Posts Tagged ‘toddlerwise’

What is Free Play?

Free Play “refers to planned and impromptu times when baby, pretoddler, and toddler plays with his or toys at a place center.” A play center is a “small, safe area containing a basket or bin of age-appropriate toys that he can go to and choose what he wants to play with (pre-toddlerwise p.155) You can have play centers in different areas of your house- the kitchen, living room, play room, and even your bathroom. That way if you ever need to be in a room, your child can easily have free play in that room with you. Free Play is called free play because the child choose the toys that he/she wants to play with rather than the parent choosing (like during structured play time).  You need to supervise their play time, you just don’t want to interfere with their play choices. This is also a time to allow them to play on their own. During this time they learn to play and use problem-solving techniques, but only if you don’t interfere in their play. If you notice your child having trouble with a particular toy, let them try to figure it out on their own for a while before you jump in to help.

How Many toys should I allow my child to have during Free Play?

According to the -wise series, you should have designated play centers that contain toys for your child to choose from. I would only allow 4-5 toys in this learning center at a time. For instance, for a 15 month old boy, I might include- a few books, a few cars, an interactive lights/ sounds toy, and some toy blocks. A 10 month old might have, a teething toy, some books, light/ sounds toy, and some stuffed animals. An older toddler girl might have, a purse with some items inside, books, one light/sounds toy, and some play food. I have found that if you have too many toys, it overwhelms the child and they have more difficult sustaining their attention during play time. I don’t have a play center in my play room. When my son has free play in his play room, I just take down a few toys for him to play with at a time. I certainly do not take out all of his toys. I use to have all his toys on the ground at his disposable, but this was a terrible decision. His attention span for each toy was very short and he would easily grow bored and need assistance during play. Once I limited the amount of toys he could play with during free play, he played with each toy longer and he would play happily by himself for longer stretches without needing my assistance.

How long should free play last?

Good question. I think this depends on the child. You want to keep free play from being too long. If it is too long, you will notice your child starting to become more clingy to you, start developing some behavioral issues, or plays with his toys improperly. The key is keeping the length just long enough before they get to that point. I have found that between 15-30 minutes is a good amount of time for free play for older babies (5-12 months), 30 minutes of free play to be a good time amount for pre-toddlers (12-18 months), and for older toddlers (<18 months), 30 minutes- 1 hours is a good time amount. Just watch your child for signs that free play should end.

When should I do free play? How often should I do free play?

Again this all depends on your child. I think a general rule of thumb is to allow them to have free play when they are well rested and well feed, which will prevent behavioral problems during free play. For my son I find the best time to do free play is right after he wakes up in the morning, after his afternoon nap, and after he has been outside for a walk or outside to play. You can do free play as often as your schedule needs. I have two free play times schedule into my son’s current schedule. I like to have a morning free play and an afternoon free play. Here is his schedule at 15 months old:

7:00-8:00 Wake Up & Play in Crib
8:00- 8:30 Free Play

8:30-9:00 DVD/ TV
9:00-9:30 Breakfast
9:30-9:45 Potty
9:45- 10:45 Independent Play (Roomtime)
10:45-11:30 Bath & Get Dressed for Day
11:30-12:15 Unstructured Time (run errands/ play outside/ or additional free play if bad weather)
12:15-12:45 Lunch
12:45-1:00 Potty & Quite Time before Nap
1:00-3:45 Nap
3:45-4:15 Structured Play & Snack
4:15- 4:45 Blanket Time
4:45-5:15 Walk Outside
5:15-5:45 Free Play
5:45-6/6:30 Independent Play (Roomtime)
6/6:30 Dinner
6:30/7 Family Play Time
7:45 Bedtime Routine
8:00 Bedtime

What if my child is clingy and will not play on his own during Free Play?

Just redirect your child when he/she comes up to you and demands your attention. I would take him back to his play center or area he is suppose to be playing and say, ” (name), no, it is play time, stay here.” or “(name), no, mommy is busy, play with your (name a specific toy).” You might even show him how to start playing with a specific toy and then leave the room. I would just keep redirecting him and redirecting him back to his play area and toys. When free play is over, even if you have redirected him like 20 times, make sure to praise him for playing on his own in his playroom. Remember that children go through stages of separation anxiety, and if they are having trouble playing on their own, it may only be a short lived phase. Try not be a helicopter parents, allow your child to figure things out for their own- this will assist his independence and ability to play on his own.

Benefits of Free Play for the Parent

Free play is a great time where I can get things done around the house. My son’s play room is right next to the kitchen so I am usually preparing a meal or cleaning up the kitchen. I also use my kitchen to do my sewing and check email and blog on my computer. I can keep an eye on my son and he is also not too far away that he feels isolated. My son often walks between the kitchen and the playroom. That is okay with. If he tends to linger to long, I will redirect him back to his play room and toys like I mentioned above. If I have to be in another room of the house, I usually take a small tub of toys with me that contain a few toys. I use this portable tub when I am putting clothes away in my room, cleaning another room, or just getting ready in that bathroom. Cooper will happily play with his tub of toys and I can get things done without a toddler clinging to my leg. Just make sure the tub of toys are interesting to your child and rotate them often to keep them from getting boring.

