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Playing by themselves

  1. #1
    elgoh is offline Registered User
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    May 2011
    Hong Kong

    Playing by themselves

    Just wondering, when do they play by themselves?

    Came across an article before about French parenting methods, one of which was encouraging/letting kids play by themselves, and how I would love that!

    My boy might be able to play by himself for up to 20min, only if I was also sitting nearby and watching him. If I get up to go to the bathroom, or go into the kitchen to stir a soup, he immediately follows me in, tugs at my legs and whines till I pick him up. How do I encourage him to play by himself for 10min while I get something done? That said, my boy is only 15 months old, is that still too young?

  2. #2
    charade is offline Registered User
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    Jun 2010

    Take all these parenting methods with a pinch of salt. When I heard of the French book, hot on the heels of the Tiger Mother one, I laughed out loud.

    Which parent wouldn't like their child to play on their own, I wonder? But some babies do this easier than others and at different ages. My son, now two, does do short stints on his own but I didn't consciously do much. One thing I consciously do is not interrupt my kids when they are playing on their own. Let it last as long as it does and savour it. One might also consider not rushing to respond to every demand but I'm sure you already do that and I'm sure you also know that babies can be persistent.

    My niece is always demanding my sister's attention and I don't think it's due to anything my sister has done or doesn't. It's my niece's personality, something she can only try to change gently. My mum says my sis was exactly the same. They do grow out of it though.

  3. #3
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    carang is offline Registered User
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    Sep 2004
    Sai Kung

    kids that young don't often "play" by themselves or any other way. they touch, they feel, they experiment, but they really don't "play" in the imaginative sense as they do when they are older.

    i do believe that many kids in hk are not left to their own devices often enough, of course with a supervising adult nearby. many kids in hk expect to be entertained constantly. i see it all the time.

    but even as they get older and really do "play" creatively and imaginatively, different personalities come into play.

    my son, almost 8, can happily play on his own all day long... he plays with lego, ben 10 action figures, transformers, he colours, paints etc.... all without help from anyone. he has been like this since he was about 4 years old.

    my girl, on the other hand, seems to crave that human interaction more than my boy. she will play happily for 30-45 minutes, then she goes looking for someone to talk to, to interact with.

  4. #4
    evgreen is offline Registered User
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    Feb 2011
    Tai Tam

    My 13 month old has gone through periods of clinginess, but for the most part, she can go for up to an hour playing by herself. It has to be encouraged. We have a play pen and started putting her in her play pen at around 7/8 months old. She didn't like being put down in her play pen, but as soon as you walk out of the room, she settled into playing with her books and toys. We started doing it for shorter periods and gradually for longer periods. We would try to encourage her to have alone play time at roughly the same time everyday so she'd know when to expect it. Now we can set her down when we need to during the day so we can go about our business. Even the helper needs time to do other things too. I guess it's different for every child though, but I definitely believe that these kinds of behaviors can be taught with patience.

  5. #5
    nicolejoy's Avatar
    nicolejoy is offline Registered User
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    Oct 2007
    North Point

    I have two kids and one is very naturally independent. As a baby, she'd be happy playing on the floor for 30+ min. Sometimes I'd be doing something and she'd be playing away and would even fall asleep and just nap on the floor. From the time she was a baby til now (4 years old) she's always needed some alone time. Sometimes she'll disappear into her room for ages, she's also happy to colour for ages by herself. She chatters to herself and is quite happy not being entertained.

    My 2nd child on the other hand is the complete opposite. Even though I raised them the same (as much as I could) and have always encouraged her to play independently, I've learned that she just does NOT enjoy to be alone. She wants someone to play with, she wants to be held and cuddled, she NEEDS that. I've always tried to encourage independent play but for her, she just doesn't really like it that much. Now that she is older, she will play with her sister instead of always wanting me ALL the time, but she is a mummy's girl (much to my frustration at times - I also need my alone time, much like my first born!)

    I think we can encourage kids to play alone and even help them to do so - but how much they accept that depends very much on the personality of the child.

    carang likes this.

  6. #6
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    May 2009

    With my children, I felt like we knew what their personalities were going to be from very early on. My son always wanted someone to be interacting with him. It took him a very long time before he was willing to play "by himself" for long periods of time. Even now, he's most content if he's in a room with others and has frequent interaction with adults and other children--he's very social in that way.

    My daughter is much less reliant in play upon adults and other children. She is more likely to "play by herself" for longer periods of time and she's only 20-months-old.

    I think what's best for children is to give them what they ask for--if they ask for attention, then that's what they need. If you read The Continuum Concept you'll find a stark contrast to this school of thought that children should be taught to be "very independent" (i.e. "play on their own") from an early age.

    My feeling is that children will decide when they're ready for more independence in both play and other areas. They will give you cues and communicate it to you. Otherwise, it's best to be as available as possible to play with and also to model for them how to play and interact with others but I think it's not really beneficial to push children to play independently--this is a natural stage children grow into on their own and children are individuals who will show different preferences--including the preference for solitary play.

    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

  7. #7
    genkimom is offline Registered User
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    Feb 2011
    Hong Kong

    I'm just chiming in to agree with what everyone has already said. My son was able to entertain himself for long periods of time from infancy; that's just who he is. My daughter, on the other hand, will play by herself if she thinks others are watching her. As soon as she realizes she's alone or not being paid attention to, she quickly seeks attention. That's just who she is. I love Thanka's advice to "give them what they ask for". It's a really solid idea, especially when they are still just infants or toddlers, to secure that attachment and knowledge that their needs will always be met.

    Also keep in mind that 15 month olds suffer from separation anxiety, which is a very normal developmental stage. Google it, since that may explain part of your child's behavior. It has nothing to do with how you raise your child, it's a cognitive development stage. And pretty good to have when we were living in the forest and there were wild things waiting in the bushes to eat you. You want to be as close to mom and dad as possible. This survival strategy is less necessary in modern times, but our pre-modern brains haven't caught up with our modern reality.

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