Room Time for Babies and Toddlers

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.

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  1. This is an amazing idea. I’ve noticed that my 2 year old, when about to have a meltdown, often calms down and plays happily when I put her in her room by herself – as if she were just begging me for a break of her own. I’m totally going to do this with my 4.5 month-old…starting tomorrow!

  2. I have used room time with all of my children in much the same way that you use it. It has really helped them to be content spending time being creative and entertaining themselves on their own. And it has given me time to rest or do things that are difficult with them around. Now that I have a toddler and preschoolers, I am thankful that I started this practice early on because it isn’t a fight to get them to have time alone.

  3. I love this idea! We don’t have kids yet, but I imagine this is something I will want to implement. I think it’s great for their imaginations to entertain themselves sometimes.

  4. This sounds like a great idea. I’m wondering if it’s too late to implement this plan with my set in his ways almost 3 year old.

  5. This is a wonderful point! I started this during this past year and it has been a wonderful difference in our household dynamic! We get up, do breakfast, and then if there are no errands, my boys have quiet time in their rooms – so mommy can take a shower or clean up breakfast dishes or simply nurse my baby without whistle blowing! 🙂 I also sometimes do this in the afternoon if cooking dinner is a very involved affair!

  6. I always done this. I just never had a name for it lol!

  7. Great idea. This is similar to “blanket time” and is something I’ve been wanting to train them to do but have not gotten around to it.

    I wish I had done it when my older one’s were younger. I am having to train them to learn to be quiet by themselves without my guidance. My oldest is especially having a hard time with it. She is my social butterfly and it is torture for her to learn this because she loves to be talking 24/7.

  8. These are great tips. I have done this with all my kids as well. It helps to keep you sane. I am lucky that my kids are all great self entertainers. Of course I don’t know if it is really luck or training hehe!

  9. What an awesome idea thank you for the idea.

  10. My almost-3-year-old daughter LOVES room time. She plays with her dolls and stuffed animals or with her dollhouse.
    In addition to room time, she also has a separate “book time,” which she has enjoyed since she was probably 12 months old. Initially I would put her in her crib with several books for 20 minutes or so. Now she can sit on a couch or in her room for booktime. She LOVES books and we read often, so she has many of her books memorized and “reads” them to her dolls and animals. She has adapted to this very naturally.
    On the other hand, my son (17 mos.) has struggled more with learning to enjoy room time. He is all action and energy, so he would climb the furniture in his room (like the rocking chair) and falls off–so I use the SuperYard for him. He likes Legos or stackable things and toy tools. He has little interest in books so far (we are working on that!). But I see the importance especially for him as the 2nd child–he wants “company” of his mom or sister all the time. Regardless of whether or not it comes naturally to the child, each child needs to learn to entertain and occupy himself for a little while.
    With our 3rd coming in about 3 months, it’s going to be very helpful for my kids to be able to play by themselves for a time!

  11. i used to do that too. thanks for the reminder that i need to start it up again.

  12. My 2 year old plays wonderfully alone many times throughout the day but I would like to teach him to have designated room time when I say (for phone call etc). How should I teach him this since it’s so late in the going?

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