When my oldest child was an only child, and was very young, I remember spending almost every moment that he was awake, with him. He’d need my constant attention, even when playing. I couldn’t take ten minutes to do anything else without him running off from his activity to find me, or get into mischief.
As I had more children, I learnt the benefits and value of teaching children to play by themselves – partly because it gave me some free time to do chores, and partly because it was actually good for them to learn to play alone.
TRY: The Blanket Method
I did this with my three young kids when I had clients over for an hour at a time. Each child would get their own blanket, and pick an activity to do. I’d set a time for 20 minutes, and then all the kids would rotate toys. At first they only sat still for five minutes, and they distracted each other, but each time they sat for a while, I’d reward them with a small sweet and some affirming words, and they soon learnt to focus and play alone.
I also downloaded an app that monitored noise levels, and set off an alarm whenever the noise levels hit a certain level. It worked like a charm; apparently children listen to an app sooner than mom telling them to keep it down. Funny and true! Check out the app here.
WHY: Benefits Of Playing Alone
Kids who learn to play alone get to focus in-depth on the activity they are doing, and build on the concept they’re busy with. When left alone, they easily just touch on an activity for a short period of time, and then get distracted or bored, and move on. Sitting alone where you are ‘forced’ in a sense, to sit and focus, helps a child practice self discipline, as well as just how to focus on one thing.
It is tempting, especially for sanity, to stay with your child so that he can play peacefully. But ultimately it is valuable to teach him/her to play alone and focus, as well as learn self discipline. This will help them in other areas in life too, where its’ required of them to sit in one place, and do a certain activity, even if they aren’t interested in it completely.
Let’s help our kids learn this valuable ability early on in life. The peace and time alone is good for them too!