Ways to Play With Your Child Without Becoming The Playmate

Posted January 30, 2012

Most parents want to spend playful time with their child but  become uncomfortable when they've played so well that their child can't bear to have them leave.  Suddenly, the toys are boring if no adult is involved in the play.  If this sounds familiar, you may have slipped into the role of playmate and need help to get out.  This happened to me.  While I really enjoyed watching my child engaged in play, I prefered observing from a distance.  My eyes tend to glaze over if I am the playmate.  Yet, even back then,  mommy guilt would send be back in again.

We need to realize that many things we do with and for our child can be done in a playful manner, and it's quite possible that some of these things are more important for our kids than having us on the floor as their endless playmate. 

  1. Look at books together.  Every time you read a book and share the pictures, your contribution to a child's well-being goes as high as the sky.  This counts as play!
  2. Play together with sounds, words and noises through the day when you think of it.  Fingerplays, rhythms and songs are major motivators for language learning.  You hold the key.
  3. Your child watches you do jobs around the house.  Soon they want to "help." This slows you down but this all counts as playing.  Playing at being a dad or a mom with responsibilities.  
  4. Do playful diapering, dressing and bathing.  This constitutes playing with your child.  It works well...until they being to protest diaper changes!
  5. Clean up things together.  Toys, newspapers, spilled stuff, etc.  This is called playing house.  "Oh, look.  We need to move these papers into the recycling box."
  6. Based on your attentive observations of your child's interests, design the play environment to to be rich and vary it a bit, every few days.  Then, remove yourself so the real play can begin!
  7. Introduce good things like puffed wheat in a small basin on the floor in your kitchen.  Measuring cups and other containers to allow "cooking" and...eating.
  8. Instead of more toys, use your (playful) money to buy real things for your child such as small but real tools, children's metal gardening tools, small broom, tea set, dolls with clothes, water toys for the bath, costumes and hats and a real box of band-aids to play with.

Now, as faciitator of your child's play - you are in a position to rise above the guilt that comes in the form of a whine "Why can't you play?" 

You are the best parent ever!



(photo by Tom Clare)


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Filed under: Daily Routines, Play


Do Toddlers Need Other Toddlers to Be “Socialized?”

Posted January 19, 2012

This week I spoke with Nancy, mother of an 8 month old and a 2.5 year old toddler.  She wonders if her kids will miss out on becoming "socialized" if she decides to stay home rather than put them into a daycare or day home. "Don't they need the company of other children their own age for socialization?"

  I've heard this concern before.  Some parents who expect to have a single child feel they, in particular,  should maximize efforts to have their baby or toddler be in the company of other toddlers for reasons of "socialization." In this context, what exactly do parents mean when using the word and what is it they expect to have their child learn during this "socialization" process - that wouldn't be learned  if their child was at home in the care of a warm, engaged parent, grandparent or nanny?

Research has never shown that toddlers require the company of other toddlers in order to become social beings.  In fact, a casual observer can see for himself that when toddlers are together in a playroom it often doesn't go well at all. Children this age do not really play together - they play parallel to each other.  Most two-years olds are in the "me! and mine!" stage developmentally, and may actually feel threatened or become stressed in the presence of other toddlers. We often see aggressiveness (hitting, pushing and biting) emerge as kids eye the same toy.  The TOY reigns supreme in a toddler's mind and it's not until after age three that a child's attention shifts to caring more about the other child..than the toy. 

In the meantime, babies are busy starting their own socialization process shortly after birth.  A 4-month old who has learned to wake up more times in the night than when he was 2 months, is busy doing social learning: "Mom is available in the night and I can make her come more often!  Hooray!" (Not quite the social learning mom was hoping for!)

A baby who is starting to talk is learning language as a result of having established a social relationship with an attachment figure. 

A toddler who throws a temper tantrum because mom wouldn't pick him up on demand is learning social lessons and  experimenting with where his power lies. All these examples represent the age-appropriate socialization process necessary for children under age three to develop well.  And all these social accomplishments are dependent upon an interested adult, not upon other toddlers.

After age three we see a new awareness emerge as a child stops and takes note of the presence of another preschooler.  Does he see me?  I see what he is playing with and I wonder if I can play too.  Interest develops in whether we can play looks like fun...I think I'll approach...  Now the company of other children a couple of times a week will further the socialization process begun at birth. 

A young child under age three will cope with the presence of other young children when necessary but will always rely on the adult on the horizon for a relationship upon which to base their social impressions of the world. Nancy, upon hearing this, said she felt comfortable waiting a while and was relieved to hear she wasn't guilty of depriving her child of daily contact with a group of other children.


Next Seminar: Helping Your Child Learn to Play Independently  Tuesday, January 24, 2012



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Filed under: Interesting Parenting Matters


When Naps Are Still a Challenge

Posted January 12, 2012

Even after successful night sleep training, naps can remain problematic for a baby or toddler and, hence, - for parents.  If only we could tell these young kids that naps play a vital role in providing them with energy and curiosity to bring to their playtimes, helping them make it gracefully to the end of the day and in helping them spend an easier night sleeping.  The better the naps, the better the nights.

Toddlers around age 2.5 years are notorious for trying to convince the parent that they do not need naps any more.  For several days they may play or protest throughout the entire nap, convincing themselves and parents that naps are a bad idea.  Parents should not be swayed.  The best practice is to continue to put your child down  by 12:30 PM and plan for a break of two hours.  You are not in charge of whether your child sleeps or not, only that you are following practices of routine and regularity (same every day). Most likely your toddler will return to accepting the nap in just a few days.  Continuing with this practice even after the 3rd birthday provides an opportunity for sleep or, if by then no sleep is needed, a chance for quiet play and a routine that still includes a good break for you.

A new study on the effects of toddlers not napping has just been released from the University of Colorado.  Take a look.


Next Sleep from Now On seminar: Tuesday, February 7, 2012


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Filed under: Sleep and sleep training, News from Kitty, Research


Helping Your Child Learn to Play Independently—a NEW Raymond Seminar

Posted January 7, 2012

Teaching a child from an early age to play independently is to give them a life-long skill.  Play is a child's work and it paves the way to learning about the world. To be able to entertain oneself with one's own thoughts and ideas leads a child toward a rich inner life. Parents can start as early as 6-8 months but if you have an older child -- it's never to late to start! 

This January I'm presenting a new seminar entitled Helping Your Child Learn to Play Independently.  I hope you'll join me. Here are the details:

Helping Your Child Learn to Play Independently 

When: Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Where: First Church of the Nazarene, 65 Richard Way, SW

Time: 7:00 to 9:00 PM

Cost: $55.00 (introductory family fee)

Register Here

Additional January/February Seminars:

Sleep from Now On                             Tuesday, January 10, 2012    or Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sleep from the Start  (prenatal class)    Thursday, January 12, 2012  or Thursday, February 2, 2012

Setting Healthy Limits                          Tuesday, January 17, 2012   or Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Helping Your Child Learn to Play Independently     Tuesday, January 24, 2012  or   email us for next date   

Toilet Learning the Easy Way                Tuesday, January 31, 2012   or Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Note:  If you miss one of our seminars or live outside of Calgary, the course content can be made available to you through a Telephone Counseling appointment.  This also gives Kitty the opportunity to tailor the information to suit your particular situation.

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Filed under: News from Kitty, Play

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