I have a 27 month old girl and a boy due in about a week.
For the first 13 months of DD’s life we lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. I did playpen time with her, but it was limited in its effectiveness because she could see me. Still she did fairly well being content to play there. When she was 15 months old and we were settled in our own house where she had her own room, I implemented room time
I took her into her room and got out some toys. I showed her how to play with them and got her settled. Then I left. I would leave her for 5 minutes, and she would cry at the door the whole time. Then it got to the point where when I would take her to her room and get out the toys she would run out the door and refuse to stay and play even if I was there because she knew what was coming.
I knew I needed a different approach. So I would tell her, “It’s time to play in your room now,” take her hand, and lead her to the bedroom. She became so much more willing to go and stay with that one little change! I realized I needed to respect her and explain what was going to happen. Then I would show her the toys and ask her to give me a hug goodbye. Then I would tell her I was leaving and tell her when I would be back. Even though she couldn’t tell time I would tell her I would be back in 5 minutes. She would still cry at the door but she wouldn’t try to run away anymore. Then I upped it to 10 minutes to give her a chance to get over it and play. It seemed 5 minutes wasn’t long enough to settle down in. I did this once or twice a day and once she started playing even a little I quickly increased it to 15 then 30 minutes.
In only a little more than a week she would happily stay for 30 minutes, though she would usually stand by the door near the end of that time waiting to get out. At 17 months old (probably before that–I don’t remember exactly when) she wouldn’t cry at all and when I would say “it’s time to play in your room” she would walk there herself with me. I didn’t have to carry her or hold her hand. She gave me a hug goodbye and never even whimpered.
Around 18 months old we had some trouble again. We had taken a week-long trip, so she hadn’t had room time for that week. That could have been part of the problem or it could have just been due to being 18 months old. She would cry and scream and cling to me when I would try to leave. After I would leave she would stop crying before too long but refused to play. She just stood at the door the whole time. She got to the point where she would stop crying if we told her “no fussy” from outside the door, but that whole time she wouldn’t play, just sit beside the door. It was a month before she didn’t cry when I would leave. I started leaving a book or a toy right next to the door since I knew she wouldn’t leave the door. At least that way she would have something to play with there. I also started playing music for her. I’m not sure if it helped or not, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Things started going better, and at nearly 20 months old there was a real improvement. One day when I told her it was time to play in her room. I went with her and got out her toys. She stood holding the door and said “bye-bye” and as soon as I walked out she shut the door herself! That had never happened. She had a good time playing in there for a long time too. At some point I went up to an hour of room time a day, probably around this age.
Sometimes she still complains about it if I’m not consistent enough, but continuing with room time is so beneficial in many ways. I don’t use it as discipline for a bad attitude, but on days where she is cranky I notice a big difference in her attitude after she had room time. It helps her disposition so much to have some time alone playing. Also, I work at home as a medical transcriptionist, and room time is such a nice chunk of time to be able to work uninterrupted for a while!