Independent Playtime

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Independent playtime is when your baby or child plays alone for a predetermined amount of time. Read about the benefits and how to implement it in this post.

Independent playtime is when your baby or child plays alone for a predetermined amount of time. Read about the benefits and how to implement it in this post.

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

Solo playtime is something with so many, many benefits to your child (read all about the benefits of Independent Play here). For many of you, especially those doing Babywise for the first time, the idea of adding this to everything you are already dealing with may seem overwhelming. If that is you, that is okay. You can add it later when you feel more up to it (you can read up on how to start independent playtime late here).

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

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 (described below) and before long he was playing in his room alone. These days he asks for solo playtime, he tells me to leave his room if I linger too long (though he is nice about it), he tells 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 this time and never let myself become her sole source of entertainment. She has always done well so far and we have had no issues with solo playtime. With Brayden, I worked up to the desired time. With Kaitlyn, she just does it.

With that history lesson behind us, lets start with the motivating factors behind solo playtime in case you aren’t sold. I will include benefits for baby, mom, and family. We all reap the rewards.

Benefits of Independent Play

  • 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.

Acceptable Mediums for Independent Playtime

Of course I need to take the opportunity to point out the obvious. These are my ideas of acceptable mediums. I am no expert, just experienced. Here are things I have done:

  • 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.

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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. 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. You 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 over stimulated 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 these days it is not uncommon for me to go get him from solo playtime and find his toys are all put away. On days he doesn’t want to help, I tell him if he doesn’t help that I have to put the toys up where he can’t play with them for a while. He has always helped and has never had to have toys put up.

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. 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 a CIO–be consistent, be diligent, be firm. Good luck!

Independent playtime is when your baby or child plays alone for a predetermined amount of time. Read about the benefits and how to implement it in this post.

More Posts on Independent Playtime

Reader Advice for Independent Playtime:

  • kristin said…
    Hi Im 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!
    January 25, 2008 9:35 AM

Reader Comments on Independent Playtime:

  • 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!
    January 8, 2008 1:20 PM
    Plowmanators 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!
    January 8, 2008 1:42 PM

Reader Questions about Independent Playtime:

  • 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, jumperoo, or something else? Thanks!
    January 9, 2008 9:36 AM
    Plowmanators 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.
    January 9, 2008 10:03 AM
    Kate said…
    Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed response!
    January 9, 2008 12:00 PM
  • 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, SusieMarch 21, 2008 10:58 AM
    Plowmanators 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!
    March 22, 2008 10:30 PM
  • 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
    March 21, 2008 11:19 AM
    Plowmanators 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!
    March 22, 2008 10:31 PM
  • 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?
    March 26, 2008 12:26 PM
    Plowmanators 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!
    March 27, 2008 1:59 PM
  • 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.
    April 7, 2008 6:47 AM
    Plowmanators 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 nursery by himself anymore. It passed and he is back to normal.
    April 7, 2008 10:36 AM
    Jennifer said…
    Thanks! We are working on it right now! I appreciate your time and help.
    April 7, 2008 2:58 PM
  • 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!
    May 20, 2008 5:07 PM
    Plowmanators 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.
    May 21, 2008 11:18 PM

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Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

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  1. Sabrina
    May 30, 2008 / 6:35 PM

    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?

  2. Firecracker
    June 27, 2008 / 5:48 PM

    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

  3. kristin
    June 27, 2008 / 7:42 PM

    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!

  4. kristin
    June 27, 2008 / 8:00 PM

    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

  5. Plowmanators
    June 28, 2008 / 4:34 PM

    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.

  6. Plowmanators
    June 28, 2008 / 4:18 PM

    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.

  7. Plowmanators
    June 28, 2008 / 4:20 PM

    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.

  8. mommytoisabella
    July 20, 2008 / 8:29 PM

    Can you direct me as to where in Baby Wise or Baby Wise 2 I can find information on blanket time. I remember reading about it when Isabella was younger or before she was born and I cannot seem to find the information. Have you done a post on blanket time?

