Encouraging Kids to Play Independently
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Encouraging Kids to Play Independently
I'm looking for insight/advice about how to encourage my 3.5-
year-old daughter to play by herself a little more. I feel like
she doesn't spend very much time doing her own thing, instead
relying on me or her dad to play with her or constantly asking
to have a friend over. For the record, we do spend lots of time
playing with her and reading to her and taking her to the park
and other fun places. She has friends over a few times a week.
She goes to preschool 3 half days each week...
There are so many times where she seems totally aimless,
wandering around the house just getting into things she
shouldn't be instead of actually playing with her toys or doing
some other constructive activity. All of her toys and puzzles
are organized on shelves at her eye level. She has lots of art
supplies at her disposal. But I can walk around with her
suggesting all sorts of things to play or do to no avail. I
find it tremendously frustrating, as I'm a person who's never
at a loss for something to do (and according to my parents I've
been like this since I was 2 years old).
I should add that she's a bright little girl and when she does
have adults or other children to play with she's enthusiastic
and engaged and very very creative. She produces a lot of
beautiful artwork at preschool and at home. And she does play
by herself at times -- she'll surprise me once in a while and
sit down looking at her magazines for a half hour or playing in
the sand or water outside for a long time.
Perhaps there's nothing to do about it; I could see that it may
just be her temperament. But if there's something more I could
do to encourage her to entertain herself a bit more, I'd love
Please don't confuse her glorious exploration of the world with
your adult concept of aimless wandering. She sounds like she's
doing exactly what she needs to be doing. It boggles the mind to
hear someone say a 3 year-old should be doing something more
constructive. Btw, what you were like when you were two is
irrelevant. I think you'd be a lot happier if you let go of your
pre-conceived notions of what she should be doing, and she'd be
happier if you stopped imposing those notions on her. :-)
As for playing more by herself, that will come with time. I know
it can be frustrating. I think the most important things are to
not find things for her to do (she'll figure it out on her own)
and when she does find things, to not worry that she should be
doing something else instead.
Unstructured time is a great thing for a child to have, but
perhaps she has too much unstructured time and that is
contributing to the aimlessness. My daughter has, unfortunately,
been in 9 hrs of school and daycare daily since she was a
toddler because I must work full-time. When she gets home from
all that activity, which she loves, she also loves her room as
her refuge and she plays happily alone for hours.
-- mom of a now older kid
I could have written your post a few years ago--in fact, I may
have! And I certainly understand how frustrating it can be to
have no time to yourself if you need a certain amount of solitude
every day to feel at peace. Here are a couple of things that
helped me: first and foremost, I had to acknowledge that my son
and I were of different temperaments. Whereas I crave a certain
amount of solitude, he hates it. Whereas I am refreshed by time
alone, he is refreshed by time spent with others. Second, while
you do need to provide the lion share of activity right now, you
will not have to do so forever. There will come a time (sooner
than you think) when your daughter will not want so much of you.
Third, you can rely on others. You say your daughter is in
preschool 3 half days a week. How about 5 days next fall? It
might do you both some good to have a regularly scheduled time
every day when your daughter is in the company of teachers and
classmates. That's one of the things preschool is really good
for. Don't feel guilty about it at all. From what you describe,
your daughter may well bloom with more time in school. It would
probably give you the time you need, too, to get back a little of
your own bloom.
i think it's temperament. my dd1 is like this, and now at 6 is
just getting to the point where she can/does entertain herself
for a while (but not necessarily when it would be convenient for
me...). since dd2 (2.5 now) was born she's been expected to
entertain herself quietly when i'm nursing dd2 to sleep, and has
been getting better about it, or uses some of her TV time (5
hr/wk) at that time.
dd2, however, can play by herself for long periods with minimal
interaction, to the point that i have to mentally remind myself
to sit down and read/play with her (while dd1 is at school),
otherwise the whole morning might pass with me doing
kitchen/housework while she goes from dolls to books to playdoh
to painting to doodlepad to playkitchen... (with a wake of
clutter left behind to tell me what she's been up to).
it may help to put away some choices and rotate through things,
so there's a feeling of ''newness'' to them when they come back
out. my dd1 will play long periods with the latest new thing.
