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How do you encourage independent play?
My 4 year old is driving me spare

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#1 Guest_Dinah_Harris_*

Posted 23 January 2013 - 08:24 AM

I need some tips desperately for teaching my 4 year old to play more independently.   I set her up with activities like trains or dolls or painting etc,  sit and play with her for a little while and then go do some stuff.
Five seconds later she is whinging at me:   Muuuuuummmm I'm booooored!
She has absolutely no capacity for self directed play.   I'm not getting even the most basic household chores done because she is hanging off me constantly.
I take them both out every morning for an activity like library story time,  music class etc,  and in the afternoon we go to the park.   So it's not like there are massive chunks of time I'm expecting her to play for,  but not even 30 minutes!
Anyone got any tips?

Edited by Dinah_Harris, 23 January 2013 - 08:25 AM.

#2 Turn left

Posted 23 January 2013 - 08:32 AM

I'll be interested in hearing replies on this topic too.

I have 2 DDs.  Both totally different in their capacity to play independantly.  My just 6 yr old DD has always been great at playing on her own, since she was very young.  However, my eldest DD who is  just 7 years old cannot play on her own STILL!  I have encouraged independent play for years to no avail.

#3 Guest_Dinah_Harris_*

Posted 23 January 2013 - 08:36 AM

I hear you,  Turn Left.   My 17 month old DD2 is brilliant at playing on her own.  Go figure!

#4 Hypnic Jerk

Posted 23 January 2013 - 08:36 AM

in this case it needs to be taught.

try using a timer?  "Is 5 minutes up?  Noo, you need to play with your trucks for 5 mins"


#5 lucy-lu

Posted 23 January 2013 - 08:39 AM

I have ds 3.5 and dd 2 and they are ok.
He enjoys time on his own playing with his tools outside, which is where he is most happy to be alone or with his sister. When they are outside I try to stay out of sight, hehe, have a sneaky snack inside.....
Inside both kids seem to need me more, not sure why.

Currently both kids have a paint brush and a small container or water and are happily painting outside.

#6 Feral timtam

Posted 23 January 2013 - 08:50 AM

"The sun is shining, go outside and play" using the no argument voice.

In your case OP, hand the child a child sized broom and tell her to sweep the floor. Get her to help with the chores, she's not a newborn that needs constant attention any more!

Then again, I've never 'entertained' my kids. They've been expected to entertain themselves from birth.

#7 Lagom

Posted 23 January 2013 - 08:50 AM

What does she like to do?  Maybe she's just not really into dolls or whatever you set her up with?  Maybe she is a people person and it's just that she prefers your company to playing by herself.  I know that doesn't help you get your stuff done but it may give you some insight into why it's not working. Perhaps you need to say to her, 'I am going to go and do 'x' now.  It's important that you don't interrupt me.  I'm going to set this timer and I will play with you when it rings.  What would you like to do while I am doing 'x'?  Start with a couple of minutes and gradually make the time longer.

Or, if you are trying to do things, get her to help.  Ie, folding the washing she can match the socks, mopping the floor she can clean the dirty spots with a cloth etc etc.  I find in our house they either help because they are interested or they will run and hide because they don't want to help!

#8 liveworkplay

Posted 23 January 2013 - 11:53 AM

Give her a house cleaning chore. My girls have always liked washing things. So I set them up with a container of water and a cloth and they wash the walls, cupboard doors, floor, bath, anything I tell them too laughing2.gif At 9, 6 and 3 they are quite good at it now and it saves me time laughing2.gif

I think it is a personality thing and a little bit of a first born problem as well. My firstborn, from the moment she popped out, needed constant attention. However, from a babe, the second born would happily play on her playmat for 20-30 minutes at a time, something unheard of with DD1. With DD3 I had to keep reminding the older ones to "leave her alone!!" biggrin.gif But she is pretty independent in most things except needing company in the toilet rolleyes.gif

#9 lizzzard

Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:03 PM

DS4 is much more of a 'natural' independent player than DD6, but I have 'trained' DD so that she is willing to play independently more now. Every weekend (I work fulltime) we have 'quiet time' for a couple of hours from about midday-2pm if we are at home. Usually we're out in the morning, so I start priming them both when we're on our way home by saying "when we get home, everyone is having quiet time, including mummy and daddy". WHen we get home, DS often has a nap / rest, though sometimes its only for 15-30minutes. DD is expected to go and occupy herself in a quiet activity and when DS gets up he will either play by himself or go and play with his sister. DH usually naps and I read or do some work. If they come over to me during that time I firmly but gently remind them it's quiet time and they need to figure problems out themselves and find something for themselves to do. After the same routine for a long time (we've been doing this for about a year now) they pretty much know the drill. I will admit I feel a bit 'mean' for enforcing 'quiet time' sometimes when I know they want to hang out with me, but in the long run, I do really appreciate it, and it makes me more patient during the day to have that down time. I think consistency, routine and firmness is the key. In your case - perhaps pick a time during the day, every day when you have 'independent play' time. They should get used to it and start to build up the skill from there.

#10 jo-v

Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:08 PM

My eldest is the same, wants me involved in all his games. Sometimes I can get away with the odd direction like sending him on different ninja missions lol. At 4.5 he's getting better. DD 2 will happily play by herself for ages.

Me and my younger brother were the same so think there's def a link with older child/younger child.

#11 CallMeFeral

Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:11 PM

A friend of mine did the timer thing. Short bursts - 5 mins, 10, all the way up to 45.