  9. Plowmanators
    July 22, 2008 / 5:26 PM

    mommytoisabella,I don’t know if it is in either of those books. I never did it with Brayden; I don’t know if I knew about it. I never did it with Kaitlyn really because she just wouldn’t move off the blanket.

  10. Stephanie
    August 30, 2008 / 8:24 PM

    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?

  11. Stephanie
    September 2, 2008 / 4:46 PM

    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?

  12. Plowmanators
    September 4, 2008 / 10:09 PM

    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.

  13. Harthouse
    September 24, 2008 / 6:43 PM

    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:)

  14. Lauren
    December 15, 2008 / 4:00 AM

    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?

  15. Plowmanators
    December 22, 2008 / 10:24 PM

    Harthouse,I am sorry this is so late…if you haven’t, I would start independent playtime, but not in a playpen. Do it in his room.

  16. Plowmanators
    December 22, 2008 / 10:28 PM

    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.

  17. Savage Family
    February 23, 2009 / 11:53 PM

    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!

  18. Melissa
    February 26, 2009 / 3:04 PM

    what do you consider acceptable roomtime?

  19. Melissa
    February 26, 2009 / 10:36 PM

    what are the differences between roomtime vs solo playtime vs independent play!?!

  20. Plowmanators
    February 27, 2009 / 9:26 PM

    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 :

  21. Christina
    March 2, 2009 / 1:45 AM

    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!

  22. Plowmanators
    March 3, 2009 / 12:16 AM

    Melissa, can you elaborate on that question? Do you mean where, when, how long, etc.?

  23. Plowmanators
    March 3, 2009 / 12:20 AM

    Melissa,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.

  24. Plowmanators
    March 6, 2009 / 2:17 PM

    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!

  25. Anonymous
    April 21, 2009 / 8:27 PM

    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!

  26. Plowmanators
    May 9, 2009 / 2:45 AM

    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.

  27. apolena
    June 25, 2009 / 6:46 AM


  28. apolena
    June 25, 2009 / 6:55 AM

    Dear Valerie, my husband insists on two hours a day for her solo play time. One in the morning and one in the evening. Now she created a hatred for being in playpen. She´s 1year and 5 months. We are going to move the day after tomorrow. I put her in the playpen and leave the room, and she´s crying. I am crying in the kitchen. The day before yesterday she cried 45 minutes. She cries whenever I put her in the playpen. She used to play in her crib but now we are afraid she could climb out so we move the playpen from the kitchen to her room. I don´t know what I am doing. She is crying and trying to reach me with her little hands when I leave the room. We do it all wrong. I should read the books again and I should study this website properly but it´s so hard to read all this in English – not my mother language. I have a feeling I don´t know what to do. She feels my anxiety. I actually suffer from a serious mental disease and I fear so much that I damage my baby´s psyche as well, and my husband also is complaining that he´s got a crying woman at home. God have mercy on our family.

  29. Plowmanators
    June 26, 2009 / 10:19 PM

    Apolena, She might be ready to play in a room (her room). She is old enough to do so. This is called "roomtime".I would try out having her play in a room instead of the play pen. Let me know if that works out 🙂

  30. Morgan Joy
    August 13, 2009 / 2:22 AM

    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.

  31. Tracy
    September 23, 2009 / 8:08 PM

    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?

  32. Morgan Joy
    September 24, 2009 / 1:58 AM

    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!

  33. Plowmanators
    October 14, 2009 / 8:42 PM

    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 🙂

  34. roberjen
    November 30, 2009 / 6:24 PM

    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?

  35. Plowmanators
    December 11, 2009 / 11:05 PM

    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.

  36. roberjen
    December 16, 2009 / 4:09 PM

    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!

  37. Plowmanators
    January 5, 2010 / 10:12 PM

    Yeah, for most, late in the day doesn't work so well 🙂 But some will do it.

  38. Caitlin
    December 1, 2011 / 10:56 PM

    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?

  39. Caitlin
    December 1, 2011 / 11:00 PM

    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?

  40. Plowmanators
    December 20, 2011 / 8:56 PM

    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!

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