Are you one of those parents who feels guilty when your one-year-old sits on the floor and does nothing more than stares at the wall? Before you jump to conclusions and feel the need to actively engage with him, pause and read on…
This is when children usually start observing and exploring their immediate environment. It is the beginning of being independent. This strengthens their self-esteem, which is a pre-requisite for success in school life.
Once the child is three to four months old, you must let him think up ways of busying himself.
Here are some guidelines that will help you decide when to play with your child and when to leave him alone.
Six Important Rules
Rule # 1: Just let him be. If your child is just ‘busy’, do not interfere. This is true for both older children and babies. Most babies wake up quietly in their bed and start playing with their hands and mutter to themselves. These moments, where the child is self-sufficient, are the beginnings of independence.
Tip: Extend this period of self-absorption by placing, say, a colorful rattle, a small mirror, bell or soft toys in your baby’s crib to give him something to play with.
Rule # 2: Create an exciting environment. For instance, if your baby is in a blanket, put his toys within reach. Crawling children need a safe and attractive environment. For protection, strap soft pads to your baby’s elbows and knees as he learns to climb.
Tip: Offer toys only if your child is not playing alone.
Rule # 3: Let your child find his own rhythm. This helps if he is on his own on a regular basis. Provide a calm atmosphere, without distractions in the background such as the television or radio.
Tip: If your child does not like to play alone, play parallel to him to encourage him.
Rule # 4: Let him wander around while playing solo and leave him alone in the room for a few minutes. Choose a moment when the child is fascinated by something and then leave the room. Gradually, extend your absence.
Tip: Make an excuse and leave the room. You may want to tell him before you leave and maintain voice contact. When he gets used to being alone, remain absent for longer periods of time.
Rule # 5: There are always situations when your child needs help. Intervene only during this time. Also, don’t rush to offer help. Instead, wait for a moment or two. Sometimes, your child will figure it out on his own.
Tip: Sometimes even a little support, such as the question: ‘What could you do with the ball?’ might encourage your child to continue playing on his own.
Rule # 6: Never expect too much. All children can learn to play alone. But for how long, depends on the child. It is normal for children under a year to busy themselves for five to ten minutes, and between one and three years for 15 to 30 minutes.
Tip: Use the time to relax and put up your feet!