play each day and a nap, then that is a good amount of him being on his own. You can also set up some free play when he is near you but just allow him to play alone if you need. But don’t feel like you can’t play with him, you definitely can!

I think some learning time each day, even just 10 minutes long, could be a nice addition to help him have some structure in his day, also.

This post first appeared on this blog in July 2019

33 thoughts on “Independent Playtime: The Ultimate Overview”

  1. Hi Val — do your kids ever call for you or leave their rooms to find you during independent playtime in order to ask for help in doing something, give you a picture they colored, etc? I am struggling with this with my daughter. She always seems to find someone reason to come out during the time period. Wondering how you handle this sort of thing.Thanks!Amy

  2. Val-I'm a working mom and I feel as though my 4 month old gets much more independent time than you recommended. I work 40 hours a week and his daycare teachers do interact with him but with 7 other babies in the room, I'm sure he's getting more independent playtime. What do you think about development for babies of working moms? Thanks! Also-I LOVE your blog!!

  3. Does there happen to be a post anywhere that talks about the differences between blanket time, playpen time, and IP/roomtime? I have been doing blanket time with my 10 mo. old lately, but I don't really understand if this counts as her independent play time, or if these are supposed to be two different activities with different goals. We tried playpen time for a few days, too, but it didn't go so well and I wasn't sure if it was necessary to push it if we were doing the blanket time. Any side by side type comparisons of these three things would be AMAZING! 🙂 Thanks for all you do!

  4. Hi! I just found your blog and I'm so glad. I've been doing babywise with my little girl since she was born and it's been working great. I have a question about sleep, though… sorry if I should ask this somewhere else! Several of my friends who did babywise and travel for their work for an NGO said they regretted only putting Baby down in the crib to sleep. Their kids then were not able to sleep on planes, trains, cars, or in hotel rooms. My husband and I have been putting our daughter down in 3-4 different places around the house– playpen (which is her crib), car seat, on a bed (not a squishy one), on the floor on a blanket. She's 10 weeks old and seems to be doing really well with this as long as there is not a lot of stimulating stuff to look at around her. Any thoughts/ideas on this? We work for an NGO and travel overseas quite a bit, staying in various places. I want our girl to have the structure of a schedule but not have her sleep interrupted by the necessity of often sleeping in different environments.

  5. Tips on IP in tiny houses? My little girl is only 7 months so playpen still works fine, but I am concerned about when she gets into the toddler phase. As of right now we live in a tiny house, she sort of has a room, half of it is her crib and the other half is storage. Do I just need to clear the other half out somehow when she gets a few months older. Also, when you have more than one LO in a tiny house what can you do?

  6. Amy,Yes–yes. That was totally Brayden for a while. Kaitlyn does it sometimes, but she was never persistent about it. I am sure the day will come with McKenna. How old is she? I was thinking I needed to do a post on this very thing because it is a common problem I haven't addressed yet. So the first thing is to not let her stay out when she gets out. You need to have some rules, and some will be hard to judge. I have found it to be hardest with my oldest because I have been a parent as long as he has been a human, so we are on more even ground. I have some "up" on my girls. So you can tell them not to get out and decide on a consequence if they do, but there have to be exceptions. Like potty breaks. I would just think of some rules (save your pictures for when I come get you–if you can't stay in then you don't get to draw during independent play the next day for example).

  7. Richards,Can you clarify more on your question? Are you asking if I think he should have independent play at home? Or how I think he will do developmentally in that situation? Thanks 🙂

  8. Amanda,If it were me, I would try to clean out her room so she can do it in there.Older children can do it in a family room so long as you aren't in there or in and out. You can also do IPT at different times for different kids if you have to.

  9. Brittney,Glad you found it Brittney!I don't like the carseat thing because there was a baby in my state who died last year sleeping in a carseat. So that makes me uncomfortable to do regularly. The bed also makes me uncomfortable because a baby your age will soon start (if she hasn't already) wiggling around her sleep space. I also know someone in the last year whose baby fell off the bed and broke something. So I would worry about that. I think your idea is fine and great. Have baby sleep in different places to be used to it. Have you ever heard of a peapod? We have one and love it. It is something you can easily carry with you overseas, and can hold up to a 5 year old, so you could try that instead of the bed and carseat rotation.Another carseat thing, one reader tried that several years ago, but it ended up backfiring on her. I can't even remember the specifics, but she had that idea and reported it did not work. Rachel, who is doing the blogging with me this week, has one kid who sleeps in the car really well. So you never know what will happen with cars and sleep from child to child (she is a Babywise mom).

  10. Yes, that helped some. So during blanket time, my child would play in one spot with chosen toys, but I stay close by and possibly interact, vs. playpen time where she plays on her own and I am out of sight? (And then eventually playpen time becomes room time?) Am I on the right track? 🙂

  11. Hi there,We moved my 21 month old son from the playpen to roomtime a couple of months ago. However we store most of his toys in his room and he has easy access to most of them. This makes it difficult to specify which toys he can focus on & play with during IP as in order to do that I'd need to remove alot of toys each day and then put them back after IP each day. Do you have any tips on how I can manage this better? Does having access to all the toys negate the advantages/benefits of IP?Thanks,RebeccaP.s. I love your blog and have found it so very helpful so many times – thank you!!

