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How To Get Your Child To Do Solo Play So You Have Alone Time (You Deserve It!)
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/MIA Studio
  • New moms often feel guilty being away from their toddlers, especially when they cry or throw a tantrum the moment you are out of their sight. But while bonding and playing with your child is encouraged, the reality is that no parent can be attentive to their little ones 24 hours a day.

    “Parents need and deserve free time, and children need extended periods of self-directed, uninterrupted play,” says Janet Lansbury, a parenting educator, author, and host of the popular podcast Respectful Parenting, in her website.

    Solo or independent play allows children to learn how to explore by themselves and be more confident. It also develops their creativity and critical thinking skills. “It’s the time your baby can learn and explore at his own pace — without pressure from grownups,” explains family physician Dr. Beatriz Padua-Bautista, M.D.

    If your kids are used to your constant attention, however, it might be difficult getting them to play without you. That’s because “children quickly become accustomed to the habits we create for them,” according to Lansbury. It can also be because they are looking for guidance on how to behave.

    How to deal with a clingy child

    Children will continue pushing us if we let them. Here are some ways you can manage a clingy child so you both get the alone time you deserve.

    1. Be firm when establishing boundaries.

    When we establish boundaries, we cannot expect our children to just be agreeable: they will whine, cry, or even throw a tantrum. Lansbury’s advice is to allow them to freely express their displeasure, but avoid caving in.


    “When we cave in to tearful demands and try to keep the child happy, we risk creating the opposite of happiness: an insecure child,” reminds Lansbury.

    2. Remind yourself that you both need alone time.

    You might feel angry and resentful when your child continues to cling to you, but at this stage, it is the parent who makes the decisions. Don’t feel guilty when you leave their side — it is only for a short time and it will be good for both of you.

    “We are building a relationship with our child and our needs matter, too. We must prioritize a healthy relationship, not one in which we bend over backwards and neglect our needs, giving our child too much power,” Lansbury says.

    “Children may complain and cry when limits are set, but they are always relieved to know they are not running the house,” she adds.

    3. Ease him into it.

    Separation anxiety is normal in young kids, especially between the ages of eight to 14 months,” says clinical psychologist Beatrice Tauber Prior, Psy.D., to PopSugar. So, don’t expect your child to like the idea of playing by themselves right away.

    Take your time and let them get used to playing by themselves. Lansbury suggests telling them what you will do first. “I am just going to sit on the couch. You can stay with me or you can play over there while I watch you.”

    If they insist that you play with them, just respond with, “I know we usually play together, but today, I’m just going to sit on the couch.” Lansbury adds that it might take your kids a while to get used to it, but in the long run, they will naturally seek out what they want to do — play. Eventually, you’ll find yourself with free time to enjoy!

    Recommended Videos

    Click here for some activities that your kids can do to help them get used to solo play.

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