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To expect my 3 year old to just play??

(25 Posts)
Mummabearof2 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:10:39

My 3.5 year old just will not play by himself. In the 3 hours we have both been home since preschool/work, we have played table football, had treasure hunts, played with paw patrol figures and played with his 10month old sister's toys. All of this has been together. The rest of the time has been spent trying to persuade him to play by himself or carry on the game on his own so I can do chores. When I tried to settle his sister for a nap he waited on the stairs for me and repeatedly asked if she was asleep yet hmm

Now I appreciate that having been at preschool this morning he would want time with me and I made time to play what he wanted. But I can't even put the washing on without him moaning that he wants me to play. So what do other people's children do during the day? Am I unreasonable to expect him to just go and play by himself at some point?!

P.s. am currently writing this hiding in the dark on the stairs grin

DailyFail1 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:23:11

My sister upped my neice's nursery hours so she was there for whole days instead of half days. & it seemed to reduce her clinginess.

Trifleorbust Wed 04-Jan-17 16:25:23

It's a vicious circle; by playing all those games with him when you do have time, you are consolidating the idea that playing is something he can only do with mummy. I think you need to withdraw temporarily and almost force him to find ways to entertain himself.

Cinnamon2013 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:29:12

I have kids with the same age gap. The same often happens but occasionally he'll take himself off to play independently. I find the only way to get chores done is to involve him in an aspect of them - so he can sort the lights/darks, or put away cutlery etc. The baby needs to be occupied but if she is then it does allow me to get on with stuff and he feels included/proud.

MollyHuaCha Wed 04-Jan-17 16:30:16

Mummabear, sounds like you are doing an amazing job, not resorting to the free babysitters (TV, iPad and phone). I think your DS finds yr company stimulating. If you were boring he wdn't want you to play. You are a victim of yr own success! 😁

Cinnamon2013 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:30:58

I agree with Trifle that maybe you are too fun! It does sounds like a good afternoon for him, I wouldn't be wanting to do anything different...I often bore my son into playing on his own

gandalf456 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:35:34

My Dd was like this. She is 12 now and still has a tendency to follow me around. Ds will happily play alone. It is first borns

nocutsnobuttsnococonuts Wed 04-Jan-17 16:37:48

I agree he needs to be left to entertain himself, when my dds were that age I would ask what she wanted out before I started doing jobs. Sometimes she would follow me around but more often than not she realised how boring that was and would preoccupy herself.

Sometimes I would put the tv on if she was in the lounge or an audio book/the radio if she was upstairs so there was some background noise smile

I would also be ruthless with toys - a big box of random toys can be daunting when told "to play" ours are sorted into boxes of similar things and not excessive amounts of each thing. I also rotate things so not everything out at once.

Busy books are by far the most popular toy she's had since 3 (8 year old still plays with them) its a book with 12 little figures and a playmat. They come in lots of characters - her current favourites at 4 are paw patrol and trolls, but they have around 15 between them! Amazing value at £5 in most places and great to take to families or friends houses if they don't have toys!!

Servicesupportforall Wed 04-Jan-17 16:40:09

With all of mine we had play with mummy time and then other time so could you allocate half hour to play with him and then he understands that after that he has to play by himself.

CheshireChat Wed 04-Jan-17 16:42:51

Sometimes when I try to play with DS he gives a big sigh and moves away. He's only 2!

I think at 3 he should be able to play on his own at times.

Not really a firstborn thing...

Tfoot75 Wed 04-Jan-17 16:45:44

My 3.5yo is similar but she does play alone unprompted now which is a fairly recent development, just not to order. However her version of me playing with her is often just me sitting on the floor near her game as if I try and do anything she needs the figure or doll that I'm playing with! I find it helps to be prescriptive with something she can do, e.g. Instead of go and play with your kitchen, why don't you make lunch in your kitchen and hold a tea party for your dolls is more likely to capture her imagination, or asking her to build something specific with her blocks or dress up a doll as a specific character. She'll end up doing something different but the idea makes her interested enough to run off and get absorbed in her own game.

hiccupgirl Wed 04-Jan-17 17:36:40

Unfortunately I think a lot of it is personality and then being the oldest or an only.

My DS is 7 and still struggles to play on his own. He will and he can but only if I point blank refuse and tell him to go away. He has always been like this but has been a bit better since he turned 5.

His friend who is also an only is fantastic at going off and doing things on his own and has always been far more independent.

NoncommittalToSparkleMotion Wed 04-Jan-17 18:25:57

This is my DD. I highly recommend playing Disinterested Cat.

You're the cat. Meow a few times then curl up into a ball and sleep. Hiss whenever child tries to wake you.

You're welcome grin

Couldashouldawoulda Wed 04-Jan-17 18:48:52

My 3.5yo plays by himself, always has, but I'm rubbish at playing and don't really do it apart from reading and baking. You're being far too much fun! Providing non-stop entertainment is a job for visiting grandparents IMHO! :-)

Seeingadistance Wed 04-Jan-17 19:11:54

Have you considered introducing him to an imaginary friend? They're great! My son's now 15 and recently I was reminiscing about how I used to send him off to play Connect 4 with "Henry". DS said, "of course, I must have always won". "Nope!", says I. "Henry was much better at Connect 4 than you were, but you spent many happy for me hours trying to beat him."