  12. Hi Val,You responded to me about this issue on the google message board but it has been nine months now and nothing has changed. My 3yo daughter has never played during roomtime. I rotate her toys, they are all age appropriate and interesting (she loves playing with them when she's in a room with me), I have tried music. She sits at her table and chairs in her bedroom for maybe 2 minutes when she first goes in, then climbs into her bed and lays there the entire hour of IP. She has only fallen asleep once. To me, this isn't what IP is for. She isn't learning to play alone, focusing on anything, being creative etc. It's still great for me because I can get done what I need to during this time but I almost feel cruel putting her in there. She doesn't complain about going but she just lays there without saying anything until I come in to get her. I've tried with her door open and closed and it doesn't make a difference. Thanks.Liz

  13. The Richards, The working moms I know seem to have children who have developed really well. I would imagine that there would be some factors like what exactly things are like at the daycare. This blog: written by a Babywise mom who is also a working mom. I am sure she could give you much better insight than I could. She has done a guest post here, also, that might help. See the label "WOHM" or the Guest Posts on the blog index. Good luck!

  14. Rebecca,Glad you love the blog! I would say if you don't want a 21 month old playing with all of those toys that you would want to think of a way to get them out of his reach.Personally, I have never stressed about it. I get out a couple of toys, but if they get out a couple more while playing, it honestly doesn't bother me. My kids have all gone through a brief period where they seem to get every toy out in the room (well, the girls, not Brayden), but they all mostly really focus on one thing. Also, as they get older and able to verbalize and make decisions, I let them have most of the say on what I get out each day. All that to say, I think you will find that as he gets older and his attention span grows, I think you will find that even though the access to the toys is there, he won't get into all of them.

  15. Hi Liz,I think you should start by talking to her about it. She is old enough to give you some insight. Ask her why she lays on her bed and why she does not play with toys. Let me know what she says.An idea I had for you is to do like I did for starting Brayden in Independent play. Set aside a time each day when you go in her room with her and play with the toys with her. Is she very imaginative? Could she be daydreaming?

  16. Hi Valerie,I have a question about what you do outside of IP with your babies (under 12 months). How do you balance child-specific activities, IP, and activities where you are with baby but not interacting with him/her directly (ie, making lunch and chatting with baby). I have one ds who is about 8 mo now who is awake 2.5, 2.5, and 4 hours at a time, and even with 2x 20 minutes of IP, nursing (quick nurser), cuddle time, eating solids, playing together, stories and wind-down time (and a bath plus one or two walks a day), it seems like we still have a lot of time left over that I don't know what to do with. I don't know how much it is ok to leave him on the floor and chat with him while I do chores, etc. when he's already had independent play.I guess what I'd like to know is, how much time do you spend in child-specific activities (ie, playing and interacting directly with baby and not doing other things). Could you touch on this? I'm confused about how to organize my day, especially with just one child (I'd imagine sibling time takes up a fair amount of time)Thanks for all you do,Tori

  17. Hi Val,I have asked her in the past and gotten the same answer every time — "Because, I didn't want to play." I've tried talking to her a couple times since I first wrote you (with the holidays and family visiting for the past week IP has been almost non-existent) but she is not interested at all in telling me why she is laying in her bed. She keeps giving me the same vague answer, "Because I wanted to lay" or "Because I didn't want to play". And when I push it she says, "I just told you why, I didn't want to play." Ugh. That's all I'm getting. Should I let it go again? She is imaginative but it's so odd for her to be silent the whole time. I suppose that could be it. I'm going to try what you did with Brayden. Can you elaborate a little of do you already have a post on it? Do you do it during the scheduled IP time? How long do you stay? Thanks!

  18. Tori,Your question is a common one–especially for that age range. I have a post called "Spending Time with Baby/Child" that should help and also the "More than making it…" post for that age range. See those two posts and let me know if that answers your question.

  19. Liz,I do have a post. It is in one of the Independent Playtime posts. It should be starting late.With him, I did it at Independent playtime time. In your case, I would shorten her independent play and then do it with her. So maybe 20-30 minutes of independent playtime (just to keep the routine and habit of it), then follow up with you interacting and showing her how she might play. Then slowly back off how much you interact but stay in the room. Get to the point where you are just in the room with no playing with her. I did this over a month period, but you could probably go faster since she is older.

  20. And maybe try to ask her less open-ended questions. Like, "Do you like to play with toys?" "Which toys is your favorite?" For a young child, it might be easier to go with yes/know and straight, concrete answers than answers that involve more introspection.

  21. Hi again,Yes, thank you! I hadn't read those posts yet, they were exactly what I was looking for. Please know how grateful I am, your words are very reassuring.Thanks,Tori

  22. Could you post your recommended lengths of IP/roomtime for older kids? (Or do you have that already posted somewhere?)My son is almost 4 years old, and always has done amazing with IP. But I'd love to hear your thoughts on the minimum and maximum lengths of IP you'd recommend (both per day, and per session) for olds kids, if you have time.Thank you!!

  23. Katie,I just stick to one hour once a day once the child reaches that length. I think if you are having a super busy day or something you could do 1.5 hours–but I wouldn't do it too often.

  24. Forgive me if I've posted twice but quick question. I am doing Ind. playtime with my 4.5 month old. Starting next week she will nap in the pack n play while I'm at work. Will that mean we cannot so ind playtime in it as well? Thanks!

    • That is totally fine! Some babies might need some adjustment, but your baby eill get used to it and be fine. Before nap you will have a sleep routine and at IPT you will have toys. Babies are smart 🙂

  25. I’m just now starting ipt with my 18 month old. We have a large sunroom that we use as a toyroom now but the door to it is glass and when he sees me on the other side he wants me/out. The idea was to keep toys all in one room but would it be better if I used a smaller room with a non glass door for ipt?


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