Independent Playtime

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Lately, every time I go to pick up Hudson from the nursery I find him off in a corner, playing alone with toys while the other children are all corralled in the same area or being rocked by one of the workers.This is not to say that my child isn’t social or that he is being neglected by the women. Neither of these things could be farther from the truth. But, I am noticing his levels of independence growing more and more each week.

It’s funny to me, because I specifically remember googling “help! my child is too needy” (or something to that effect) a month ago. Every single time I am near him he has to be in my lap with one hand down my shirt and the other with a firmly placed thumb in his mouth. Well, you may not be surprised that my Google search only confirmed my common sense suspicion that one year olds are just needy. Surprise!

What I did find that was the most helpful were a couple of tricks to reduce the levels of neediness, since putting the kibosh on it all together is just impossible. And to my surprise the thing that worked best for us… was just giving into it. It never occurred to me that after two hours of cuddling when he senses me getting restless and wanting alone time it just makes him crave my attention more. Duh, Brittany! Everyone wants what they can’t have. Especially toddlers.

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So what do I do now?

1. Get Down on His Level: When he comes to me begging to be picked up, instead of just giving in, I kneel or sit down and let him crawl in my lap. We cuddle for a few minutes. Sometimes seconds, before he is distracted and on to something new. However, if I had picked him up. And held him for a few minutes then put him down, he would get upset as soon as his feet touched the floor. Because I was the one making the decision that cuddle time was over.

2. Showing Him How to Play: Obvious. Hudson is obsessed with his mom, so naturally he wants to do everything I do, right? If I initiate an activity he will usually jump right in and in a few seconds he’s in his own world.

3. Limit Toys/Activities: We have what feels like a million baby toys. (Most of which I plan on purging very soon.) But, I find that If I place him on the floor with only one toy, he will focus on that one toy for much longer than when I just let him run lose in his play room. And without the distraction of the other million toys he gets to work on that focus and determination that will only help with his ability to play independently.

4. Acknowledge his need for my involvement: We’ve all pretended to be super interested/impressed with a disgusting rock that our child has found and wants to share with us. Often when Hudson is playing alone he will come up to me to present whatever he is playing with. I will take it. Marvel at it. And then ask him if he would like it back. And he always takes it back and returns to playing on his own. I suppose this just goes back to giving into his need for attention. The more confident he is in knowing that I am there for him when he needs me, the more confident he is to strike out on his own a bit.

5….But Don’t always jump in to save the day: Lastly, I don’t run to his aid every time he gets frustrated. Hudson is a determined baby. And when he doesn’t understand why something will not work, he gets mad. But I always try to give him a few minutes to figure it out on his own. Honestly, one of the most common things that he whines about is when he is trying to pick up a towel or something that he happens to be sitting on the other end of. He doesn’t yet grasp that he need only move his cute little tush in order to fix the problem. And when this happens, I either let him work through it on his own or only help in the most minimal way, no matter how frustrated he gets.

From my perspective all of these things have helped to promote Hudson’s independence. Sure, I am no doctor. Nor am I an expert in childhood development… But, I know that I personally like to hear tips from the mouth of other mothers. So I hope hearing our experience can be somewhat helpful for another mom out there.

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Finally, I think the most important thing to remember is that, Independence in a child is gradual. And some days the only thing they will want on this earth is for their loving mother to carry them around for hours. Even when they are breaking our backs and straining our arms. And possibly yanking on our hair like it’s the funniest thing on earth. For this, I also say, just give into it. And imagine a day 15 years from now when that chubby little baby is asking you to drop him off a block from the movie theater because he’s embarrassed.

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