From the time my children are little I work to make room time a fun experience. Room time is when my children play in a safe environment, such as their bedroom, crib, or pack n play. I utilize room time when I need to get something done, that if the child were with me, it would be difficult to complete the task. Important phone calls, cooking certain foods, or giving a test to an older child are some instances when I use room time for my smaller children.
When my children are 5 to 6 months old, I lay them in their crib and wind up the mobile or put on some fun music. I usually stay in the room, talking to them and encouraging them. If the child is happy, this lasts 10 to 15 minutes. If the child is unhappy, I try to calm them down, but after 5 minutes I pick them up.
I repeat this every day, to help my child enjoy spending a small amount of time alone. As they grow older I increase the time by a few minutes every week. By the time my child is a year, they are able to spend 30 to 45 minutes happily playing in their crib.
As the child is older and able to sit up, I add a few age appropriate toys in the crib. These toys only are played with during this time, so the child usually looks forward to their time alone.
I use a monitor so I can hear the child, if I am not in the room.
Room time is beneficial in many ways.
It helps the child spend time alone. I have found that some kids love to be alone, and others have a very hard time entertaining themselves, even for a few minutes. Starting room time when your child is young, helps your child entertain themselves even if only for a short amount of time.
It gives mom a break. I know many moms spend 12-14 hours a day, wiping noses, changing diapers, picking up toys, solving problems, folding laundry, cooking meals, and shuttling kids around town. Even 15 to 30 minutes of quiet can give mom a much needed break in the middle of the day.
It provides a safe environment for the child. Mom needs to take a shower. Baby loves to pull electrical cords from the outlet. Letting that child play in their crib for 20 minutes keeps the child safe while the mother is unavailable to monitor every move. It can also protect the child from well meaning siblings. I have often placed a baby on their play mat and walked outside to check the mail or to hang clothes. I return to find my toddler picking up the baby because they wanted to be “helpful.” Placing the baby in the crib, with a safety gate to keep the toddler out keeps the baby safe from unsupervised helping hands.
Toddlers who are no longer in their crib, spend room time in their rooms. I put up a baby gate so they are unable to wander around the house. Their rooms are safe, and there is usually nothing in the room that could harm a child. I turn on fun music, and pull out a special box of toys, only available during room time. My little ones begin to look forward to this special time in their room.