Independent playtime is a super sanity-saver. The benefits of Independent Playtime are numerous, including helping your child learn to focus, be a problem solver, be independent, and to be happy with him/herself. There is also the major perk of giving you a section of time each day that you can have to yourself to spend as you wish. That may sound selfish, but a mom has to take care of herself–no one works 12-14 hour days year round, day after day, and survives. You have to have moments, and Independent Playtime can be a daily moment that benefits everyone.
I recently polled readers on Independent Playtime. Here are the results.
1-What age did you start Independent Playtime?
2-3 Months: 2
As soon as sitting up: 4
6 Months: 2
9-10 Months: 2
12-20 Months: 6
2-Where do you have your child do Independent Playtime?
In crib: 11
Pack and Play: 7
3-What length of time does your child do Independent Playtime typically? What is your child’s age?
- 5-10 Minutes: 3
- 15 Minutes: 3
- 20 Minutes: 1
- 30 Minutes: 1
- 45 Minutes: 3
- 60 Minutes: 5
- 1 Hour: 5
- 1.5 Hour: 4
4-How was your journey starting Independent Playtime? For example, was it smooth, did it take some time for your child to get used to it, etc.
Carrie said: 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.
Naomi said: 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.
Naomi said: How was your journey starting Independent Playtime? For example, was it smooth, did it take some time for your child to get used to it, etc.
Like a dream! Totally different from my daughter! He never destroys anything or calls to me or cries. He loves it. I don’t even rotate his toys.
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.
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.
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: It takes some time, but I find making the gradual switch from nap to play makes it much easier. They are used to spending that time in their bed already, so the big chance is just that they are awake. They are comfortable, content, and safe in that environment.
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.
Leah said: It was pretty rough. There were some times where she just sobbed for 15 minutes before I gave up and rescued her. Then there were times where she cried for 5-10 minutes before settling down to play quite happily for another 45 minutes. Even now when we’ve been doing it consistently for six months, she still has times when she cries for a while before being content to play.
5-Any words of advice or encouragement?
Carrie said: Do it!! (ha!). I cannot imagine my schedule without IP in it. It’s a sanity saver for sure, for everyone involved!
Naomi said: Any words of advice or encouragement? 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.
Naomi said: Any words of advice or encouragement? Some kids take to it very well and some take a lot more work (see my comment about my daughter)! Either way I think it’s important.
Carrie said: 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: it’s SO worth it! I agree that it is my favorite thing about Babywise. The benefits are tremendous.
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: Just that 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. 🙂
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