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Old 07-12-2012, 02:46 PM   #1
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How to foster independent play?

My 3.5 is mostly independent except when it comes to entertaining herself in her playroom. I'd love for her to be able to spend 20 minutes on her own playing quietly, but it takes 30 minutes of her refusing and crying just to get her to walk up the stairs. If I go with her, there's no problem. If I'm there watching her play, there's lots that she's willing to do on her own. But she hates being alone, even when her little sister goes with her. If she's completely alone, NO WAY! If I give her playdoh in the dining room and walk into the kitchen, within 30 seconds she's asking me to come back and roll it out or cut it into shapes. I know she could do it if she practiced a few times. But the trouble I spend, like 20 minutes, trying to convince her to do something herself, just to get her to entertain herself for 10 minutes, hardly seems worth the effort.

And just to be clear, this is not about me not being willing to help her learn to do things. It's just about her TRYING to do it on her own, alone, first. I have a baby coming in 6 weeks and I need to be able to tell her to play/do something/whatever for 10 minutes alone without her begging/asking for 15 minutes that she can't. This has been going on for months, she's just afraid of failing. how can I get her to cut the strings and be willing to play on her own for a while?

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Old 07-12-2012, 03:18 PM   #2
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How do you encourage her? Maybe tell her 'Try first, then mommy will help.' Praise her efforts, not her results, to help foster some persistence on her part. Once she realizes she can, and that failing is ok at first, as long as you keep trying, she may do better.
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Old 07-12-2012, 03:21 PM   #3
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Re: How to foster independent play?

My 3.5 year old can go from super clingy to fiercely independent. He will insist that he can move our 300lb sandbox by himself, but then ten minutes later he NEEDS me to help him put on his flip flops

However, he has learned to play well independently (or with his 1.5 year old brother). We usually have independent play after breakfast. I think it helps a bit to have a routine. I tell him that he can go play in the playroom. If he says he doesn't want to I tell him that his choices are to either play in the play room or sit quietly on the couch. This usually does the trick. If he continues to whine/complain/ask me to play with him I tell him that mommy is doing dishes/laundry/vacuuming/talking on the phone right now and gently remind him that his choices are sitting quietly or playing in the playroom. If for some reason he still whines he will have to go sit in the timeout chair for disobeying. (We have had to develop a strict no-whining policy in our house in order for me to maintain my sanity). He's ALWAYS ready to go play after that.

Honestly though, it almost never gets to the point of timeout. It really almost never gets any further than me reminding him that the choices are playing in the toy room or sitting quietly doing nothing. And it's not like I banish him to the room. I check on him and encourage him to show me the cool stuff he builds with his Legos or the neat way he arranged his trains.

To note: I play with my kids. I play with them tons. But I am a strong believer that kids need to learn to play independently too.
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Old 07-12-2012, 03:30 PM   #4
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I do Montessori activities at home (I'm not a homeschooler, we just do them for fun) and it has helped enormously with my kids being able to play independently for longer periods of time. I show them the activities and how to do them, then leave them on the shelf and they are free to play with them when and if they choose. It's just basic stuff like pouring beans, sensory boxes, play dough, magnetic shapes, puzzles, etc. But they love it. I think it's different than sitting down with a toy- it seems more engrossing. I have 'Montessori areas' in two parts of our house, by the kitchen, and by the living room, which is where we spend most of our time. So they can still see me and aren't off in a room by themselves.
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Old 07-12-2012, 05:09 PM   #5
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Re: How to foster independent play?

Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolemariep View Post
My 3.5 year old can go from super clingy to fiercely independent. He will insist that he can move our 300lb sandbox by himself, but then ten minutes later he NEEDS me to help him put on his flip flops

However, he has learned to play well independently (or with his 1.5 year old brother). We usually have independent play after breakfast. I think it helps a bit to have a routine. I tell him that he can go play in the playroom. If he says he doesn't want to I tell him that his choices are to either play in the play room or sit quietly on the couch. This usually does the trick. If he continues to whine/complain/ask me to play with him I tell him that mommy is doing dishes/laundry/vacuuming/talking on the phone right now and gently remind him that his choices are sitting quietly or playing in the playroom. If for some reason he still whines he will have to go sit in the timeout chair for disobeying. (We have had to develop a strict no-whining policy in our house in order for me to maintain my sanity). He's ALWAYS ready to go play after that.

Honestly though, it almost never gets to the point of timeout. It really almost never gets any further than me reminding him that the choices are playing in the toy room or sitting quietly doing nothing. And it's not like I banish him to the room. I check on him and encourage him to show me the cool stuff he builds with his Legos or the neat way he arranged his trains.

To note: I play with my kids. I play with them tons. But I am a strong believer that kids need to learn to play independently too.
So it's not just mine, because mine is exactly like that too. If I ask her to go upstairs, she'll whine and complain and tell me her legs hurt and argue, and THAT"S what usually ends her up in time out, the back-talking. I give her choices too, it's usually go upstairs or you can sit on the stairs. She'll sit on the stairs and yell and holler and ask 'what can I do?' and just nag constantly. And it's so funny, because immediately after typing this I asked her to go on upstairs for a few minutes before daddy got home and she ran up the stairs and played for 30 minutes. And once I'm able to get her (them) up there, they play really well. I don't leave them alone up there, I yell up every 5 minutes 'what are you guys doing?' and then ask silly questions to make them giggle. When she asks me to help her with something ridiculous I remind her that she did it yesterday, she knows how, try and if you still need me I'll come help, but she'll still break down into cries of she's cant, something hurts, whatever. Even simple things - like rolling playdoh into a ball, she insists she needs help, or opening up the drawers to get a clean shirt. It's maddening. I always praise her when she does a good job without whining, tell her matter of factly she's a big girl and did a great job doing XYZ. When it's something fun (not a chore) that she's asking for help on, I hate to admit, but after 5 minutes of back and forth of 'you try' 'no you try' I usually end up telling her that we need to put it away if she's not going to try. It might not help her independence but I really don't see the point in her 'playing' with playdoh if it's just her sitting at the table for 15 minutes waiting for me to roll it for her.
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Old 07-12-2012, 05:13 PM   #6
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Re: How to foster independent play?

All of these other ideas are great. The thing is, it takes two to argue and you are allowing her to draw you into 20 minute arguments. I know. It happens to me as well. I get so worried about making sure that my child's thoughts/feelings are heard. But then I realize after a little while, it's not about expressing an idea to me anymore. It turns into a control thing.

So I stop arguing and give up the control struggle. You may play in the playroom while I [insert adult only task] or you can sit [insert ridiculoously boring place].

ETA: We were posting at the same time. DS2 used to do the legs "hurt" business. One night he refused to say his prayers because his "hands hurt." He's 4 now and has gotten through that stage. I got tired of it and puppetted him through the actions. Don't want to fold your hands for prayers? OK. I'll fold them for you. Don't want to walk upstairs? OK. I'll walk your legs for you. Refusing to pick up the toy you just threw across the room? No problem. I'll bend you over and extend your arm for you. I don't know if it worked or he outgrew it, but at least I felt like I was doing something!
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Old 07-12-2012, 06:28 PM   #7
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Re: How to foster independent play?

Kids want to be around you. I suggest starting out letting your 3 year old play in proximity to you then gradually increasing distance. It may just be loneliness, because that happens to my daughter sometimes, who plays very well on her own for an hour at a time. She just needs to be near me sometimes.
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