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Getting my ds to play alone

(17 Posts)
eclipse Mon 12-Jan-09 16:30:27

Hi, all,
I'm after a bit of advice. My ds is nearly 4 and goes to nursery 4 days a week. We are pretty sociable so he has friends to play with most days. However, whenever it's just the 2 of us, he always wants me to play with him (which is what normally happens. I do a great line in super-heroes, ponies, baddies etc.) or have the telly on.

Is it a good thing to try and get him to play on his own or is it a bit mean? My hunch is that at his age, he should be able to self-occupy for around 30 minutes but I don't think he will unless forced, i.e. by me making him. It's not so much that I need to get things done around the house because that's not a problem, he'll always help.

I know part of my reluctance to leave him to get on with it is that I come from a big family with lots of similar age sibs and I have not managed to provide this for him. But I still want him to learn to use his own imagination.

Any views gratefully received.

Mimia Mon 12-Jan-09 16:56:25

I must admit that I do encourage my DD 2.6 to play by herself, she only manages a limited time but I feel like I need to start setting some very flexible boundaries about mummy time now she is slightly older. I usually get enough time to have a cup of tea and I generally promise we will do something afterwards together. I have found it works, like now she is reading a book and I have just taken the opportunity to come on here.

*BUT* I do think being able to do this is very dependent on the personality of the child and it is not bad thing not to be able to do it for very long just yet. Perhaps just learn to step back abit, I have to remind my DH to do this sometimes. He helicopters....!

Lazycow Mon 12-Jan-09 17:26:18

Ds is similar and I have the problem that he isn't too keen to help when I am doing stuff, he really just wants to play. I'm afraid i do sometimes force him to play in his own but only because I offer the choice 'help me' or 'play on your own' He has recently started playing in his own for short periods (20 mins or so max).

I do generally find that if I've spent a long time playing with him and by that I mean about an hour or even more then he will often be much happier to play on his own.

TBh most of the time the problem is that I don't really know how or what to play with him and don't always feel like playing what he wants to, However since reading [ 'playful parenting']] my attitude and ability to play with ds has been transformed and ds is much happier.

I do feel a bit bad about making him play alone but that is how our lives are. I'd have loved to give him siblings but it wasn't to be.

Lazycow Mon 12-Jan-09 17:27:24

oops sorry link didn't work

squeaver Mon 12-Jan-09 17:40:31

First, don't beat yourself up. All children should learn to play by themselves. It's one of those things that us parents of onlies worry about when we don't need to.

From talking to my friends, children with siblings seem to do it earlier because they want some peace from their annoying bothers and sisters and their parents certainly don't worry about it.

Secondly, don't worry he will start to do it soon, ime. My dd has just turned 4 and, a few months ago, I was getting mightily sick of "mummy play with me" "mummy come here" etc etc. But just recently she's started taking herself off and playing by herself.

The trick is to be very careful not to call over "how are you getting on?" or "are you having a nice time?". Then you'll immediately be cajoled into joining in again!

And, by the way, I do play with my dd a lot. But now she seems ready to do her own thing and that's cool.

BoccaDellaVerita Mon 12-Jan-09 18:02:04

My experience has been like squeaver's. My DD is older now (7) but I used to find that if I didn't rush over when she said 'come and play, mummy' she would start off quite happily on her own and (if I got sidetracked by something else) often wouldn't notice if I didn't get there for 30 minutes, or at all!

I think entertaining oneself is a very necessary skill. I agree with mimia that helicoptering doesn't do the child any favours in the long term.

squeaver Mon 12-Jan-09 18:32:41

Bocca - yet again we are in tune with each other grin

BoccaDellaVerita Mon 12-Jan-09 19:41:19

<<Waggles her fascinator at squeaver in gesture of solidarity.>>

Seriously, I think this has been a very interesting question. It's easy, I think, to feel that one ought to be playing with one's child at every moment, especially if one has no other child with whom to share one's energies and attention. What changed my mind was going to a baby and toddler group and watching some of the other mums who never let their child do anything on their own - they were climbing on the equipment with them, loading up their paintbrush with paint etc etc etc. It really seemed to cramp the child's style and left them unable to cope with any sort of setback. So I vowed to stand back a little, both at toddler group and at home.