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It seems that taking care of Cooper got pretty difficult from about 9-12 months. This is really mostly my fault. I lacked structure to our day. Other than I knew what time he was suppose to eat and sleep, the rest of the day was a free-for-all. I had all his toys in random boxes and bins on the floor in his playroom. He could basically grab any toy he wanted to play with at any point. The result from my lack of structure in his day and his toys laying around at his disposal- a clingy child who did not know how to self-play or entertain himself for long. He also lacked discipline because I was not trying to create boundaries and guidelines to his day.

When Cooper was a baby, I had done Babywise with him to train him to sleep through the night. He slept through the night, 7-8 hours stretch, from about 9 weeks old. He slowly increase his sleep. By the time he was 5 months old he was sleeping 10 hours at night and by 6 months old he was sleeping 12 hours at night. He had regular nap times and things ran smoothly. Thank you Babywise! Babywise is a book meant for parents of infants 0-5 months old. Then the next book in the series is Babywise II. I bought the book and read it, but decided that I really did not need to implement all the things that the book suggested. One of the recommendations was that you put your 5-15 months old in a pack n play daily for a short period of time with a few toys. This structured time was suppose to teach a child how to play on his own and to develop mental focus since there are not a lot of toys. However, I decided not to follow this recommendation, because Cooper hated to be in his play pen or pack n play. Man did I pay the price for this later!

So anyways, I found myself with a cranky, clingy, can’t play by himself, undisciplined child and it was about to be the end of me. I decided that perhaps I should revisit Babywise II (5-15 month olds) and buy the next couple of books in the series, Pre-Toddlerwise (12-18 months), and Toddlerwise (14 months through 3 years-old). I also stumbled into a group on http://www.babycenter.com for mom’s who are currently implementing the babywise and other wise programs with their children. Between the books and the group I joined on babycenter.com, I have learned so much about how to structure Cooper’s day and disciplining him. Cooper is doing such a better job playing independently, he minds Chris and I much better now, he does not cling to me as much, and he seems to be in a better mood and happier!

Thoughts on discipline:

Before I reread Babywise II and picked up Pre-Toddler Wise. My main form of discipline was telling him “no.” If that did not work, I usually would look him in the eyes and gentle squeeze his hand to get his attention (not to the point of pain). The gentle hand squeeze did come from babywise. If that form of correction did not work, we did time out in his mini-pack n play for 30 sec to a minute. That would usually do the trick. I will say, even with all of those strategies in place, my discipline was still not working effectively. The problem was with saying, “no” over and over again. After reading through Pre-Toddlerwise and Toddlerwise, they speak about first time obedience. I am not going to get into that topic to much, but I will say that if Cooper does not respond after the first no, and I give him time to comply, then he get a brief time out. This quick and easy discipline strategy has saved me and Chris from saying, no over and over. He will 70% of the time obey us with the first no. He knows that certain things are off limits in our house too, such as the tv buttons, the stairs, and outlet plugs. He is usually good about not touching them! This is saving me a lot of piece of mind so I don’t feel like I am running around disciplining him all day long.

Thoughts on Structure:

As I mentioned earlier in this post, the only part of my schedule that I had down was the time Cooper ate and slept, the rest was free and open to whatever happened. The lack of structure created many discipline problems because he was allowed to roam around the house too much, and touch too many things. Pre-toddler and Toddlerwise would call this- allowing your child too many freedoms. I also had way too many toys out which was over simulating and he was not able to concentrate and just play with one toy. After reading the three -wise books, I made some adjustments. The first was, get all the toys off the floor and into bins. I only allow Cooper to play with a select few toys at a time. I also rotate the toys he is allowed to play with so he does not easily get board with his toys. The next thing I did was structure his day better. To fill in the times between eating and sleeping, I created the following activities: independent playtime, outdoor playtime/ walks, blanket time, table time (which is done in his highchair), TV time, story time, structured play/ learning time, family play time, free play time, bath time, and time to run errands. I have been following this schedule for about a month now, maybe a little longer, and it is great! Keeps Cooper from getting board, keeps me from going nuts trying to entertain him all day long, and has taught Cooper how to self-play and respect boundaries.

The two actives I cannot live without:

Independent play time and blanket time have been a wonderful addition to our schedule and have helped Cooper learn to self-play, develop better mental focus, and respect boundaries and my authority. Cooper plays in his playard every morning for an hour, I select the toys he plays with and rotate them so he is not bored every day. For the first week he cried a lot during independent play time. The crying slowly decrease and I am happy to report that this is the first week where I can put him in the playard and he happily starts to play with his toys! I think he even looks forward to this time. Blanket time I have only been doing for two weeks, but I think it is great! Cooper is told stay on a blanket that is no bigger than 3×4 and I give him very few toys. He started with 10 minutes of play and now we are up to 20 minutes of play on the blanket. It only took 2 days of me picking him up and telling him to stay on the blanket for him to stay put. He cried for about a week, but now no more tears and just play! I went to a restaurant last week and sat him on the ground while I was paying the check. I told him to stay put and Cooper did not move for 5 minutes. It was a very crowded restaurant with lots of temptations to allure Cooper, but he was able to resist them and obey me. I owe this to blanket time.

