When Your Child Won’t Stay in Independent Playtime


Independent Playtime is all around on of my favorite facets of the Babywise (affiliate link) series. It gives the child countless benefits and the mom time to get things done without children swarming her. When your child starts repeatedly coming out of independent playtime, it can really drive you crazy. Here is what to do when that happens.

What to do When Your Child Won't Stay in Independent Playtime

I think just about every child goes through a time period when he or she tests the waters of getting out of independent playtime over and over again. Reasons can vary from not wanting to play to testing the boundaries when something new like potty training comes along. The question parents have is, what do you do about it?


Make Sure Time is Right

There are times of day that are better for independent play than others. Right before a meal is not good. Right before a nap is not good. Some children are fussy in the evenings, making evening not a good time.


Make Sure Length is Right

If independent play is longer than is appropriate for your child, your child will get restless toward the end of independent play and want to get out. See Independent Playtime Lengths for more.


Make Sure Toys are Age Appropriate

A toy that is too young for your child (not stimulating) will not be of interest to your child. Your child will then not want to stay in independent playtime. Conversely, if the toys are beyond your child’s ability, your child will become frustrated and seek help to use the toy. 


Along the same lines, keep toys rotated. Even an age appropriate toy can get boring after too long.


Teach Acceptable Behavior

Once you are sure the timing is right and the toys are right, explain to your child what is and is not okay. Explain that your child is not allowed to get out without permission. Do explain when it is okay to get out. I would suggest you have a monitor in with your child so you can hear (and see if you have a video monitor) if your child needs you. 


Return Child Immediately

When your child gets out, return the child to independent playtime even if it is time to get out. If it is time to get out, return your child, reminding her that she needs to wait for Mommy to get her out. Then wait a minute or two and get her out. You want the precedent to be that the child gets out when you get her.


Use the Clock

You can tell your child the time on the clock when she can get out or you can use an “okay to wake” clock.


Work on Obedience

If your child obeys you, your child will stay in independent play until you come and get him. If you find your child is not listening to you well throughout the day, then you will not fix independent play issues by changing toys or time of day will not fix the issue.


Praise Obedience

When your child starts to stay in independent play until you come get her or until it is time, be sure to tell her she did a great job and thank her for obeying you. 


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