Friday, March 26, 2010

Simplicity- Supervised Alone Time


I know, the title sounds like an oxymoron, but it is true! Your child can learn to play alone, and you always have to be supervising (part of good parenting).

Before we had Addie, Brian and I read On Becoming BabyWise by Garry Ezzo (highly recommend to all parents). The series continues on up through the teen years and is a wonderful resource in dealing with the day to day process of parenting from a Biblical perspective. As part of a baby's day, they recommend alone play time. It begins in the playpen, and as the child grows and develops it moves into their room or a designated play area in your home (We live in a one story home so her room is our designated play area.). However, let me just clarify, alone playtime is not to be used for extended periods of time, and as a parent you are always watching and listening.

The alone playtime is designed to teach your child that they can play without Mommy's constant stimulation and gives Mom a chance to do some things that are necessary for her home to function. (This is not a time for Mom to reorganize her closet or do a deep cleaning of the bathroom. It is a time when simple things like folding laundry, writing a note, things that do not require focus or undivided attention can be done.)

When Addie was about a year, I would sit her in her room on the floor with some toys around her and then stand by her door. The first several times it was for five minutes. Then gradually it increased to 10 and so on. Basically, as she grew, so did her alone playtime. However, I moved alone playtime into the living room so I could do more than just stand by her door.

Addie had always been good about entertaining herself, so alone playtime in the living room worked very well. We ended up putting a basket in the living room (which turned into two) of smaller toys so we would not have to pull out the toys at playtime. However, somehow we lost our living room to the toys! Brian and I decided that the toys needed to move back into her room. Which was fine, until the toys grew little legs and walked back into the living room every day. She has learned how to pick up and put her toys away, but something needed to be done about keeping most of the toys in her room. So I decided that alone playtime in her room (her door opens right into the living room) needed to move back into our schedule-yesterday.

I have some toys that are stored in her closet (you know, the ones that have the small pieces that go everywhere!). I brought them out, placed them around the room, and walked her into her room. I told her that she needed to play in her room for a little bit (30 minutes). Then I left. She followed me back out of the room the first time. I gently walked her back to the room and told her that she needed to play in her room, and left again. This time, she stayed and began playing. Her door stayed open and there was nothing keeping her trapped in the room, but out of obedience she stayed. Of course, I made sure that everything I did kept me in the living room and dining room (basically one room in our house and have direct views into her bedroom).

My favorite part was when I heard her talking with her toys and playing using her imagination. She kept herself occupied for the entire 30 minutes. As I would check on her, she was always in a different area, playing with a different toy. At the end of the 30 minutes, she walked to the door of her bedroom, but she did not come out. She looked at me and said "Please." Of course, the answer was, "Yes!" (who could resist such a cutie pie!)

After her 30 minutes of alone playtime, we spent the following 2 1/2 hours in constant company with each other, playing in her room, playing outside (Papa brought us a bubble machine on Wednesday- what a life saver! No more hyperventilating for me!), having "school", coloring and playing Play-doh (boy, is that therapeutic!), playing computer games (Reader Rabbit), and eating lunch. It is important that your child knows that they are more important to you than your alone time. After she woke up from her nap, we ate a snack and watched the newest Veggie Tales movie Pistachio together (thanks, Victoria!).

Lord willing, alone playtime in her room is something that will be added into our daily schedule. It is something that we both need. She needs it to learn how to entertain herself and just play (without Mommy pointing out colors, shapes, sounds, etc.), and I need it in order to get some simple things done in the mornings.

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