<<Confessions of an ex-helicopter parent.>>

rebelmum72 Mon 12-Jan-09 19:51:02

We have one of those mums at our playgroup, BDV, and it's actually quite sad to watch, as I think her little boy would like to do stuff on his own / with the other kids, but the mum is always insisting that he play with her. She really encourages him to cling, too, which is surely not a good thing?

Anyway, from my own experience, I found ds was happy to occupy himself from a very early age doing Treasure Basket, and it has sort of developed from there on. We spend lots of time playing together, but equally he will quite happily play on his own while I do my own thing too. It's quite nice to be eg reading while ds is playing in the same room, he'll occasionally come over to show me something, and then get back to what he was doing.

I think I was aware from the start that as ds was going to be an only child, he would have to learn how to play by himself at least some of the time, and I wanted that to be a positive thing. It means that at almost 2 he is rather imaginative and competent, but also probably more independant than his peers. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing!

BoccaDellaVerita Mon 12-Jan-09 21:00:31

I agree with everything you say, rebelmum. DD has aways been very independent - first to the top of the biggest slide in the park (labelled '6 years +') at the age of 2, while her friends cowered at the bottom - and it can be a mixed blessing.

I was, ahem, an older mum and had plenty of opportunity to observe my friends' parenting styles. I vowed I would never be like a friend of ours who positively encouraged her children to sit on her knee at parties, rather than play with the other children; there is a huge difference between helping your child overcome clinginess or shyness and encouraging it.

May I reiterate the invitation to come to the tea room? I'm about to open some champagne there.

eclipse Mon 12-Jan-09 22:51:54

Thanks, Everyone. This is really reassuring. My ds has started making up games (just very briefly) and I do tend to comment on how nicely he's playing, going along with the whole positive parenting thing, when actually his behaviour has never been an issue so I think I do need to back off and be less available.

I know when he goes to play with friends that it is only when the adults remove themsleves to the kitchen to discuss important issues over tea and cake that the children take themselves off to play. I just need to do that a bit more at home.

Some of my best childhood memories are of my imaginary games but I can't remember how old I was when I played them. It's good to know he hasn't missed the boat.

I'll phase it in gradually and report back.

Thanks again.

bluejelly Mon 12-Jan-09 22:55:11

My grandmother had five daughters. She says some of them played beautifully on their own, others couldn't amuse themselves for a minute
They all turned out pretty sorted, and pretty similar it has to be said.
She reckons some kids are just more demanding than others

dearprudence Mon 12-Jan-09 23:05:17

I think a child's ability to play alone depends on what they like doing. I have an only DS age 6. Even at 18 months he could entertain himself just looking at a book for 20 minutes.

And a bit later, if I got out something like play-doh, he could play with it for an hour or so on his own. He's never been one for role-play or imagination games, but prefers a thing you can do - like colouring, lego, etc, which he can get very absorbed in and play alone (or in the same room as me, just not with me joining in).

He does love playing with me and we have loads of good games, from play-fighting to board games.

I don't think it's mean to encourage your child to play on his own, but you might need to guide him in his activities, or start him off with something.

Acinonyx Tue 13-Jan-09 09:50:38

I have one dd (3.5) who has never been able to be alone or play alone. I'm very keen to get her to but can't seem to manage it. If I refuse, she shadows me, often literally hanging onto me. TV is the only acceptable alternative, apparently, which I ration.

I wish I could do something about this for both our sakes. It is exhausting.

''he could play with it for an hour or so on his own.'' shock envy shock

I wish!

Starbear Tue 13-Jan-09 15:46:00

I have the same problem DS won't play on his own for very long. he wants to help me but this drags housework out to a tedious level.
He does listen to BBC 7 stories and plays if
a CD is on but only 20 mins.
WOW! "he could play with it for an hour or so on his own."shockenvyenvy

But I'm going to try harder to figure this out. He was okay yesterday with wooden train set while I did some paper work in the kitchen (all very new) Only asked me to help three times.
I'm going to see if I play with him in the morning for 1/2 hour see if he get on with it after that. 1 hour seems too long when you've got so much other stuff to do.

squeaver Tue 13-Jan-09 18:11:37

Acionyx - that was my dd six months ago and now she plays happily by herself for quite long periods of time (see my earlier post). It WILL happen.

Acinonyx Tue 13-Jan-09 18:17:17

I hope so! She actually ripped my shirt today trying to pull me back from going up to the loo!

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