Now you can let go of guilt (if you have it!) for wanting time away from your kids. Not only is it okay for kids to have some fun time on their own, it is a good way to build some independence and self-confidence in them and replenish energy, enthusiasm and patience in you. In training the kids to play alone, play with friends, or if older, spend time with peers and other families, keep these guidelines in mind.
Safety needs must be met.
How safely your kids are able to play alone varies. With babies you can invest in a “play pen,” an expandable circular gate, a “pac and play,” or a device that keeps the baby in a bounded area. Load in safe toys and let the little one play. This affords some reasonably free time. Of course, do safety checks, and refrain from putting a baby outside if you are inside or vice versa. There is a safety concern about putting more than one baby in a pen without supervision, or leaving one baby in a pen alone in a room with a not yet responsible enough sibling.
Take into account the age of the child, and the child’s interests.
When my daughters were old enough to play more safely by themselves with me nearby, I stocked two kitchen cabinets with their favorite toys. I was able to work in the kitchen and keep an eye on them. It helped the children to learn to play together, have enough supervision, and feel safe with mom nearby. When you plan and prepare your environment effectively, there can be a significant yield of “Mom” time.
Your child can be taught that a certain space is his play spot while Mom is in the kitchen or busy in another room. The ages of the kids will determine how far away Mom wants to go while the children are in their play areas. Turning one room, (if you have the space) into a special (safe) playroom, can work. The trick is to keep a safe and interesting inventory that gets updated to fit the ages and changes in the kids, and keep an occasional eye on them, depending on age and personality.
Make some plans, put guilt aside, and keep realistic expectations.
One of the “tricks of the trade” of having your own time is to get rid of your guilt. It is okay for kids to have some time playing alone. It will build independence and trust in themselves. Plan the activities that will give you well-deserved time. If you put in a little “up front” time getting the kids into an activity and helping them to understand that Moms are people too, you may find a little “Me” time almost every day. The amount of time will vary from day to day, depending on your child’s needs, your needs and life. Keep your expectations realistic, as it is natural for young children to want you close enough, in case they need you.
Touching base with you is natural and healthy for kids’ sense of security. The more I was receptive to check-ins, in general the kids would be happy playing for longer periods of time. The amount of time they spend playing alone may increase as children grow more independent and more secure. Of course, as kids get older, they want much more independent time, and then safety concerns have different dimensions.
You can also import friends for play dates. Kids may play happily for hours in between snacks and check-ins. Of course if they get too quiet, you may want to check things out. Play dates can include social time with other mothers, or alternating time off with other moms. And bear in mind–There may come a day when you will have much of your time to yourself and find yourself wishing to see those little faces and hear those little voices calling for “mommy!”