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How do you teach your toddler to play on his own?

(25 Posts)
madamegazelleslover Mon 30-Dec-13 08:57:29

We are really struggling with the demands of a toddler boy (3 years) who won't play on his own. We try setting him up with things he can do, telling him we have things of our own to do, and leaving him to it but two minutes later he'll be at our side, demanding we play with him.

He goes to nursery twice a week. I have lots of friends with kids so we are social. We do things I know he likes - like being active and outside.

But he simply won't spend more than a few minutes on his own with a toy.

It's frustrating and quite exhausting.

Any suggestions?

HappTeeNewYear Mon 30-Dec-13 08:58:54

Be firm. Mummy has things to do, go play with your toys.

And repeat.

Pinkspottyegg Mon 30-Dec-13 09:04:14

And repeat. Stick with it otherwise you'll be his source of entertainment for the future

AwfulMaureen Mon 30-Dec-13 11:03:27

That's right...if he knows that constant demands will wear you down, he will keep doing it. Just continue with your business.

EatDessertFirst Mon 30-Dec-13 11:42:33

What HappTeeNewYear said. Repeat repeat and repeat some more!

madamegazelleslover Mon 30-Dec-13 14:50:22

Ok. Well, that's what we've been doing. So I will continue.

It's so uncomfortable, though.

But he's going to be an only child so I do need to sort it.

HappTeeNewYear Mon 30-Dec-13 14:52:21

Yes, well, no one ever said parenting was comfortable.

BackforGood Mon 30-Dec-13 14:53:13

Some dc are just more demanding than others. My ds was a flitter - never stayed at an activity or doing anything longer than it would take you to walk back in the kitchen. Couldn't believe it when dd1 came along and used to occupy herself for great long periods of time. Brought up the same, but very different personalities.

madamegazelleslover Mon 30-Dec-13 15:01:42

Thanks for that HappTeeNewYear.

BackforGood - that's very true of my son. He's a flitter. How old is he now, how is he now? Did he develop staying power?

missmapp Mon 30-Dec-13 15:01:59

We would ( and still do with 6 and 8yr olds) , start of the game, play for about 20 mins or so and then leave them to it. This really seems to work, they get time with you , and you model how to play the game.

Obviously, whenever I pick up the phone, all hell breaks lose, but there you go!!

lilyaldrin Mon 30-Dec-13 15:04:59

How about a timer? Say "I will play for 10 minutes, then I am going to go and do something on my own for 10 minutes and you aren't to bother me until the timer goes off". Once he gets 5/10 minutes, increase it to 15, 20 etc.

HappTeeNewYear Mon 30-Dec-13 15:06:04

Well, you certainly seem to think it should be. I thought perhaps you needed a reality check.

And the reality is, you have to be consistent, you have to firm and, yes, sometimes you have to be uncomfortable.

Or learn how to do things with your child bothering you and hanging off you all the time.

I also have an only child. He is 4.5 and perfectly able to entertain himself while I get on with things.

madamegazelleslover Mon 30-Dec-13 15:07:04

Lilyadrin, yes a friend suggested a timer. That DS might not understand time. I'll try it. Thanks

He just seems to move between toys not really that excited by anything. he likes running out and being really active.

HermioneWeasley Mon 30-Dec-13 15:07:29

Um, ignore them?

People always comment how well my kids play on their own - a triumph of neglectful parenting grin

BackforGood Mon 30-Dec-13 15:14:55

Madam - ds is 17 now. Quite hard to shift him from his bed, so no longer a flitter grin. However, that's always been part of him, growing up - somewhat hyper, always seeking the 'next thing'. It's just part of who they are.

GreggsOnLegs Mon 30-Dec-13 15:27:27

Hi Op, I've been through this and I'm still going through it to some extent. I have an 8yo and a 2 yo.
My 8 yo has never had the capacity or ability to play on his own. I have tried every trick in the book, he is also disinterested in toys. He just doesn't play with them. He will play board games, play on the wii with other people but never by himself and has always been a needy child.
I just think it's down to his personality. As much as I've tried I just can't change him. He's now very into musical instruments but even that he won't play unless someone is watching him.
My 2yo is very different, he plays all day long with no encouragement. He just 'gets' toys in a way that 8yo never has.
He doesn't need someone to play with him or to show him how to play, he just does.
As a parent sometimes I wish ds1 was more like ds2 but know that will never happen.
We have ds1's friends round often and he plays with them. And now his brother is getting older they play together more.

Do you have neighbours or friends children, nursery friends you could invite over to play?

