Teaching independence?

Sagamore Beach, MA
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Teaching independence?

I have two boys, 4.5 and 2. Lord, help me these kiddos won’t do anything without me in the room! How can I get them to play without mom or dad having to play with them??

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  1. Please figure out the answer and then share it with me! I only have one child- a four-year-old. I realize the con of a one-child household is that I am her playmate, but I want her to be able to play independently. I generally help her decide what to play, get her set up and then explain that she is going to do the activity alone while I (cook, clean, etc.). She’s pretty good for about 20 minutes, but then wants me to be her sidekick in play. If I had to name my #1 Mom Guilt issue, it would be that I feel like I don’t spend enough time just playing with her. We do lots of structured activities together, but when we’re home in the house I am often doing the things it takes to run a home. I got off on a tangent here, but independent play is both a dream and a sadness for me.

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  2. Fortunately for me, my son loves independent play! He’s only 17 months old, but he has been playing well alone for 20+ minutes at a time since he could sit on his own! My trick is to avoid eye contact if I don’t want to be interrupted. If he catches me watching him play, he will want me to join him. So I have to just act like I have no idea what he’s doing, and he’ll continue to play happily all by himself. Luckily, he also plays very well with others! I think I have it too easy when it comes to my son’s laid back, happy-go-lucky, social personality! He also has a play room that is completely separate, so that might help.

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  3. Fear not ladies! The typical 4 year old has an attention span for only about 15-20 minutes. For younger kids it is even less. It may seem like your children can not do anything without you or it may just be that in the amount of time that it takes for you to get engaged in your own activity (or chore) they have exhausted their attention span and are ready to move on to the next activity. And they likely want your direction and guidance to do so. When they have spent an amount of time without needed you right by their side point it out and make a big deal out of it. When it feels as if you can’t get anytime at all, make yourself unavailable and to attend to their every whim and stretch the time you reasonably can. Their attention span will increase over time. And you will feel more productive and guilt free too. Always try to celebrate the independence they do show. Believe it or not there will come a time when you are begging them for even a few minutes of time to spend with them. 😉

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    1. So helpful! Sharing this advice with my husband, too.

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    2. It makes me happy to hear that a 4 year old has that short of an attention span and it’s just not my child! Usually if I’m just in the playroom they’ll play well together or by themselves. But if I’m in a different room, the 2 year old will only stay there for about 2 minutes before he’s right by my side again…

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  4. Great points Dr. Raquel. I can certainly sympathize. I have 2 boys (6 and 4) who now play well independently and with each other, but it was certainly not that way in the early years. I think it depends on your children’s temperaments. My easy going younger son played on his own much earlier than my older son. I promise you that it will get better as they get older!

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    1. Even my old pediatrician admitted once that my daughter is high maintenance…I definitely believe that this is at least a tad of the reason why she doesn’t like to play alone. 🙂

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