So Oscar turned two in January and is starting to become more interested in imaginative play. He loves reading and watching TV now for the stories and not just the pictures. It’s a really fun transition and I am enjoying just observing him. We spend most of our waking hours together and interacting and I started to wonder if it was time to incorporate some alone time. Typically, the end of the day is when I do this because we are antsy and bored and I need to make dinner. In the past Oscar has been underfoot or if daddy got home early, they would go outside. But now we have a third option – room-time!
I experimented with room-time a week or two ago to see how it would pan out. I made sure Oscar was safely in his room with plenty of books and toys and walked away. Yes, he yelled for me a couple of times (Hey MAMA! MAAAAMA!), but eventually decided to read and play with his blocks while I prepared dinner.
I am pretty sure this is awesome.
I decided to ask some of my friends what they thought about letting toddlers entertain themselves and here is what they had to say!
- I personally think it’s very important for children to learn to entertain themselves, as I have found that it makes them a little more easy-going and flexible in a variety of situations. What has worked best for me is to sort of “jump start” my son’s creative play, meaning I’ll start a project with him – building, coloring, racing cars – and get him excited about it and get his imagination moving. This may only take 15 minutes, but once he’s in that “zone,” he might play on his own for the next 30-45 minutes. Sometimes it’s hard to take that initial time to sit with him, but I have found that it’s a very worthwhile investment! – Stacy
- It really depends on the child IMO. From my experience, from birth to about age 12 months they mostly need supported play where you teach them how to interact with things and they grow and learn such big new skills. That said I would let them have tummy time or play with a toy while I did something right next to them. From age 1-3 I think it’s key to have playdates and some structure to your routine including some one on one time to play together with mom AND dad if at all possible. The majority of the time though they should be involved in what you are doing, or doing their own thing near to you. Personally I like including them in household tasks and then allowing them lots of freedom to play on their own with gentle reminders when they are struggling with something. – Kelly
- My 4YO recently stopped napping, and my rule is he still has to have quiet time by himself for an hour, in his room. It has helped him learn to self-entertain so much! I’ve tried it also w/ my 2YO, and while it’s a battle at first, after 20 minutes they both are playing away quietly and happily in their rooms. I think it’s good for everyone. – Ginger
- Each of my children has been unique! Lil Diva wants to engage with someone, an adult, her brother, mom or dad… Someone. Her brother has always happily busied himself. I definitely feel that it’s important to start encouraging independent play at a young age – by doing this Lil Diva has learned to play on her own. – Tania
It’s hard to know exactly when to make this transition. I suppose like everything else, it just depends on the child. I probably could have started sooner, but at the same time he is pretty good at entertaining himself with me in the room so I didn’t feel like I needed to. That said, I do believe that everyone needs some alone time in their day, whether two years old or 32. I have to admit that I enjoy the chance to stand over the stove without a 38lb boy wedging his body between me and the counter 🙂 I think we will stick with our daily room-time and hopefully Oscar’s imagination will only flourish as a result!
Do you give your toddler alone time during the day? What works best for you?