It’s almost as if a revolution is starting.
There are several articles going around the web these days about introverted mothers. You likely saw them on Quitrev and Scary Mommy. And all of a sudden, every single in introverted mom on the planet is out of the closet to affirm, “Yes, I need alone time to recharge and feel happy as a person.” By the time you read this post, those articles will probably far surpass a bazillion likes on Facebook.It’s pretty exciting actually. I am one of those introverted mothers championing those posts, giving them each a like, comment and share. I can’t help it. The articles describe me perfectly.
I really appreciate downtime each and every day. Without it I start to get moody, irritable and turn into a very emotionally tired mom. Knowing this, I searched high and low to discover a useful tool to keep a bit of downtime within my stay-at-home mom schedule.
The secret introverted mom tool.
It’s odd that none of the articles every mentions this idea. At all. Not once. Beyond odd, I would say it’s also shocking because this secret tool is an amazing way for the introverted mother to actually fulfill her need for downtime, while nurturing a valuable skill within her kids simultaneously.
One of the best ways you can achieve down time each day is to teach your kids how to play independently.
And without interruption for up to 1 hour.
I’m not talking about setting up a little play area for your kids in the same room as you. I’m talking about kids playing in separate rooms for a specified amount of time each day, every day.
The best part?
You can teach kids to play alone starting at birth and you can continue nurturing this skill all the way through the school-aged years.
Here’s how to get started with structured daily independent play.
I’m not claiming this is the easy part, but if you are consistent enough, it really is awesome to have your kids play for approximately 1 hour at the exact time each day. It’s an amazing way to get things done and to get a recharge if you need it!
1. Make a room or area completely kid safe.
For babies, this is usually a baby gymini, jumperoo or play pen and somewhere in the home that is simply out of sight and sound from others. When my son was under a year old, I made it easy to check on him without him seeing me.
For toddlers, this is usually either a play pen or safe room with the dresser bolted to the wall, electrical cords and outlets covered or put away, and toys that present a choking hazard removed, etc.
For kids older than toddler age, this is usually any kid safe room in the house.
2. Determine a goal amount of time (age-appropriate) for daily independent play.
I always use this chart as a guide for myself when setting goals for independent play. The idea is to work towards the goal over a period of time, while responding to the needs of your child.
3. Pick a set time to start independent play each day.
One of the best keys to success is to do structured independent play at the exact same time each day. Developing a short routine leading up to play time and keeping it consistent will help immensely with cooperation over time. My toddler literally asks for playtime each day. He enjoys picking out the toys that he will play with, and he rarely makes a fuss until time is up.
4. Talk to your child about playing alone (if age-applicable).
Since most kids age toddler and above don’t appreciate change, walking and talking your child through how independent play will actually work can help a bit. Any explanation you think will work well is perfect.
5. Put your child in their safe area and set the timer.
Set the timer for 5 minutes when just getting started. He might scream the whole time so 5 minutes for the first day is pretty realistic. I usually stay right outside the room, in the first few days of getting started, and get my child after 5 minutes if he is too upset. We go through the same routine each day and try to extend out by 5 minutes each day until we reach our goal of 1 hour per day in the morning.
There have been a few times where we stopped independent play in the past and had to get back into it. We started with the 5 minutes, but if he was doing great and was willing to do 15 minutes, we allowed him to take the lead with it.
The purpose of the timer is not to meant be ridged and stringent, but rather to offer your child a helpful cue to understand when playtime is over.
Awesome benefits for kids.
Independent play is great because it give kids the opportunity to problem solve with toys on their own. If a toy is frustrating or doesn’t work the way they want, kids still need to figure out a way to solve the problem without help.
It’s also great for creativity. Kids are learning to play with a set amount of toys for up to an hour and this encourages them to play with toys in creative ways.
Focusing skills also develop during independent play. Kids learn to focus on a set of toys for a given amount of time without moving from task to task. And of course, it’s a great way to foster independence.
All four of these things—problem solving, creativity, focusing skills and independence—are really helpful for kids to learn in childhood and are easily applied all the way through adulthood.
It’s also a great alternative to using electronic devices to entertain kids. I’m definitely not opposed to screen time and it’s something my son is exposed to everyday, but independent play is a great balance to that.
A happier home.
It really is awesome to see introverted moms come together, sharing that we all crave and need a little recharge each day. I think often times introverted moms feel guilty and selfish for wanting that small amount of time.
But I’ve learned something over the past couple of years…
Taking the time each day makes me a better mom. I’m more attentive, more patient, and more loving. When I take a small amount of time to invest in myself, I am able to give so much more. Plus, you are teaching your kids a valuable life skill by simply offering a structured time to play alone.
And that is a skill they will use all the way through early adulthood and beyond.
For more about establishing great routines, rhythms, and schedules in your home, be sure to check out Lauren’s new book!
Lauren Tamm is a military wife, stay-at-home mom, and author of the blog The Military Wife and Mom. She spends her days sneaking pieces of chocolate while chasing around a rambunctious toddler. Connect with her on Facebook or Pinterest!