My 4.5 year old son has a terrible time initiating independent
play. He constantly wants our attention or needs someone to
give him direction of what or what to play with. The only thing
he wants to do (independently is watch TV or play video games)-
We try our best to limit the TV time and the video games he
plays tend to be educational and age appropriate.
Both my husband work (I work 3 days per week)-my son attends a
Montessori school where independence is encouraged. We feel
that we give our children a great deal of attention, and one on
one time- to the point where some of our daily needs are not
always met- clean house, bills getting paid, sleep, etc-to us
it is all worth it for the children, HOWEVER, there comes a
point when my son needs to really self-initiate play and not in
a passive way such as watching TV, video games. Granted we
introduced this to him but we are pretty strict about the
amount of time allowed for these activities. I guess it just
bothers me that multi-media is the only thing he wants to do at
home. He is a very active child but living in an urban area
without much of a yard, we cannot allow him outside
My question is - what can we do to encourage the idea of
initiating play and independence. WE feel that these are both
very important traits to have in life. Is this a stage? I often
seem him looking bored and confused about what choices to make.
He has a great attention span for his age but he is definately
a ''people person'' and would rather be with his parents than
toys (yes, I know this is a good thing and I am of the Dr.
Sears school of thought but we do need all of our own space and
time even if for only 1 hour!!!)
Hope this is a passing stage but what can we do to encourage
I have a 4.5 yr old too and here's what's worked for us (largely
inspired by the approach to play in Waldorf education):
Getting rid of TV altogether and also any other media besides CD's and
The less stimulus that comes from outside them the more they learn to
draw from their own creative impulses. Since getting rid of TV (even
though his viewing was extremely limited) I have not heard him say he's
Throwing out most of the toys. Again the less they have the more free
they feel to explore and create. Many kids I know are so overwhelmed by
the amount of stuff they have that they don't know what to do with it.
Today I was at a toy store and laughed at how my kids had more fun
playing with the big cardboard boxes oustside teh store than with any of
the toys inside! Choose toys that simulate free creative play (dress up
costumes, blankets to build forts, dolls, puppets, etc).
Following a clear daily rhythm which allows for times when my son knows
he has my undivided attention, but also for times when he knows it's
playtime and I'm doing my work. He can get absorbed in independent play
if he knows that in an hour we're going to come together for a story or
Generally I do not play with him. I am side by side doing my work
(cleaning, cooking, nursing the little one, paying bills, etc) while he
plays, but I rarely ever get down on the floor and play with him.
Instead I may initiate his play by setting up a scene with some animals,
helping him build a fort to hide in, telling a story or whatever sparks
his imagination, and then gradually stepping out as he gets immersed in
Involving him in what I'm doing. Play is important but kids learn
through imitation, and 4.5 is still an age when they are very connected
to their caretaker. Yes of course you should be able to take care of
the house, etc, and he can play a role in that, helping chop veggies,
wash dishes, fold laundry, etc. He will get the interaction he craves
without you having to stop doing what you need to do.
Hope this is helfpul.
My sister is a single mom of a 5 year old daughter. She needs
ideas for how her daughter can entertain herself more
effectively while at home. Up to now, my sister has been
incredibly responsive to her daughter's needs at home and and
her daughter is used to that. However, lately my sister is
feeling like she needs her daughter to become a bit more
independent and also my sister just needs to be able to not
have to jump every time her daughter wants her to. The only way
she can get her to play on her own is to set up an elaborate
art project that ends up taking much time to clean up, or put
her in front of a video for half an hour, which she is loathe
to do. Otherwise, her daughter interrupts my sister regularly
asks for help or input and wants nearly constant
Her daughter does have lots of friends and has play dates, but
this is about when the two of them are at home alone. The
situation is better when the weather is better, because my
niece will play outside in her sandbox and make up games. She
also likes to play games in the tub (she loves water and loves
to swim), but there is only so long a child can/should hang out
in the tub!
Has anyone else run into this situation and have some creative
ideas for how to keep my sister's daughter happy and involved
doing fun, interesting things around the house on her own?
Also, if you have some ideas for getting her daughter to be a
little bit more independent, that would also be great. I wish I
could help but I do not live near her and neither does any
other member of the family. We would really appreciate any
positive advice or guidance you might have.
