He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

17 June 2010

Room-Time... {a.k.a My Sanity}

I have been shocked by the number of mommies I've talked with recently who feel like they can't get a moment away from their kiddos. When I hear that, my first reaction is "well, what about room time". I cannot tell you the number of times the response to that question has been "what's that?"!! Maybe it's not standard to give you little man or baby girl some time to themselves but that part of our family's day keeps my kids from melting down and me from wanted to hang them by their adorably chubby little toes!

First, the concept of a set "room time" was new to me until I encountered BabyWise. I'm not hiding the fact that it's a BW principle because 1. I'm a huge fan of it and 2. It's something can be done in any family no matter what your level of flexibility with your kids. As I've said before, I consider myself a flexible scheduler meaning that I stick to a pretty basic routine on a daily basis but have little to no problem mixing things up as long as it doesn't drastically alter the all important nap-time {bad nap = unpleasant baby = less than patient mommy}.
So if you've never heard of or considered this idea, let me break it down a little for you.
What is room time: Time where your kiddo plays in their room alone, usually kept in with a gate so you can peak in, little to no parental involvement other than occasionally checking on the babe {unless that causes your little one to spaz, then consider just listening in every so often for healthy play sounds}.
When to start: BW suggests holding off until 12 months but CJ started for 15 minutes at a time around 10 months. {Just long enough for mommy to shower!} If you aren't familiar with BW, they recommend doing pak-n-play time starting around 6 months. This is the same concept as room time, it just limits the size of the infants world and their toy options which is more appropriate for their little minds.
How do I do it: Odds are, your first attempts will be rough. This is especially true if you haven't done any sort of independent play at all. You may be wondering what "rough" looks like... in our case, we skipped the pak-n-play time because our house is teeny tiny and we had nowhere to set it up so when it came to room time, CJ's world was mildly rocked. To give both mom and baby a fighting chance, schedule room time for a time when he/she is most alert. {We originally did room time right after breakfast and now we do it around 10:30 when Miss Mak goes down for her first nap that way mommy has real time to get things done.}
The first day, I committed to 15 minutes. I plopped him onto the rug in his room with some toys and all was well until CJ realized that the gate was up and mommy wasn't coming back. He cried, he screamed, he called out "mommy" in the most pathetic voice he could muster for the entire 15 minutes on days 1 and 2 {I did not go back to check on him on these days because past experience taught us that seeing me sent his world a'rockin' again}. By day 3, he started to realize that I was firm on his playing alone for those 15 minutes so he cried for the first couple of minutes until he got settled then happily played for the rest of the time. My goal was to be at 30 minutes of play time by 12 months so I slowly stretched him as he was able and met my goal. Around 18 months he started going 1 hour and now, at 22 months he goes 1 hour sometimes 1.5 hours depending on what I'm doing while he's playing. I still keep an ear out on him {he has learned how to pile toys up and reach the CD player that I play in his room while he plays; he has also learned to stick small toys into his diaper genie YUCK!}
Just like with anything else in parenting, it is unfair to your child if you are inconsistent. You can't do this one day and skip it for a week and expect your kids to be okay the next time around.
Safety Concerns: The safety prep for room time is pretty standard child-proofing. Unplug and place out of reach anything that is electronic and not kid friendly {we use hard to remove outlet covers}. Remove the diaper pale from the room or place it out of reach. Open bags or buckets of toys that babes cannot open alone. Be sure no choking hazards are within reach. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE your child! Room time is how we found out that CJ can open his clothes drawers {and empty them!} I recommend limiting the amount of toys that you leave for your little one. Consider the amount of time they'll be playing and don't offer too many options {this will require them to spend an extended amount of time on each toy so you don't run the risk of them bouncing from thing to thing and not focusing}. Along with limited quantity of toys, be fair and switch the toy options out every month or so to avoid boredom. Oh yeah... don't forget to keep LOTS of books handy!
Why we do it: This time has been tremendous for us! From the beginning I started taking a shower {with the door open so I could hear any abnormal crying}. Soon it I could shower and empty the dishwasher. Then I could shower, empty the dishwasher and pick up the house. Now I can do all those things plus spend some time alone with Miss Mak {if she happens to be awake} or read or make a phone call or write an email or BLOG! Those may sound like selfish reasons and I disagree with that completely for two reasons. Reason Number One: I am a mommy but I have always been an independent woman. If I can't take some time out to be that woman, I feel myself fade and that quickly changed my attitude. When I feel like I have freedom in my motherhood I can really enjoy being a mom because it doesn't feel like a duty. When my attitude is good, my kids are happier and that alone makes it worth it. But... Reason Number Two: It is good for CJ. I have always known that I would raise independent kids and this is one of the ways to start. CJ has to do some of his own trouble shooting. If he wants a toy in the bottom of his toy bin he no longer comes running to mommy for it. If he wants to reach something, he finds creative ways to get to it. If he wants to watch the puppies who play outside his window, he finds ways to get up high enough to the window sill.

The benefits FAR outweigh the risks if you are thoughtful about how you do it and for both me and the kids it is WELL worth it!


  1. I took your suggestion for room time a while ago and it has been GREAT! Right now, Evelyn plays in her crib because we haven't had the chance to complete the baby-proofing in there. She's had a couple rough days (separation anxiety -arrgh!) but she seems to enjoy playing with toys and "reading" her books in her crib.

    It's so nice to be able to shower...

  2. I love this post! I totally agree! The only difference for me has been that Isaac still naps very well, and he is very good at independent play, so I haven't had to do official room time. But, when he was younger, I really emphasized the need for him to play by himself. I would always wait until he really was fussing before I got him out of bed in the morning, when he was old enough I put some toys in his bed (now he has quite a few of his favorite must-haves), I insisted that he stay in his bed for his allotted nap time (whether he slept or not), and other things. Now, he loves his bed, and he doesn't mind playing by himself in other parts of the house while I shower, clean, or cook dinner (most of the time). And, when we are having a rough day where we are both a little sick of each other, he gets some much-needed time in his bed. We both love it, and feel much better afterward :)
    And, I also appreciate this post because I know that Eli is a completely different child, and may need a little bit more of a structured room-time, who knows? But, when that time comes, I'll know where to look, so thanks!


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