Independent play. I knew in the back of my mind that it was important, but it never happened for us with Leela. Partly because we moved to India and now there is always a nanny around. Plus, we had baby Rumi, so I felt it was important for there always to be an adult supervising them, watching out for choking hazards for her little sister.
I read articles like this – Help! My Toddler Can’t Play Without Me. I knew in my gut she was missing out on the independence and peace and creativity that comes from playing quietly in a room. Especially during her school week, she’s around kids and teachers for 6 hours at school, and I feel she should have some quiet time at home. But I just didn’t know how or when to make it happen and never made it a priority. Until now!
Now Leela is 3.5 years old and she has dropped her nap.
So the turning point was that Karan and I read Bringing up Bebe, and there’s a lot of emphasis in that book on raising independent kids. Kids in France learn how to bake a cake by age 3 or 4. They take school holidays (without parents) from age 4 or 5. And parents have more boundaries — evening is clearly for “adult time” and kids know that and sleep well.
We were struck after reading the book that we have to foster more independence for Leela and she should be able to play in her room for half an hour by herself.
One weekend we tried it out. On both Saturday and Sunday morning, Karan took the girls to the park. They came home exhausted, and Rumi takes a morning nap still. So Rumi went for morning nap and Leela went for Quiet Time. We told her this:
“You can do anything you want in your room. I will set the alarm for 20 minutes. When it goes off, you can come to my room and get me.”
Then we shut the door about halfway, kept the lights on so it wasn’t like a nap, and left.
On Saturday, she played a little and then curled up in bed to rest.
On Sunday, she fussed a little, then I heard her reading a book out loud to herself. She told me, “I only said ‘Mama Mama’ for a little bit, then I read a book and then I did matching game.” She was HAPPY. The house was peaceful. She’s building autonomy.
On the first Saturday, I set the alarm for 20 minutes only, and on Sunday I set it for 30 minutes.
Maybe this seems obvious to you, but it feels very ground-breaking for us!!
Happy independent play!