It's not the mom's job to entertain her daughter.
It's a painful process, but, her daughter has to learn to
entertain herself. I would make sure she has something that she
likes...books, writing materials, dolls and then just say
something like ''This is my quite time. We we can talk in (5
mintues, 1/2 hour, whatever!)''
My daughter also wanted to be constantly entertained when she
was five. It took me a long time to figure out that she was
able to entertain herself. (In fact, left to her own devices she
became quite creative about finding things to do.) It just
involved very calmly setting up limits...it can be painful on
both sides & take a little while, but it works!!
I don't know if this answers the question, but what about asking
the 5-year-old to help out with chores and household tasks
instead of entertaining herself alone? My daughter (who
admittedly is younger) LOVES helping me do things around the
house - loading laundry, preparing vegetables for dinner, even
sweeping. It's fun for her, helps me stay on top of things, keeps
us relating to one another, and relieves me from having to find
things for her to do!
I would imagine that as a single mom, your sister might welcome
this as a way to kill two birds with one stone and maybe even get
more ''down'' time as a result. Plus - at 5 years, your niece is
certainly old enough to have some responsibilities around the house.
I can speak from personal experience on this issue. When I was a
little girl (I can't remember exactly how old) my Mom needed some
space to herself too (gee, doesn't everybody?!) I have vivid
memories of having a blackboard in my bedroom, and my Mom would
spend a short amount of time sitting w/me coming up w/ideas for
things I could do to occupy myself. She would write these on the
blackboard (I guess i had to be old enough to read!) and then I
would have a great list of ideas for stuff to do when I got
bored! It was a great method because she would put in quality
time w/me being creative thinking of ideas, but then I actually
followed through and was therefore able to spend time alone. If
your friend's child cannot read herself yet, the Mom could keep
track of the ideas on a list which she could read aloud to the
child and the child could have the opportunity to pick from a
list of fun things to do!
How can I get my 3-year-old only child to become more
independent? She used to play by herself a little more -- say, I
could tell her to draw or play with her clay while I drank a cup
of coffee next to her in the morning, or I could set up
watercolors for her for 10-20 minutes -- but we have backslid.
Now, from the moment she comes into our room in the morning
demanding that I wake up, until I take her to afternoon
preschool, it's ''play with me, read to me, help me draw this
letter, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,'' and I have to be deeply involved
when she talks to her dolls, pretends she's a baby or a mommy,
etc ... Honestly, the only time I get a break is when I park her
in front of the TV, which was never part of the game plan! She
generally wants to be leaning or sitting on me, too, although
she's more bossy/demanding than whiny. I realize she's going
through a big learning curve, suddenly she's writing letters and
figuring out what words she knows that the letters are in, and
suddenly her drawings are identifiable ... and she did just start
preschool, which is an adjustment ... so I should be more
understanding. But does anyone have any advice on 1. How I can
cope, 2. How I can help her be more independent (My friends with
older kids say when their kids were this age they were becoming
more independent -- even kids with no siblings), and 3. How long
I can expect this phase to last?? She has been in a lot of
time-outs lately, for things from being really rude (oh yeah,
the verbal skills are really coming along too!) to swatting her
dinner across the table. Please help! (sorry this is so long)
-- going completely batty
Read Children: The Challenge by Rudolph Dreikurs. This is a
classic and some aspects are a little dated, but it addresses
your problem directly.
''The child who seeks constant attention is, of necessity, an
unhappy child. She feels that unless she gets attention she is
worthless, has no place. She seeks constant reassurance that she
is important. Since she doubts this, no ammount of reassurance
will ever impress her. Mother notices her. A few minutes later
she questions, ''Is Mother still aware of me? Do I still count?''
This is a never ending circle of doubt. What a miserable
situation. How can Mother help?
When a child succeeds in getting Mother to respond to her every
whim, the response becomes a confining wall. There is no room to
seek another set of values. What the child does works. Suppose
Mother drew back and refused to respond to undue demands? Then,
not finding the satisfaction to which she is accustomed, the
child would--after an inital rebellion--explore different ways to
acquire her sense of belonging. She may need help to find
constructive means, otherwise her search may lead her into more
destructive behavior. Mother can be aware of and acknowledge
proper behavior. As things are now, Mother shows a lack of
self-respect when she allows her child to enslave her. She also
shows a lack of respect for her child by demonstrating through
her response, that she doubts her child's ability to get along
without her service.''
