Independent Play Time: Why Your Infant Needs It

Foster skill development through independent and free play time

4 reasons your baby needs time to play alone.

Even the most extroverted people need a little alone time.

I would never have thought that was true until after I had a child, at which point I craved time to myself like I craved air. But building independent play time into your daily schedule isn’t just a benefit to you; it has significant importance in your baby’s development as well.

The first few months of your baby’s life is full of snuggles and face to face interactions. Playing with your baby involves providing external stimuli such as interactive tummy time, dangling a toy within reach so she will reach out and grasp it, shaking a rattle to get her to turn her head toward the noise, and the like.

As you are intentionally playing and building a bond with your little one, you are creating a secure environment for exploration and discovery. But, from an early age, children can begin to play by themselves for short periods of time to learn valuable skills and investigate their world without distractions.

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4 Reasons for Independent Play        

Promotes healthy growth through social stages

The first stage of Erikson’s psychosocial theory, in which your infant develops trust through your affectionate and consistent interactions, begins at birth and continues through the first year. Spending your days lovingly meeting your child’s needs allows their personality to blossom in a secure environment.

As your infant builds trust through your stable, reliable and predictable care, introducing them to independent play time will facilitate growth in Erikson’s second stage, which takes place between 18 months and two to three years. He believes that as a child is allowed to explore and make mistakes, they will develop a sense of control over their physical skills, creating independence and autonomy.

Provides an atmosphere without over-stimulation

As baby is taking in all the sights and sounds of their surroundings, they are using all their senses to absorb information, which makes it easy to get over-stimulated. Giving them a predictable time each day for solo play with a few select toys leads to self-confidence, creativity and problem-solving.

Blanket time and playpen time offers structured environments for independent exploration

On Becoming Babywise introduces “Blanket Time” around five months (before baby is mobile) describing it as “a secluded environment that allows Baby to focus and concentrate apart from distracting sights and sounds in the house.”

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“Playpen Time” is an additional time in your day to give your infant another opportunity for solo play. “It allows him to focus and concentrate on a toy, learn to manipulate it with his hands and discover how it works.” Of course a secluded area doesn’t mean off in a quiet corner of the house, but just out of sight of mom.

Sets the stage for future quiet time

When your child stops napping on a regular basis, you are going to want an established time in your day where you can get things done in an uninterrupted manner. I was insistent on having a quiet time when my 2½ year-old stopped napping, but it would have gone a lot smoother if I had it built in from the time she was tiny.

As you think about structuring your day in such a way that meets both your baby’s needs and your own, consider setting aside time for your baby to play independently.

Start small and increase the length of independent time as your baby grows.  You will give her opportunities to develop essential life skills and, at the same time, give you a chance to breathe and complete necessary tasks around the house.

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Annie Wiesman

Annie Wiesman

Annie Wiesman is the co-author of “Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten.” She is a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom who enjoys traveling, hiking in the mountains, and creating memories together with her husband and little girl.

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