Following on from my post about the Magic of Golden Time, I received some emails and messages. from parents looking for help in implementing Golden Time. Does your child hate playing independently? Do they look for you constantly or throw a tantrum at being asked to spend time alone?
Here are some tips that I have found helped greatly in encouraging my almost 4 year old to play independently and to stop myself being her favourite "toy" to play with.
Baby steps are needed here. Start with 5 or 10 minutes of "You can play in your room/playroom for a little while and I will get this work done". Stay close by so your child feels safe and secure but don't give into playing together. If your child asks you, just gently remind them that you have something to do and you will be with them when you are done. Repeat this daily or a few times a day depending on how it's going and increase the time little by little. Eventually, as your child grows in confidence in self-enjoyment, fulfillment and accomplishment, you can work up to 1 or even 2 hours of independent play.
Allow choice - but not too much
If your child is really insistent about not wanting to play alone, offer a choice of what they can do. For example "Would you like to colour or build with your lego?" Try to only stick to two choices so you child doesn't feel overwhelmed by options when the only thing they want at that moment is you. When your child makes their choice, praise them and help them to set it up then leave them alone to "work".
Follow their interests
If your child is really against self-led play, follow what they know and what their interests are. While they are watching tv, or asleep, or finishing lunch, take out their favourite toy and leave it on a blanket with some other open ended materials like blocks, cars or lego. Tell them the fairies have left them a surprise for them to play with alone and see what they come up with. If your child loves reading, save a few books in a box just for Golden Time and switch them out every now and again to maintain interest and excitement.
Be Firm - Create Boundaries
Boundaries and rules are there to make your child feel safe, secure and nurtured. Your job is to find your boundaries and make them be known to your family. For me, I need personal and physical space sometimes or my mind gets foggy, muddled and I get snappy. This is why Golden Time works well. I get some personal space and quiet time and my daughter gets quality, self regulated and self directed play time. Children need boundaries as they figure out the world around them. Learning how to respect others needs and wishes is an important life skill to learn. Your child might try to argue against you, but in the end will appreciate the alone time they have and even enjoy it alot more as they continue to build up the independence and resilience. Try your best not to give in to your child's every demand for help, attention and playtime. Doing so will give your child more confidence, allowing room for further growth and age-appropriate development.
Example: I am reading a book and child is bored and wants to come over.
Me: I'm reading now sweetie, go play with your toys.
Child: Can I read with you? *puppy dog eyes*
Old me: Sure, climb up here. Child sits for about half a minute then starts turning pages, pulling the book, asking a million questions and leading me to give up the book and go entertain child for endless hours.
Child: Can I read with you? *puppy dog eyes*
New me: You can bring in your own books and read beside me quietly. I'm still reading my book and I need some quiet time. You are welcome to read your own book quietly beside me or go play with your toys.
When your child is half-engaged in independent play and they see you looking idle, they
will naturally gravitate back to you for attention. To avoid this, keep yourself occupied while your child is playing. Wash some dishes, hoover, run on a treadmill, write a blog (hey!). Eventually, you won't have to look super busy, your child will just accept that it is time for you both to have some independent time.
Children play much better alone when they have some music to accompany them. I don't know why, it must be a comfort to have some background noise. Put the radio on or a playlist in the background and watch how it changes everything!
Make it a Routine.
I cannot stress the importance of this. Whether you do 10 minutes of Golden time a few times a day, one big chunk every day, or however you choose, make it a routine and stick to it. Having this repetition and regular routine helps children feel regulated and secure, they know what to expect next. Maybe you do Golden Time after lunch, or after nap, or hourly for ten minutes. Find what works and stick to it. Having a visual chart or schedule helps. An "I Can" chart will also work well!
I do hope these tips are helpful, if they are leave a comment or send an email, I would love to hear!