I also have a daughter who would take ALL the time I have and
more. The best thing about the Dreikurs book was that it made me
see how very important it was for my daughter that she learn to
play on her own. When I realized that it wasn't just for me that
I was refusing to play I felt better about it. My daughter has
made all sorts of discoveries since she learned to explore and
experiment on her own.
All the best,
I really identify with your situation. I recently read, ''Your 3
Year Old'' by Louise Bates Ames. It's a quick read-- 1/2 inch
thick-- and it made me feel so much better about many of my
current struggles with my 3 year-old. One night, while putting my
daughter to sleep, I silently counted eight new frustrating
behaviors that had been addressed in that book. One quote,
''First of all, accept the fact that at this age the child's big
emotional struggle is with his mother... Almost any young child
is at his best but also at his worst wtih his own mother. Never
more so than now...'' Check it out at the library; I think you'll
feel much better about your child and yourself. I do.
Sounds like a challenge that will take a little while to resolve.
It might be more difficult to resolve it when you're feeling
overwhelmed. Is there another area of your life where you
can reduce stress and conserve some energy? Would a
spa day or an outing with a friend help you get through this
When you have some energy and are feeling a little creative,
perhaps you can think of some ways of incorporating her
into what you do, instead of the other way around. Give her a
spray bottle of water and a rag when you're cleaning, get her
a step stool to help when you're cooking, etc.
My personal belief is that TV use backfires. Yes it buys a
quiet hour, but once my son gets a taste of passive
entertainment, it's pretty hard to convince him that his own
imagination is an exciting place to be. We've learned to
avoid TV almost completely.
BTW, my son is a bit of a cling-on as well. I don't know why
and I don't think that I can change him fundamentally. But it
does seem to help when I ''dip'' into his activity for brief
intervals (30 seconds?) every 10 minutes or so. Seems to
keep his interest up in what he's doing. Unless of course
he's really deep into his play...then I do not disturb him.
Can you set up a sand and water table somewhere? That
might be engaging.
Does your daughter have any interests that might hold her
attention? For example, my son is obsessed with planes,
so we bought a little airplane and we make pretend runways
out of scarves and he flies his plane around the house. I'd
go with whatever clues your daughter is giving you in as
simple a way as possible. Toys that leave no room for
imagination a likely to bore her within minutes. Use pretend
as much as possible.
Does she need more time outdoors or with friends?
Last thought: Could your daughter be going through
something emotionally? A little latent separation anxiety? A
little crisis of confidence? Might be worth a little reflexion.
Luck and good wishes,
I am feeling increasingly guilty with each word I type, but I am
wondering from other parents out there...how much time is
reasonable to spend each day playing with my almost-4yo
daughter? My husband and I have always been very active in her
daily play - we are her favorite toys (and she, ours). But after
the birth of our second baby, along with her increasing need to
for role-playing and other imagination-driven games, I'm finding
this one-on-one time hard to manage all day long, and quite
frankly...a bit tiresome. I heard somewhere that you should try
to spend 20 minutes a day playing - uninterrupted - with your
children in an activity they choose. I aim for that, but with a
young baby and other household duties I find giving her much
more than that difficult, yet it never seems to be enough for my
daughter. And I'm all for role-playing, but it is the SAME game
every day... I am Ariel the Little Mermaid, and my daughter is
Ariel's younger sister. And it starts first thing in the morning
and it's the last thing we ''play'' at night. I LOVE spending time
with my daughter, offer her a range of things to do together:
sports, baking, art and just fooling around, and I love to just
BE with her (talk with and listen to her...not Baby Mermaid ''ga
ga - goo goo'' all the time, which BTW stared well before the
baby was born). I KNOW that I will miss these days soon enough.
I'm just looking for a little guidance: how much time can I
expect for (1) independent play (2) my own ''work'' (3) my
downtime (ha!) and (4) unlimited, fully-attentive ''Ariel Game''?
