Help a Reader Out: Blanket Time

Thanks everyone for all your help with the comment I posted on Monday! Here’s another comment from a reader that I’m hoping you can help out with. This time, it’s about blanket time. Please reply with any advice you might have for this reader. The original comment is this:

I’ve been working on blanket time with my 22 month old for about 2 months now. We are up to 15 mins. She has specific toys she gets only during this time each morning. She does test me and try to get off the blanket and see if I correct her which I do and she obeys. But now she won’t play and focus on her toys. Do you think it’s a phase? She just lays there until the timer goes off. I do stay near to enforce the boundaries. Right now I give her 2 puzzles, blocks, and a sorting activity. She just isn’t enjoying it. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks.

My first thought is to say that this mom isn’t doing anything wrong. There’s no requirement with blanket time that our kids actually enjoy the time. Yes, it’s preferable if they do, but if they don’t, that’s okay. As long as she’s staying on the blanket until the timer goes off, that’s all we need to require. If I were the parent, I might switch out the toys to see if she is simply bored with the toys available to her. I wouldn’t stick with the same toys week after week if the child shows no interest in them. But all in all, if she’s staying on the blanket for the most part, I’d consider it a success! Just keep doing it and add a few minutes bit by bit until you get up to 30-45 minutes.

Does anybody have advice for this reader? It would be great to hear your experiences with blanket time.

Blanket Time

Journey of ParenthoodCan you really make a two-year-old sit on a blanket for more than ten seconds? How about a 12-month-old? Yes! As with everything that we’ve learned so far, it’s all about training. In fact, you can teach your two-year-old to sit quietly on a blanket, playing with a few toys for 20-30 minutes. The benefits are too many to count. In fact, blanket time is my favorite independent play activity. Not only does it give us a chance to teach our toddlers how to play quietly on their own in a defined space, but it also teaches them huge self-control and obedience. Plus, you can take it with you!

Yesterday, I wrote a “how to” blog post on Journey of Parenthood, our newest member of the Babywise Blog Network. Check out the post to find out all you need to know about starting blanket time, and how to work up to a significant length of time. Read through to the end to find out about my big blanket time success story!

Helicopter moms at the park

Source: nytimes.com

I just came across this hilarious post at Motherlode (parenting blog sponsored by The NY Times) about moms who can’t help but be helicopter parents over their children at the park. It’s a reality check to all those helicopter moms we see at the park. This sums it up:

Oh, I know you mean well. You’re trying to be a good mom. In fact, you are a good mom. That’s the problem. Your enthusiasm is killing my buzz. See, I’m a mother, too, at the very same park with my 4-year-old, but I’m here to stop mothering. The playground has a gate, and the asphalt is covered with rubber mats. If I can’t turn on my iPhone and tune out here, I don’t want to live.

Here’s another gem:

Wait, where are you going? Back to your daughter so soon! Oh dear. Is that a BPA-free plastic shovel in your hand? You know, my mom used to say, “One man’s litter is my child’s toy.” Just before you arrived, I passed this wisdom on to my son when I gave him a Starbucks cup I saw wedged under the slide. The trash can’s loss was our gain.

I agree. It’s not that I completely ignore my kids when we’re at the park, but if I happen to pull out my iPhone, I’m not going to feel guilty. If I opt to sit on a bench for a nice chat with a friend, I’ll do that. I may even pull out a book. If they’re enjoying themselves (which they always are at the park), why can’t I?

When my kids were younger, I was more attentive at the park. This was especially true with my eldest who was a complete daredevil at the park. At age two, he was scaling ladders that other five-year-olds were hesitant to attempt. So I would spot them, help them up on swings, push them on swings, and offer any other help they requested.

I suppose that gets to the crux of helicopter parenting. If they need help, help them. If not, give them the freedom to explore and find their own way. Don’t teach your child that he can treat you as his servant. Don’t offer him juice that he doesn’t request. Don’t chase after him shoving food in his mouth. Don’t act as if he’s incapable of finding his own fun.

At the same time, treat yourself to a little time off. Of course, keep an eye on your little ones at the park, but don’t feel like you have to teach him how to use the slide, join in other kids’ games, etc. If he’s having fun, leave him alone and find some fun of your own!

 

Impromptu roomtime

Source: karenika.com

Are you home with preschoolers who seem to get into everything? Do you have school-aged kids who complain of summer boredom? We all know that structuring our day can limit boredom and keep little ones out of mischief. And roomtime is a crucial component of any child’s day. That small amount of alone time that can be had through roomtime can do wonders for you and your child. It helps us all recharge our batteries.

