Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting your Toddler to Play More Independently by Revamping the Playroom

With a borderline colicky newborn at home, we found ourselves becoming a bit neglectful of our toddler. I came downstairs one morning to find my husband asleep on the couch with HB just sitting in front of TV watching Backyardigans episode after Backyardigans episode. Totally understandable since we both were up nearly the entire night with a screaming baby. But, since when did we become one of *those* parents who just park their kid in front of the TV?!?

I decided that we could no longer use exhaustion as an excuse to not parent HB the way we intended. How many months were going to go by before we were "well-rested" enough to start engaging her the way we did before the baby was born? I decided that we had to suck it up and put an end to the lazy parenting immediately. But, we were still really and truly exhausted. The reality of a second child is that you just don't have the same amount of time to devote to the first child like you did before. A colicky baby makes this even worse. It's not the end of the world; it just requires an adjustment in your parenting style.

I realized the key to our dilemma was to find ways for HB to play more independently for longer stretches of time *without using the TV*. We had a good selection of toys, but she wouldn't really spend much time with any of them without us playing with her. I turned to the book Child of Wonder (by Ginger Carlson) for some ideas. Many of the ideas in this book center around creating a playroom that is conducive to creative play. There are a ton of fantastic ideas here!

Armed with a list of ideas from the book, we decided to turn our rarely-used formal living room into a playroom for HB. Two months on, I can tell you that it has been a huge success! We now limit TV to two episodes each weekend morning and no TV on the weekdays. HB plays for long stretches by herself without needing constant input from us. The great thing is that it cost less than $50, took less than 1 day to set up, and we didn't buy any additional toys. We just made better use of the toys we already had.

I'm going to post how-to's for the ideas we implemented in the coming weeks. So, keep checking in to see my posts under the heading of Playroom Ideas.

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