Blast me if you need to: maybe what I need is a cruel reminder
that this time is so fleeting...but some guidelines would be
committed but exhausted mom
I think it is totally reasonable to put a limit on the amount of time you play
your daughter's Ariel game. For one thing, playmates her age will not be
willing to play *her* game ad infinitum, so why let her get used to that? Also, I
think it is healthy to model boundaries for her - saying ''no, I don't want to play
that'' or ''I don't want to do that''. She needs to be able to express
such boundaries as well. She needs to learn to deal with disappointment, too.
At 4 years old, I think she should be able to play by herself for blocks of time.
To encourage my daughter's independent play, I put the gate across her
doorway. She does just fine for 20 minutes at a time or so and she's only 2.
(it's a small house - she's always in earshot) I can't make any sug! gestions
about how much time, but I think you will be able to determine that once you
are comfortable with the idea that it is totally OK to make her play by herself or
not get her way all the time.
Maybe instead of being blasted, you need to be told to be more
gentle with yourself and let go of the guilt. Maybe it is an
unreasonable proposition to expect to be Supermom? I don't think
you can put a number on how much is enough. Every day is
different, with different needs and challenges.
Why not just do your best to create balance in all areas of your
life, and don't worry about if it is enough. Just be glad that
you are doing your best, and know that you are being fully
present for her as much as you can.
However, if you really want to go the guilt route ;), maybe you
should add a little guilt for not giving yourself downtime too,
because how good can you be when you don't take time to
rejuvenate? Remember, the way you lead your life is what you are
teaching your daughter to do as she grows up. Do you want her to
be a harried woman? Maybe you should model a more balanced life,
which includes ''Quiet time for Mommy'' while she learns how to
play independently. After awhile, she will learn that this is how
it is, just like eating veggies at dinner is part of the program.
It's not about giving her constant [but half-assed] attention -
the world surely won't offer her that, so it sets up an
unrealistic expectation in her. It's about being fully present
SOME of the time for her, and attending to life some of the time
too. She will learn that your life doesn't revolve around her,
however, when it's time to be together, she's got you all to herself.
~She who is Gentle with Herself
My feeling is that parents shouldn't play with kids in a way
that other kids wouldn't tolerate. At 4, your daughter can
start to learn that she can't always play what she wants to
play, and that sometimes, her playmate gets to pick, too. And
that play doesn't simply mean telling the other person what to
do and be. Suggest things that are fun, but fun for you too.
Like making cupcakes and pretending that you are the princess
baking special magic cakes for the fairi! es to bring to the
ball, or whatever. Of course it is boring just being ordered
about, and she needs to learn that good play is cooperative,
not bossy, and that other people can have fun ideas too. Be
nice, but I think it would be good to tell her ''we played that
yesterday, let's play something different today.'' You will be
doing both of you a favor.
I don't think you deserve any ''blasting''!
Few of us can actually dedicate a sold chunk of time for pure ''play'' - but
play can certainly be incorporated throughout the day in daily routines.
Singing silly songs in the car, playing I Spy at the grocery store, telling
stories while folding laundry, taking along a favorite small toy to play
with wherever waiting is involved, etc. I know there are several books
available for handy hints on how to make all those regular day-to-day
activities less tedious and! routine for both the parent and the child.
And be easy on yourself! Dedicating time and energy to the new child
and yourself are just as important - and your first born needs to
understand that. Life is all give and take and learning to be patient and
learning to contribute.
Mom of 2 Too
How much time spent on the same Baby Ariel role playing game is enough?
Somewhere between as little as you can get away with and as much as you can stand
without going absolutely bonkers. Sheesh, give yourself a break! The reason that
you know that it should not be up to her to set the amount of time is that no matter
how much you do ''it is never enough.'' Try to shift the terms from the expectation
that you will do that all the time to it being a special treat (''If you are really
cooperative and put away all your toys, I will play whatever game you want for 20
minutes!'') ! ; Also, take heart that pretty soon the baby will be a good playmate, and
also that she'll be in school soon and you'll get more of a break. And definitely try
to arrange more playdates so she can have people to play with who are as
enthusiastic about that role-playing game as she is!
My 4 yr. old daughter is exactly the same. She needs and wants
lots of attention and playtime (normal for this age). She also
wants to role play various ''princess'' games over and over.