My kids seem to entertain themselves. I think if you sit on EB for long enough and don't respond to attention requests, they eventually find you boring and go do something else Tounge1.gif

#12 liveworkplay

Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:13 PM

My kids seem to entertain themselves. I think if you sit on EB for long enough and don't respond to attention requests, they eventually find you boring and go do something else Tounge1.gif


#13 steppy

Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:15 PM

If I had a child that did this I'd probably get her involved in my housework. Might as well be learning something useful. If she doesn't like that, she'll probably go and play.

#14 Guest_Dinah_Harris_*

Posted 23 January 2013 - 12:24 PM

Thanks for all your replies.  I cracked it today because all morning she was literally hanging off me whinging for more than our hour.  Often I feel bad about asking her to go and play, because I feel guilty that my job as a mother is to play with her.
But then I figured I have other jobs to do as well.  
Here's a list of activities I've sent up her up with in the past:
* Painting/drawing
* Trains
* Cars
* Lego
* Little People
* Dolls
* Dollhouse
* Building blocks
* Kitchen
* Playing with water
* Cash register/supermarket
* Doctors
* Riding her bike
* Jigsaw puzzles
* Writing on the chalk board

You know, there has to be a couple of things in there she genuinely enjoys, but 5 minutes later is boooo-rrrrred.  I think I've actually enabled her a little though, so as of today I've had enough.
Rawr, we have a lovely, gentle, patient dog who will play for hours on end.  DD1 ignores her completely.  She also had a pet plant for a while that she let die!
I guess I was wondering if I was being mean/unfair/unreasonable to expect her to play independently.   Now I'm not feeling so bad.   ohmy.gif

#15 BlueUnicorn

Posted 23 January 2013 - 01:07 PM

My kids play by themselves often but I find if they are clingy or following me around I need to ignore them for a while.  If they aren't getting my attention they usually go off and play.  Sometimes I might suggest something, ie why don't you take barbies on a pic nic to the spare room, you could make a card for nan.
We also have quiet time from about 11-1 daily.  It's a time for my youngest two to sleep and my oldest to amuse herself, at least half hour is spent quietly in her room relaxing.  Sometimes I will put a movie on for her, but mostly she plays dolls or does craft/ art.
I would deffinately do the timer thing to try and break her habit of following you around / getting attention.  My eldest gets into this pattern sometimes and needs help to stay focused Ie, if you play in here quietly for a while I will take you to the park after lunch, don't come out, I will get you when it's time.  If she doesn't want to play I say that's okay, you can do what ever you want in your room but I will get you when it's time to come out.    She will always play except when she occasionally falls asleep!
Don't feel guilty, kids need time alone to explore and develop their imaginations.  You are doing her a service by teaching and enforcing her play time.  Maybe you are doing too much as far as activities go and you daughter expects to be entertained?  Just a thought, it may not be the case.
Good luck.

#16 miss*k

Posted 23 January 2013 - 03:32 PM

LOL My 3.5 year old is EXACTLY the same. I put it down to her being an only child, even when she was a little toddler she always wanted to involve me. At certain times of the day she is awesome at it, first thing in the morning, and in the evening. She's just such a social little creature lol. Can be VERY draining, but I encourgage it by asking her to try playing for 5 mins while I do something and tell her what she can do. she always love role playing activities (playing mothers and babies), and she likes that extra person to play a part in it. I don't mind so much some days, but sometimes 8 hours of it can be quite draining. Thank god she is in daycare 3 days a week.

#17 #tootired

Posted 23 January 2013 - 03:43 PM

I have a 4yo that does this too. I think it just the individual personality of the kid. Mine most happy when "working." Sweeping, hanging washing, gardening etc..unfortunately all these things require me to be "working too."

I just count day the days until he starts school and someone else will have to keep him occupied for every waking minute.

My DS3 hasn't watched any more than 3 seconds of TV in his life, yet his brother DS2, could sit there all day if you let him!

#18 Quay11

Posted 23 January 2013 - 05:27 PM

My DD's psychologist told us that it was often a 'girl' thing - social play - as opposed to boys playing with a 'thing'.

Drives me nuts too. My girl needs constant validation and attention, my boy is fine left alone to play (was nicknamed by one of his Granny's as 'the silent destroyer'). I've had to make it a defined thing for my daughter 'I am asking you to play ON YOUR OWN while I try and get your little brother down for a nap'. We've been practising and it seems to help.

#19 Guest_Dinah_Harris_*

Posted 23 January 2013 - 07:08 PM

Well, I should say that this afternoon, after she declined to have a sleep (usually she still has an hour), and I was faced withe the prospect of five hours of bored 4 year old girl, and she had been such a terror all morning, that I told her she was to entertain herself because mummy had things to do.

You know what?  She did it.  She filled a basket with some things and pretended to be a mummy to her stuffed elephant, did some painting and drawing and then did some water play in the front yard.  She didn't whinge about the TV or being booooorrrrreeeddd once!  The little devil CAN do it - but it must be easier to be lazy.

Thanks so much for all your replies.  Sometimes I think I just need permission to be the boss - that sounds so strange - because I'm constantly worried that I'm a bad mother.  So making her play by herself made me worry about causing her psychological harm.   rolleyes.gif

Thank goodness kindy starts next week, which will make everyone's life easier.  In the meantime - I know that she can play alone and with her sister and be perfectly fine.  Thanks again!

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