Mummabearof2 Wed 04-Jan-17 19:25:54

Thanks all, I'm relieved that he should be making some effort to play on his own at least and that I'm not a horrendous mum for wanting him to just leave me alone be independent. Sounds like I need to kick the old mummy guilt after he has asked me 20 times to build a marble run and be more firm.

I am liking the idea of playing cat grin and giving him an imaginary friend. At least then the joy of playing snakes and ladders for the 50th time that day can be shared!

AppleMagic Wed 04-Jan-17 19:33:25

I don't think it's a first born thing. My dc2 (3) is used to being ordered around by playing with his big sister (5). When she is at school he is A LOT more demanding of my attention.

DarkestBeforeDawn Wed 04-Jan-17 19:44:28

I have 4 yr old twins who are exactly the same - and they have each other to play with! We have recently introduced an egg timer (you can get ones that range from 5-60mins) and the rule is that they have to play on their own without me until the timer runs out! It took some getting used to but I stayed firm and now I can use it a few times a day whenever I need a break!

Lazyafternoon Wed 04-Jan-17 19:45:33

My 3 year old DS can be very demanding and wanting me to play with him and I will play with him for a bit. But if I've got stuff to do I will give him something to do that I can supervise from the kitchen or while doing what I'm doing. So ask him to make me some toast in his play kitchen, put all the green magnets on the fridge, give him a box to colour, that sort of thing. Or just get him to help! If doing the laundry he helps put the clothes in the machine & press the start button. If hanging up washing on an airer he passes things to me. If cooking he has a bowl of flour to mix etc. If I have emails to read and send he sits with me on the tablet playing CBeebies games.
Sometimes he gets bored of 'helping' and wanders off to do his own thing. If he windges and grumbles I try and tell him my hands are busy and when he's built a tower and I've finished ill come and play. Doesn't always work, but best I've managed!

Blossomdeary Wed 04-Jan-17 19:58:31

I do think that children should spend some of their time helping (within their own limits) with normal household activities - sorting laundry, emptying the washing machine, laying the table, scrubbing potatoes, making beds, tidying etc. etc. I always found that this happily kept them occupied and do the same with my GC - they like it. And it is good for them to realise that meals etc. do not appear from nowhere and that their entire day is not about being entertained. I do this with my GC from the age of about 2 and they think it is a great lark. You have to be prepared for a reduction in efficiency and speed!

Now is the time to start or he will simply expect to be entertained at every moment of the day.

Set times of day when you will play with him - "We will play X game when the washing is done." "I am looking forward to playing X with you when we have had our lunch and cleared it away."

There is something to be said for having some sort of plan for the day, and telling the child what it is, so that they know that time to play with you is built in and they know when it will happen. They then feel that they do not need to nag and whine for it all the time.

Children are very different in their ability to amuse themselves - one f my DGDs lives in a permanent fantasy land and can make a game out of anything anywhere! But others are different and need more ideas to be injected.

If he feels that he is part of the things that stop you "playing" with him, then it may help. Helping you is playing with you for him.

Time will change things - soon he will be totally embarrassed at the idea of being near you - enjoy this while you may!!

SnugglySnerd Wed 04-Jan-17 20:04:18

I have found that DD is often happy playing alone if she is in the same room as me so if I'm cleaning the kitchen she will play with play dough or draw at the kitchen table. If I'm putting washing away upstairs she will try on all my shoes etc. It's a good compromise!

1lov3comps Wed 04-Jan-17 20:08:55

Like Gandalf, my DD (now 8) was and still is like that to a degree. It was so wearing when she was 2/3 and wanted to play endless mind-numbing pretend games but not so bad now because we can play proper board games, do Lego together or I've taught her a few card games. Has never ever played in her room herself whereas DS (2.5) entertains himself for ages all the time. Think it just depends on the child...

rollmeover Wed 04-Jan-17 20:15:00

My DD was like this - she got better when she got a baby brother to play with and got a bit older! I have set times when they know I am not "available" e.g. At dinner time they have to be out the kitchen (open plan to living room) when I am preparing tea. They have to find something to play with and not disturb me (so I can Facebook/mumsnet/put fish fingers in oven).
It's good for them to play independently. If I have done a hundred jigsaws by lunchtime/been to the park/done colouring/built a den then they can bloody well play on their own for bit!

Ohyesiam Wed 04-Jan-17 20:49:25

I think many people find this, which I'd why kids watch so much TV.

Paddingtonthebear Wed 04-Jan-17 20:56:05

You need to leave them to learn how to play by themselves. Our 4yo DD is an "only" child and is good at entertaining herself and has been able to do so for the last year I would say. I do things with her too obviously but she is expected to do her own thing for some parts of the day.

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