After my second child was born (my then three year old
daughter) wanted to role play mommy (her) and baby (me) all the
time (you could literally find me some afternoons laying on the
floor with a pacifier in my mouth -- not a pretty sight). It
was tiresome after awhile. I think it is difficult to say that
there is a magic number for the amount of time that you should
play with ! your kid. But I would say, give yourself a break --
with two kids, you just don't have the time and energy
available that you have for one kid. Also, you do need some
time for yourself because sanity is important for you and your
kids. With my daughter, I have found that what satisfied us
both was to arrange playdates on the weekend or after school
(she gets out of school at noon) for a couple of hours -- one
to two times per week at alternating houses (most moms are
happy to host knowing they'll get a free afternoon the other
day). I also have a wonderful sitter (not cheap, but cheaper
than theraphy) who plays with her. She gets lots of role
playing in with her friends and sitter and she and I do other
things together, which makes both of us happy. Lastly, I have
started to encourage my daughter to spend an hour in her
room ''resting'' or playing quietly when she gets home from
school. As! a result, she has spontaneously started playing
alot of imaginary games on her own (and at other times) and can
entertain herself more easily. It's not easy in that first
year after you have a second baby and you will never feel
everyone is getting everything you need. Go easy on yourself,
you're doing a great job!
I'm not an expert on the subject of how much time to spend
playing with your kids, but I read this book called ''The
Irreducible Needs of Children'' by T. Berry Brazelton and a child
psychiatrist, Stanley Greenspan. They spell out what they believe
children need to develop well. They say that preschoolers need at
least three sessions of direct, interactive play of at least 20
minutes each. They also recommend quite a bit of peer play with
kids their own age, so something like preschool and playdates may
help satisfy your child's needs, as well. There was ! another post
about how many playdates to have after school, and they said four
a week for about an hour after school would be great! Anyway,
that book may help give you some guidelines.
I have a 4 year old girl who just won't play with her toys. Both
parents work outside the home and she has very good/excellent day
care/preschool, but it just disturbs me that she won't go into
her play room and play with her toys. It seems that she wants
one of us to go into the play room with her to play, but even
with all her new great toys, she still just doesn't seem into it.
Shouldn't she want to play with her toys?
You mentioned that both of you work full-time. It sounds to me as she's been with
toys all day, but at the end of the day, she simply wants to be with mommy and
daddy, to interact with you, have your attention, and be close.
It sounds like she'd rather be with you than alone with
inanimate toys in her ''playroom''. People are more important
than toys, after all! How about offering to go into the
playroom with her while she picks out a few toys to bring out
to where you are. Then she can play while you work, without
having to be alone. If you're making dinner, she might enjoy
helping you more than playing with toys. Or offer some art
supplies (they don't have to be too messy) at the kitchen
table. I think most kids that age would rather be with people
than alone with toys most of the time!
Mom of a People Person
It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that your daughter
doesn't want to ''go in her playroom and play with her toys.''
She'd rather be where the action is and play with her family!
Bring the toys out into the kitchen or living room! Or forget
the toys and involve her in what you're doing. A 4-year-old can
do a lot more in the way of helping you fix dinner, do laundry,
or sort the mail than you might think, and she'll consider it
She may also just not be that interested in whatever type of
toys you think she ''should'' be. If she likes books or active
outdoor games (for example) rather than dolls or pretend
cooking, then respect her interests. Read to her or chase her
around the back yard. Who needs toys? :-)
Every child should have alone play time but they also need time
with Mom and Dad when they have been in daycare all day. I bet
she would play with her toys if you played with her first.
I think your 4-year old really wants to see her parents. My daughter, almost 4,
has always preferred to be with us than play with toys. Put yourself in her
shoes: YouUve both been gone all day, sheUs probably played with lots of toys
and her little friends, and now she really wants to connect with you. What
works for us is to start out playing together, making up some fun scenarios
with her toys, and then after about half hour (more or less, depending) I excuse
myself to go make dinner (but the kitchen is right next to our play area). She
likes helping me make dinner, sometimes, so if I can I try and let her help out
in small ways. Try and find ways that you can have some good together time,
and bring the toys out of the playroom and into the area you are so that she
can be with you as much as she needs.
