A contented child playing quietly is such a refreshing sight for both mom and passerby. But the discipline of learning to play by oneself is more than just a breath of fresh air for mom. It is actually vital developmentally, and if this skill is left undeveloped future problems can occur.
It is best to teach your baby early to play quietly by himself so that by the time toddler hood comes, it is already an established habit. Below we will discuss why this skill is so important, and what your child will be lacking in if it is left underdeveloped.
Before we delve into this skill set, I will explain what I mean by playpen time. By the time your baby is five months old, your days should have a similar rythum. If you know me at all, I am all about scheduling and routine. Having a consistent routine is so important for your little one and helps prepare them for what is coming next.
Playpen time is a predetermined time during the day when you will place your little one in a playpen with a couple of toys to play with. Please check the playpen for safety issues and make sure that nothing can cause choking or suffocation.
This is a scheduled time and for a young baby 5-9 months should not last more than twenty to thirty minutes. From 9-12 months you can increase the time gradually to forty five minutes. You can do one or two playpen sessions a day.
When used appropriately, a playpen can become a safe environment to play, but when a child is left for long periods of time in one it becomes a hindrance to their development instead. A baby needs consistent love, care, and a variety of activities during the day to teach and expand their senses.
Now that we know a little of what planned playpen time is, let me take a moment to explain, why I like to use the playpen. A playpen provides a safe play for your little one to play as well as offering a structured learning center.
When you plan for your child to have playpen time, you are helping them to develop in these areas:
For some reason, it is ingrained in our culture that creativity is the result of freedom. This simply is not true. If you think about it, the times you were most creative were the moments when you did not have access to the proper tools or supplies. You just had to improvise and make things work.
The same is true with our children, limiting the amount of toys they play with gives them the freedom to be creative. I think that it goes without saying that creatively is a much needed life skill. Giving your child the tools and boundaries for them to learn to think outside the box is giving them a head start on life itself.
Innovators and creative thinkers go far because they do not allow their circumstances to stump them. I want to give my child lots of practice at learning to be creative and this starts as a baby. In the baby stage, so many brain connections are being made, and if you can consistently help them to use both sides of their brain, they will be ten times ahead of their peers.
This is another skill that is learned during playpen time. Instead of letting your little one roam and casting his attention from one toy to another; he is put in the place of having to focus his attention on only a few toys. This will allow him to experiment what happens when he drops the toy or pushes this button or stacks it this way. Again, his little brain is making lots of connections.
As your little one gets older, having a longer attention span will aid in him being able to learn more effectively because he can concentrate for longer periods of time. It will also help him to reach the goals he sets because he can provide the focused attention needed.
The ability to focus pretty much goes hand in hand with the skills mentioned above. Being able to focus on toys also helps with your little ones vision as they bring toys up close to them to observe the details and then place them down again. Again having your child in a room full of toys, does not give them to the opportunity to sit and concentrate on just one toy.
An important factor of playpen time is that it is initiated and ended by you. When playpen time is over, teach your little one to place the toys back in the basket or container for the next time. This teaches them that play time is not over until everything is cleaned up. In the beginning, they will not be able to help much, but taking their hands and showing them how to put their toys away will set the groundwork for when they are able.
As your baby becomes a toddler, you will move them from the playpen to a room. The same rules apply though. Room time is an extension of playtime and is always initiated and ended by you. It will take a little training at first to teach them to stay in the given area, but I promise it will pay off. If you would like some suggestions on how to train your little one to stay in their given area or just more information on Playpen and room time, you can read, On Becoming Baby Wise 2. You can purchase it online or pick one up at your local Half Price Books.
If you need help figuring out the best toys and activites for your playpen or room time, check out this free printable below.
Failing to have a structured play time like the playpen time can seriously hinder your babies development. I could honestly go on and on about how important it is to have boundaries and structured activities for your little one, but you would probably learn more just reading the book On Becoming Baby Wise 2.
I never go by everything I read in a book, but this book has a lot of great concepts. I have learned so much, and I have found their methods to be very helpful. They have a book that goes through each stage of life, and all them provide basic things you will deal with in every stage, and how to parent the heart of your child through each stage.
I hope you enjoyed this article. I would love to hear in the comments what activities you have done with your little one that has really helped increase their creativity and focus.