Ever since my daughter was an infant, she has loved playing by herself. She would happily coo and giggle on her play mat, and a simple mirror could occupy her for 20 minutes at a time. As a toddler, that time has become a part of her daily activities, so much so that I sometimes wonder if I should insert myself more into this type of play time because, you know, parents like to add worry to even perfectly fine situations. But should babies have 'alone' time and, if so, how can parents make sure to optimize the solo sessions?
Jill Simonian, author of a new book for first-time pregnant moms, The FAB Mom's Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby, tells Romper in an email interview that she is confident her two children’s designated independent play was crucial to their development.
“My first daughter was an extremely content baby,” she says. “I would feed her, talk to her, cuddle, and play, but also let her have 'alone time' here and there to give us both some down time and peace during the day. I figured, if she wasn't crying and was safe and fed, then there was nothing wrong with letting her lay in a safe space to look around, admire a mobile giraffe, and/or just 'be' at home. If a baby isn't content and needs you, then they'll let you know!”
Simonian says she thinks the much-needed break from feeling like she had to entertain her child for every second of every day helped her daughter feel content as she grew into a toddler, even if no one was entertaining her. Simonian followed the same pattern with her second child and noticed similar results.
Want to encourage your child to steal away for some alone time? Rachel Robertson, vice president for education and development at Bright Horizons, says it’s important to encourage independent play as often as possible and provide ample time for children to become engaged with their play scenario.
“Allow your child to take the lead and direct your involvement in the play,” she says in an email interview with Romper. “Periodically, excuse yourself from there, and continue to gradually extend the time away — always coming back when you say you will.”
Robertson says this solo play doesn’t mean exiting the room — especially with a baby. “Children often like to be near another person, and by providing this nearby security, a child will feel comfortable to explore,” she says, adding that as a child grows older and more independent, it’s important to never “sneak out” of a room. Parents should instead tell a child they will be just around the corner and return in the amount of time promised.
Greta Zude from MyBabyCanSleep.com says simple ways for encouraging this type of play with babies is allowing them to play in the high chair after a meal, or giving them 10 to 20 minutes in the crib to babble and play after they wake up.
Because who doesn’t enjoy a bit of time to wake up slow? I won’t complain. Use your baby's alone time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee while knowing you're doing something great for their development. It's all a win-win.