Is your question about your child's preference for spending
time with you over time with her toys?
If both parents are working and she's in daycare, she's
seeing a lot more of playthings than parents during the day.
Her preference may be spending time with you even if it
means ignoring the wonderful playroom you've supplied.
Chances are she'll be more interested later, when she's
developed the ability to understand that you won't disappear
if she lets you out of her sight.
I hope you'll be as patient with her as you can.
Your daughter's in full-time care, right? I think she probably
won't play in the playroom without you because she wants to
spend time with you! so if you want her to be able occupy
herself a little bit while she's home, let her choose a couple
of toys from her playroom to bring into whatever room you're
4 yo girls are usually very social creatures. it does not
surprise me that she wants a playmate and not toys. try
planning a playdate (invite one her friends over) if you don't
want to play with her.
Your child misses you and wants to interact with you, whether
it's playing with toys or whatever. I sense she doesn't have
any siblings, and is looking for either you in particular or
someone to play WITH. I think it's unreasonable to expect your
child to play independently, alone in her room, for an
indefinite period of time. If you don't want to be with her,
find a playmate for her on a regular basis. It's not that she's
UNABLE to play by herself; she seems lonely and wants company.
I am lucky enough to be a happy stay at home mom. Often,
my son comes over and grabs me to join him in games. He is
almost four, and his imagination is going wild. He is learning
so much from role playing and from interactive play right now
that it's mind blowing. He is a teacher, then a fireman, then
a shopkeeper, then Bob the Builder, then Mr. Fixit... this is
what he does all day. Developmentally, he doesn't WANT to go
off in a corner and play with ''new toys.'' Developmentally, he
desperately needs and wants real, human interaction. Could it
be that this is what your daughter is after? And regardless of
how ''excellent'' a daycare is, it really cannot compare to a
mother sitting down and sewing a cape for her (or even making
one with fabric glue and rick-rack. Or making cookies with
her. Or a dad and mom pretending to be a family with her and
doing some role playing.
I'm trying to be kind here, but your note sounded like a hard-
working parent who is really very tired and wants quiet time.
That sounded like more of an issue, than a child who won't play
with nice new toys.
Maybe the answer you really want is to a different question.
good luck to you and to your daughter
Most likely she just wants to play *with you* and spend some time
with you. If you're working and she's in daycare/preschool during
the day, she probably misses you. Cuddle and read books, cook
dinner together, hang out.
Does your daughter enjoy playing with her toys if you and/or
your partner join her in her play? Perhaps she gets enough
playtime at preschool/daycare and is more interested in spending
time with both of you. SOme kids also prefer to play with their
toys while under the feet of their parents, so can she bring
things into where you are while preparing dinner, etc.?
It sounds like more than it being an issue about her toys, she
wants to spend time with you after being separated all day. I
suggest taking some time to go in and play with her in her room
so she gets used to playing in there. Or let her bring her toys
out to where you are and every now and then interact with her
and the toys. In my experience w/ 4 year olds, I think it's
unrealistic to expect them to play quietly by themselves in
another room for long periods of time.
Most likely, in your heart, you know the answer to this one...
You both work outside the home, so therefore are away from your
child for 8-10 hours EVERY DAY. When you come home at night, no
matter how tired et al you may be, remember that your child has
missed your companionship. Toys, no matter how many, nor
how ''great'', are no substitute for YOUR TIME and attention.
Go into the playroom for a bit; let your child 'direct' the
play. You will learn SO much about your child, their day, what
they are thinking....
At this point, you're saying ''easier said than done''. My
husband and I both work outside the home; my kids (3 and 6) are
both in full-time daycare/school (over 9 hours each day, 5 days
a week). When our oldest was an ''only'', it was SO hard for me
to ''make the time'', but on the advice of a wonderful friend, I
did. And, I have never regretted it.
10 years from now, you won't remember what you had for dinner,
or what show you watched while you unwound from work. BUT - you
and your child *will* remember how you played dressup, or
whatever the game du jour may be.
Kids don't need TOYS, they need their parents.
It's hard being a grown-up
A very wise parent once said to me ''You are your child's
this page was last updated: Nov 22, 2008
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