But what about those times when we all need roomtime but it’s not yet scheduled for another 3 hours? Is it okay to send the kids to their rooms for an impromptu roomtime? Yes! There are days in every child’s (or adult’s) life when we need more solitude than we’re getting. This is particularly important for the introverts in your family. Say you spent the entire morning at the local children’s museum. Your introverted child will crave roomtime to recover from the morning. It’s okay if roomtime isn’t scheduled until after snack. Let the child have an extra roomtime session after lunch.

Or maybe you’re having 6 of your closest friends (and their children) over for an hours-long play date. This can be overwhelming to an introverted child. Let him have a little bit of roomtime during the play date. Allowing your child to disappear for 20-30 minutes is much better than the attitude issues you’ll have to deal with if you don’t let him have that alone time.

I’ve also found that roomtime can help keep my boys from getting too rowdy. I’m all for letting my boys get on the floor and wrestle, but it needs to be in a somewhat controlled environment with parents watching closely. If my boys are in the playroom and their free play has turned into wrestle-mania, I’ll send them to their rooms for roomtime. I make it clear that it’s not a punishment. They just need that time to calm down and have some time apart. Besides, when they start up with the physical play, it usually means they’re bored. If I don’t have some other activity at the ready, roomtime works wonders.

So no matter what you’re doing with your day or where you are in your schedule, let your kids have an impromptu roomtime whenever it’s needed. And always be on the lookout for attitude problems that could easily be solved with an extra session of roomtime. Whether you’re at the museum, have a play date or even spend the afternoon running errands, let your little ones recharge their batteries in roomtime.

Random acts of parenting

Source: recipesdb.net

Are your days filled with purpose or do you feel like you muddle your way through? At the end of each day, do you feel like you spent quality time with your children teaching them important life lessons? Or do you feel completely exhausted, just happy to have made it through another day?

There’s a quote in On Becoming Preschoolwise that stood out to me. It’s on page 83:

“Nothing in itself is a huge hurdle–it’s the zillion little obstacles she faces every day that make her feel more like a prisoner of random chaos than like a mother on a beautiful mission of raising children.”

Not surprisingly, this is at the beginning of the chapter on structuring your child’s day. The chapter goes on to describe two mothers. After dealing with too many days of random chaos, Denise turns to parenting books. But eventually, “it’s back to old habits and discouraging days. For Denise, it seems, there is nothing to do but cling to the brink of her sanity,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 84).

Contrast this with Sondra:

“She is not frazzled or fatigued and faces family dinnertime with creative enthusiasm. Baby Gregory is already sleeping through the night and taking naps like clockwork. As it is most days, two-year-old Katie plays contently with her dollhouse on a blanket in the family room while four-year-old Ben is trustworthy enough to play by himself in his room. If you drop in unexpectedly, you’ll find the house picked up and Sondra will welcome you with a calm, warm smile. Are we still on planet earth?” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 84).

Both moms face the same obstacles and have the same goals for their families. The difference lies in how much control each mom has over her children and her environment.

“Sondra has the clear advantage. She is not letting the rush of life manage her, but instead has learned how to manage life in her home with amazing results. What is it that Sondra knows? Simply this: young children not only need, but they also crave supervision, direction, and encouragement. Random acts of parenting just aren’t good enough to get through the day with one’s sanity intact,” (On Becoming Preschoolwise, p. 85).

When I first rediscovered the Babywise series, I read On Becoming Childwise in about three days and felt like it was the answer to my prayers. Previously, my days were filled with random chaos. But I still didn’t fully get it. I was looking for a discipline fix. I remember skipping ahead to the chapters on discipline and correction, thinking that I just needed to get my kids in line with punitive measures.

It can be so easy to overlook these seemingly simple or unimportant methods of prevention. But there’s simply no need to wait until our kids need correction. Schedule their days. Send them to roomtime when you’re cooking dinner. Schedule blanket time or quiet reading time when you’re enjoying your morning cup of coffee. Don’t give them the freedom to create mischief.

And don’t fall for the idea that scheduling your child’s day is too restrictive. Yes, children need time for free play, but that is just one more thing that you’ll schedule in your day. Ultimately, our children want boundaries and direction. And not only is structure important for the children, but it’s important for us, too. A little bit of structure goes a long way toward preventing behavior problems in our children and stressed-out days for us.