CPtart Mon 30-Dec-13 15:43:39

DS1 was and still is like this to a large extent and he's now 11! Three times before eight o'clock this morning he asked me what we were doing today. Does my head in. His two minute attention span is a standing joke although actually he is very bright.
DS2 completely different.

Misfitless Mon 30-Dec-13 15:59:25

Mine used to like (and youngest still does) imaginary games...e.g. DS used to have a ride-on wooden trike for in the house, and I used to encourage him to pretend he was going to work/shopping.

He'd come back every now and then to give me the potatoes I'd asked him to buy for me, for example, and then I'd have forgotten to ask him to get something else, and off he'd scoot back to the shops...this could go on for quite sometime.

Or I'd get his toy plastic tools and ask him to fix absolutely everything in sight. He'd report back, I'd tell him well done, thank you, pretend to pay him (he was the builder) and say, oh, by the way...could you fix the bed upstairs, please?

It was a happy compromise - he couldn't have managed to completely stay out of my way whilst I just did housework for any stretch of time, but these games made him feel like I was playing with him, whilst actually he was mostly playing on his own. I've never had a three year old who could just get on with games and stay out of my way while I did jobs, tbh.

madamegazelleslover Mon 30-Dec-13 19:22:56

Thanks all, really helpful stuff. We do lots of playdates and have lots of stuff going on, so it's not like he's cooped up on his own - the opposite. In fact, I should probably spend more time with him at home to develop his skill and staying power with toys. But I know I need to keep trying and implementing the strategies that we've decided on.

He's just turned 3 and am hoping this is a particularly demanding stage/phase but who knows? I'm sure there's some personality thrown in there.

HappTeeNewYear - your response ("Well, you certainly seem to think it should be. I thought perhaps you needed a reality check.) is so unhelpful and so judgmental. I came on here for advice, not to be patronised, and i think it's absolutely fair to say that it makes me uncomfortable without being scolded like a child. You can't tell someone how to feel.

leobear Tue 31-Dec-13 12:48:21

This sounds a bit mean, but I find that ignoring my3 year old from time to time is the best approach. I just busy myself tidying up, or doing whatever I need to do, and she realises she had no choice and starts pottering around. Obviously I don't ignore her all the time - just when I need to get on. Or sometimes I just tell her I need to have a rest/send some emails etc. she whines for a bit, but I just try and ride it out.

Toecheese Thu 02-Jan-14 13:56:12

Can you play with him for 10 mins then nip off, then pop back and continue play for a few mins, then nip off again

DIYandEatCake Thu 02-Jan-14 22:49:09

I feel your pain. Dd (2.9) is the same but stubborn with it - I'll set her up playing with something, play for 10 minutes, then when I say I'm just going to do a chore then come back, she says 'I just wait til you're finished mummy' then stands there watching me and going 'your finished yet mummy? Your finished yet mummy?' She used to like 'helping' me with jobs, but is no longer interested. It's hard at the moment as I have a 3 week old baby too - and she is determined to only ask the impossible while I'm breast feeding ('would you like to choose a story dd?' 'No... I just want you be a horse mummy and I ride on your back. Your finished feeding baby yet?' When I play with her, her favourite thing is just telling me what to do and 'directing'. Sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode! Sorry no advice but you're not alone and I get that it's not just a simple thing to change.

mewkins Thu 02-Jan-14 22:56:08

Dd is 3.6 and only in the last few months has been doing this- taking herself off to play wiyh her dolls etc or getting a new puzzle etc out to play with. I haven't done anything specifically but at preschool they are all encouraged to initiate their own play and if others join I then great.

Dd has a good imagination so can hold a conversation between princess dolls (including family arguments worthy of an Eastenders episode) for hours.

Sid77 Thu 02-Jan-14 23:06:26

I encourage mine by doing something close to him, but that means I can't get involved - for example the ironing. I tell him I have to do it and am in the same room as him, but he sees that I can't actually play. He plays by himself with verbal input from me. This is a good first step, then you can move on to being away for a moment (clean the loo) and pop in and out. He'll get there eventually and you might even be able to sit and have a cuppa while he plays instead of performing a household chore!

peppajay Sat 04-Jan-14 13:40:53

I made a rod for my own back by always interacting with mine when they were babies. We were always at classes and groups and always playing together because that is what you are told to do. I didn't need to use the tv till they were about 3 and now I have 2 children who cannot play alone and always need to be out and about to be entertained and will not watch tv. If I had another one I would lie them on a baby mat in front of the tv and leave them to it from a few weeks old so they can learn the idea of self entertaining!!!!

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