Final Thoughts:

I am glad I decided to crack down on discipline and structure his day! With twins on the way, I wanted to make sure that Cooper was a happy, compliant child. I did not want to chase Cooper around or having him cling to me throughout the day while I was busy with the twins at various points. I am able to get more done around the house such as laundry, cleaning, and kitchen stuff now because I do not have Cooper constantly clinging to my pant legs and wining or me running after him telling him “no” all the time! So thank you to the -wise series. You have saved my sanity and helped Cooper to be a happier child!

(0-5 months)
Babywise II (5-15 months)
Pre-Toddlerwise (12-18 months)
Toddlerwise (14 months – 3 years)

Related Posts that may be of interest:
Structuring Your Toddler’s Day

Blanket Time
Independent Play Time
Free Play Time

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What is Blanket Time?

Blanket time is an allotted amount of time in the day when you instruct your child to remain on a small blanket (3×3 or 4×4) and play with a select few toys that you have chosen for him/ her to play with. Blanket time can be started as early as you want with your infant and continued into toddlerhood.

What is the purpose of Blanket Time?

“Blanket time provides an opportunity to teach a child to play in a limited area without a physical parameter.” (pre-toddlerwise p.142) It also teaches “sitting skills or what we call parameter skills (the ability to stay put within a boundary).” (Toddlerwise p. 45) This skill comes in handy when you need your child to obey you and stay put. For instance if you are in the kitchen and you need to open the oven, you would want you child to stay away from the oven. You could tell you child to sit and remain still until you allow him or her to get up. Or perhaps you are out in public and you need your child to stay in one spot for a short period of time, that is when this skill really comes in handy. Ultimately, blanket time teaches your child at a young age to obey you. Blanket time also helps with mental focus by only allowing them a few toys that they must play with while on the blanket.

How long should blanket time last?

Start with 3-5 minutes once a day. Once your child demonstrates he can stay on the blanket and play without fussing or crawling or walking off, you can slowly increase the time up to 30 minutes a day. Use a timer to set a designated time. The loud noise of the time going off will signal to your child that blanket time is over.

What if he crawls or walks off the blanket?

The first couple of times he does blanket time, you will want to remain close to him. When he does move off the blanket, quickly return him to the blanket and give clear instructions to stay put and play with his toys. I typically say to Cooper, “Cooper, it is blanket time, we stay on the blanket.” I then direct him toward a toy on the blanket.

How many toys should I place on the blanket?

Just a few toys is enough. Remember your blanket is not that large. I have been placing 2-3 small board books, one lights/sounds toys, 2 toy cars, and one other small manipulative toy.  Keep these toys special and do not allow your child to play with them frequently during the day. The novelty of the toys will help them to remain on the blanket. You might want to have 3-4 small bins of toys that you rotate especially for blanket time so that your child does not tier of the toys.

Make them help you clean up!

When the timer goes off and blanket time is over, make sure to praise their efforts for staying on the blanket. Then ask them to help you clean up. I usually say, “It is clean up time.” Young children will obviously not clean everything up on their own, but you can assist them and teach them how to clean up. My son is 13 months old and I expect him to help put away just a few toys into the bin when we are done. For instance, he has some toy food. He will usually help put away 3-4 pieces of the toys food. As they get older, you might have high expectations for how they clean up. Make sure you give your child clean directions as to what you want cleaned up. For instance, if there are cars on the blanket, you could tell you child, “Mark, put your cars in the bin.”

Where should blanket time be done?

Vary the locations of blanket time in your home. One day do it in the kitchen. Another day try your bedroom. The idea is for you child to be able to transfer this sitting still skill to many different situations and locations. If it is a nice day, try doing it outside. You could even try taking your child to the library with the blanket and a few toys and doing blanket time there.

Travel with a blanket and special toys!

You never know when you might need your child to sit in one area for a short duration of time. You might go to a soccer game for one of your older children, and want your younger child to not wonder. Try keeping a bag with a blanket and some special toys. Then in case you should ever need to do an impromptu blanket time, you would have all the materials!

My personal experience with my son

My son is 13 months old. I have only been doing blanket time with him for a week (we started late). But in a weeks time, he is able to stay on his blanket without fussing for about 10 minutes. I have not had to correct him for crawling off the blanket in a few days too. I see how is mental focus is increasing as he is able to play with one specific toy for a longer period of time. He is also learning to mind and obey me rather well. This past weekend, I was out to lunch in a crowded restaurant. I went up front to pay and sat my son on the ground and told him to stay put, he did not move for 5 minutes. He looked around at all the people, but never once moved. I really think that blanket time has helped him to remain still and obey my commands!

Toy Recommendations for Blanket Time
10-12 Months Old

Resource: Pre-toddlerwise p. 141- 143

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