What I’m Reading: “Bringing Up Bebe,” Alone Time

There are so many commonalities between Ezzo parenting and French parenting. Bringing Up Bebe discusses the need for children to have alone time. The Ezzos suggest that we have a daily structured alone time in the form of room time. The benefits to the child are plentiful.

Off the top of my head, I can think of several benefits of alone time. The child:

  • Learns to play independently and doesn’t rely on a parent or sibling to show him how to play. The intellectual and academic benefits of this are far-reaching.
  • Gets some quiet time, well beyond the age when naps are outgrown.
  • Learns to be happy being alone. I know of some adults who find it difficult to be alone. I can’t imagine not having my alone time!
  • Sleeps and self-soothes better. The baby who is never alone will wake up and cry if he realizes he’s in his bed alone.
  • Learns important focus and concentration skills, playing contentedly without distractions.
  • Is secure in his own skin, comfortable in the quiet with nothing but his thoughts and a few toys to occupy himself.

French parents and psychologists agree with the benefits of alone time:

“A psychologist quoted in Maman! magazine says that babies who learn to play by themselves during the day–even in the first few months–are less worried when they’re put into their beds alone at night. De Leersnyder writes that even babies need some privacy. ‘The little baby learns in his cradle that he can be alone from time to time, without being hungry, without being thirsty, without sleeping, just being calmly awake. At a very young age, he needs alone time, and he needs, to go to sleep and wake up without being immediately watched by his mother,'” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 53-54).

Such alone time is reportedly very important to French parents. The author discusses one mom’s story:

“Martine also teaches her kids a related skill: learning to play by themselves. ‘The most important thing is that he learns to be happy by himself,’ she says of her son Auguste…. It’s a skill that French mothers explicitly try to cultivate in their kids more than American mothers do. In another study, of college-educated mothers in the United States and France, the American moms said that encouraging one’s child to play alone was of average importance. But the French moms said it was very important,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 65-66).

French parents and the Ezzos are alike in their description of “helicopter parents.”

“Walter Mischel says the worst-case scenario is for a kid from eighteen to twenty-four months of age is, ‘the child is busy and the child is happy, and the mother comes along with a fork full of spinach. The mothers who really foul it up are the ones who are coming in when the child is busy and doesn’t want or need them, and are not there when the child is eager to have them. So becoming alert to that is absolutely critical,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 66).

So whether you leave a child alone during free play or schedule room time every day (or both!), make sure your child has enough time to simply play and to play by himself. Make alone time a priority!

Independent playtime overview

image source

by Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom

I very often state that one of my absolute favorite parenting tools is Independent Playtime. This block of time has immense benefits to the entire family. This post will take you through the basics on what it is (and isn’t), the benefits of it, implementing it, and solving potential problems you might face with it.

Definition of Independent Playtime

Independent Playtime is a block of time each day that your child plays alone. On Becoming Preschoolwise states that “The most important aspect of this time is that your child is learning to focus on what he can do with the things he has” (page 120). 

Exactly what Independent Playtime will look like for your child will vary based on the age, ability, and maturity of your child.

Baby

I personally start the essence of Independent Playtime as a young newborn. The way I do Independent Playtime with a newborn is to put the baby at a floor gym (you could use a bouncer, swing, or even a blanket) and then sit a couple of feet away and watch her play. I don’t talk to her or wave things in her face. I just enjoy watching her. Length varies from 5-10 minutes; newborns can’t stay awake very long.

Now, of course I do spend time each day talking to my newborn, holding her, loving her, kissing her chubby little cheeks…I am talking about one or two 5-10 minute blocks in a day when I let her play alone. I find doing this from the beginning makes the entire transition to “real” independent play as older babies seamless.

Once my baby reaches about 3-4 months old, I start to have the time be in the playpen every so often–maybe a few times a week. I might move the gym in there or I might hang a baby mirror and mobile in there and put some toys in there. I want baby to get comfortable with the playpen. At this time, I still sit in the room with baby, though I do need to be more creative about not being seen. If it wasn’t possible for me to not be seen, I would sit right outside the door.

Once baby can get to toys on her own, I will leave the room but stay really close. As she gets older, I will leave the room and move about the house, but I do always keep a monitor on the baby.

Pre-Toddler

A pre-toddler is in the age range of 12-18 months. Most pre-toddlers will be in the playpen still. Some might move to roomtime, but most will stay in the playpen. You can play music for your child if she enjoys music. You will want to make sure you rotate the toys and books you give her to play with every so often so the toys stay interesting to her.

