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Any tips on how to persuade my 3.5 year old son to play alone or play imaginatively?

(5 Posts)
StarsAreShining Thu 14-Jul-11 10:35:31

I'm aware that there's already a thread on the board with a very similar title, but I wanted to create my own thread as my situation is slightly different.

My son is 3.5, and for the past 18 months - 2 years, I've been trying to encourage him to play imaginatively or play alone. He refuses to do so. I'm becoming more and more stressed out by this, as I'm a single parent, have no real friends and know no other people with children to spend time with. This means I am with him a lot and don't have much support. He's very energetic (we do go out to the park etc), bright and lazy.

I am really at a breaking point now, where I can no longer cope with constant demands to do things with him. I've tried to deal with it for a long time but sometimes feel as though I can't breathe because he's putting so much pressure on me. I can play with him for hours and hours and it's never enough. I've tried setting up games so that he can play alone, setting up a game with the agreement that I leave after five minutes, setting up a game and playing before sneaking away, refusing to play so that he will be forced to play alone and, if I catch him doing it, trying to stay still and quiet so that he will carry on with it. I've also tried many different types of games, so many, many variations of small world play, role play, dressing up with props, not using toys, but using boxes and things (so that he can use his imagination more). I've tried encouraging him to play in his bedroom while I get a job done, but he's whinging for me within minutes and won't even agree to it now. I sometimes kind of wander around the house to get a minute to think, but he just follows me around. None of the things I've tried have worked. I do play with him regularly, but he expects me to lead the games all of the time. He is perfectly capable of leading a game, but would rather have everything done for him. I also created an area where he has a LOT of craft stuff, so his own little corner with a table and a stool. The idea was that he could go over there and do whatever he likes, but he refuses to do that.

I feel like I'm going mad. He goes to pre-school three mornings a week, but as soon as he's out I get non-stop whinging and demands to play with him. He will start nursery in the afternoons in September (afternoons are much better for us because a long stretch of time with him alone is what I really struggle with, so this will break up the day) so that will help, but I have the six week holiday to contend with before that happens.

Does anybody have a child who behaves in a similar way? Any advice? I'm currently considering buying a digitial clock and setting an alarm for half an hour. During that half an hour, he'd play alone in his bedroom. I don't know whether that seems too much like a punishment!

StarsAreShining Thu 14-Jul-11 11:00:18

The very strange thing is that he's very similar to me in that he's not at all clingy, and hates affections/hugs etc. Just won't play alone.

I saw a boy at pre-school the other day. He was pretending to be some sort of superhero, zooming around, picking up pretend props, talking to imaginary characters. My son kind of joined in and followed him around, but kept turning around to me and kind of laughing as though it was very strange and funny. He didn't actually get into the game. I really wish he could do something like that.

StarsAreShining Fri 15-Jul-11 07:50:56

Bump!

Doitnicelyplease Fri 15-Jul-11 21:25:28

It sounds like you are a lovely mum and I think your DS just sees you as his main playmate, so whenever you are around he expects you to play with him. I think you need to withdraw from playing with him so much, just be really firm say 'mummy has to get on with xyz' and leave him to it. Never give into the wingeing.

Playing with him for hours and hours is never going to help, they always want more!

Try to play games that need two people once or twice a day a jigsaw, board game or similar, other toys he should be left to his own devices to use his imagination. Does he have lego, trains, little people, cars etc that he can play with alone?

Also if he wants to spend more time with you then suggest he does things that you want to do or need to get done, get dinner ready, help with laundry, bake a cake then it won't feel like it is all about what he wants all the time.

Other people my disagree but I believe it is very important that DC learn to play happily by themselves, we do them no favours by trying to entertain them constantly. I expect my DD to play by herself, I show interest by asking questions and might join in for a little bit or praise her playing nicely, but then leave her to it, I also try to rotate toys a bit so they stay a bit more fresh and interesting.

Also might be a good idea to make some friends with other children, so you can both have more company and set up a few playdates so the pressure is off you. My DD (2.10) would be impossible if we just hung out the two of us, we try to see friends at least 3 or 4 days a week.

Hope things improve smile

ceebeegeebies Fri 15-Jul-11 21:33:50

I really feel for you as DS1 has always been like this and it is such hard work. He is now 5 and still constantly asks for me or DH to play with him (whatever his chosen game/activity is at that particular time) - it drives us both potty and there are 2 of us so it must be incredibly tiring for you.

DS1 has also never really 'got' pretend play - for example, if I used to pretend one of his cuddly toys was sat at the table and eating his breakfast, he turned to me and said 'it is not real mummy'! DS2, otoh, can often be found pretending to clean, fix things with his hammer etc etc!

But, on the positive side DS1 is a very happy, sociable child who makes friends very easily and just seems to want company at all times - guess not everyone is the same!

No advice but wanted you to know you are not alone.

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