Toddler, Preschooler, and Older

Sometime between 18 months and two years old, your toddler will move to roomtime instead of just the playpen. You want to make sure the room is child-proofed and safe for your child. You still pull out the toys and books for her to play with. For more on roomtime, see my post Roomtime.

I continued daily roomtime with my oldest (now 6) until he entered first grade this year (his first year of full-day schooling). We now do it on weekends when we have the time. We do not do it on school days because he is already gone for so much of the day, I don’t have time to fit that in with the other activities of  the evening.

Lengths

This is taken from my post on Independent Playtime Lengths.

  • 5-10 minutes once or twice a day as a young newborn
  • 10-20 minutes twice a day for first few months
  • 15-30 minutes twice a day for the independent sitter
  • 30-45 minutes at least once a day for the crawler
  • Up to 60 minutes for the 15-20 month old in playpen or room

These are guidelines. Some days may be longer, some shorter. For example, say it is Saturday and you have a family thing to get to. You can have a shorter than usual independent play so you can get to your family thing on time.

Benefits of Independent Playtime

On Becoming Babywise II lists several of the benefits to Independent Playtime on page 73:

  • Mental Focusing Skills
  • Sustained Attention Span
  • Creativity
  • Self-Play Adeptness
  • Orderliness

I have done Independent Playtime with all three of my children (6, 4, and 2), and I have found these benefits to be true. It is hard to judge the effects because for one thing, you can’t live life in a vacuum, and for another, you can’t live parallel lives where you do two different things with the same child and see which “thing” was the best. I do think that having three children who display these skills speaks volumes for Independent Playtime.

I also find that Independent Playtime results in happier and more patient children. If I am going to have a playdate that day, I make sure we do Independent Playtime that morning. My children consistently play better with others when they have Independent Playtime–whether those others be friends or family. For more on the benefits of Independent Playtime, I have two posts that go into further detail: Benefits of Independent Play and Baby Whisperer: Playing Independently.

This time also offers you some time to clean, cook, get ready, or simply relax. That should lead to a more relaxed and happy parent, and that is good for the entire family.

Implementing Independent Playtime

Does Independent Playtime sound nice? Want to try? Here are some basic details on how to implement. Now, exactly how easy this is to do will vary. Factors will include age of the child, personality, and previous life experience. A 2-year-old who has never played alone will likely resist more than a 2-month-old.

If you are starting from the beginning of life–or quite early in life (say the first 4-5 months)–it should be pretty easy so long as you are consistent. If you are startting later in life, you might have some protesting from your child. Either way, here are some tips.

    • Pick a consistent time of day. Consistency is very important. I like mornings because I can always get it in during the morning hours. Pick what works for you.
    • Keep toys safe, age appropriate, and rotated. Your child will not enjoy this playtime if she has the same toys for 6 weeks in a row. Also, don’t give too many toys. You want enough to keep her happy, but not so many her brain gets overwhelmed.
    • Stay in earshot. Either through being close in proximity or through a monitor. 
    • If your child enjoys it, start with 10-15 minutes at a time. 
    • If your child is not happy, start with 5-10 minutes at a time. Some moms find 5 minutes isn’t long enough while others find it to be perfect. A timer can also be very effective. See my post on The Timer for more. 
    • Clean up when playtime is over. Sing the clean up song and clean with your child. Hand her a toy and ask her to put it in the bucket/basket/whatever. When she does, tell her great job and thank her for helping you. As she gets older and more able, she will help on her own.
    • Know what it isn’t. Sometimes it helps to know what something is not to know what it is. See Independent Playtime is Not…
    • If you are starting late, see my post on Starting Independent Playtime Late.

Addressing Problems

You might run into some problems along the way with Independent Playtime. Here are the most common:

      • Resistance. You might have your child not want to do Independent Playtime, whether from the beginning or “all of a sudden.” For more on this, see Resistance to Independent Playtime.
      • Ransacking. Your child might have a very fun time during Independent Playtime, but destroys the room in the process. For tips on dealing with this, see this post on Ransacking During Independent Playtime.
      • Sleeping. You might find your child falls asleep during Independent Playtime, which then messes with nap time, which of course makes Independent Playtime annoying rather than beneficial. For tips on this issue, see Falling Asleep During Independent Playtime.

Conclusion

Independent Playtime is well worth the effort it takes to implement it. Well worth it. If you have an older child and haven’t started it, you can do it! I started late with my oldest child and he did great with it–it took some time to work up to it, but we got there. You will love this and your children will love this. 


Valerie Plowman blogs at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom.