Feeling bad about DD's lack of play. Is it me, or her? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 06-09-2012, 07:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The more I read on this site lately, the more I've started to worry about my 26 month old and her inability to play on her own.  I like the idea of self-guided play for toddlers and really want to allow my daughter's creativity to blossom.  I also see play as a vital learning tool for her, and see this 0 - 5 year period as our little opportunity to "unschool."  I read lots of things from people comparing kids who went to early preschool vs those who didn't, how the schooled kids have a hard time playing independently, etc.  And that sounds JUST like my daughter.  But she's always been home with me, and now I feel like I'm doing something wrong because she simply will not play independently when I'm around.  I have never given her structured activities, and we generally just kind of flow through the day with me doing what I need to do and her tagging along talking to me.  Sometimes she helps me with my chores; sometimes not.  When she asks me to play with her, I generally try to give her some direct attention for 5 - 10 minutes with the intention of then moving on to something I need to do.  But she always just follows along instead of continuing to play on her own.  AND - when she does ask me to play, I have no idea what to do because...I don't know.  I just can't play these days.  I try to get her to direct the play, but she just kind of stares and waits for ME to do it.  It makes for some really uninspiring play time.  There are times when she really does play on her own, and I LOVE those times, both for the peace they offer and for the beauty and ingenuity of her play.  So....am I doing something wrong?  Or is she directing the play by choosing to observe my every move instead? 

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#2 of 17 Old 06-10-2012, 10:15 AM
 
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My DD is younger but I think there are different types of kids. Some get in the trenches, others look for guidance and some are observers. One idea is to role play the family with dolls or stuffed animals. You can even role play DD playing pretend while mommy gets dinner ready. You could try starting a story going to check on laundry or something and returning a couple minutes later then continuing with her. Maybe you could lengthen those breaks until she takes over? Just an idea. Btw my SIL didn't play pretend or play by herself much and she is a successful, social person so maybe it's just not your daughtwr's style. Maybe some simple board games would be fun or building with blocks..
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#3 of 17 Old 06-10-2012, 11:27 AM
 
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Our DD will be 3 next month. And has, over the past 6 months or so, started to do small stretches of playing on her own.

She has also always been home with us. We cherish the little time she does play on her own. But we still do play with her often.

 

It is hard to always play with a small child. Especially when they need you to direct the play a lot.

But little by little, they do start to play more and more on their own. Our DD spent 20-30 minutes playing by herself this morning with only coming over and having us try the pretend food she was making for us.


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#4 of 17 Old 06-10-2012, 04:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree that there are probably different types of kids in this respect.  I guess it's no use getting too hung up on it, but it's hard to be an AP parent and not really see the results that the other AP parents are so proud about.  My little one has always been a bit unusual, and nearly everything I've tried to do with her has somehow been thwarted (emergency C-section, we failed at BF-ing, hated all types of carrier, etc.).  So I think I'm just sensitive at this point :)  I've been thinking lately that she may actually be spending the entire day "playing" with words.  Words have always delighted her, and she talks non-stop during the day, even when nobody's listening.  Of course this drives me nuts...but I like the idea of it. 
 

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#5 of 17 Old 06-10-2012, 04:53 PM
 
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I'm in the every kid is different camp and it sounds like you have a Scrabble, Balderdash, Quiddler and Scattergories champ in the making!  

 

That said, I'm guessing she narrates her day...does she have felt pictures or magnets or figures to narrate with?  I know in the Godly Play Sunday School curriculum they tell a story and then put out materials to retell the story with (usually waldorf sort of wooden figures, trays with art supplies and sensory table sorts of things)...would she enjoy hearing a story (maybe even a narration of the day) and then working by herself with materials that go with the story (picture magnets of family members on a cookie sheet for example)?  Would this give her a chance to see how her words translate into play?


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#6 of 17 Old 06-10-2012, 07:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm in the every kid is different camp and it sounds like you have a Scrabble, Balderdash, Quiddler and Scattergories champ in the making!  

 

That said, I'm guessing she narrates her day...does she have felt pictures or magnets or figures to narrate with?  I know in the Godly Play Sunday School curriculum they tell a story and then put out materials to retell the story with (usually waldorf sort of wooden figures, trays with art supplies and sensory table sorts of things)...would she enjoy hearing a story (maybe even a narration of the day) and then working by herself with materials that go with the story (picture magnets of family members on a cookie sheet for example)?  Would this give her a chance to see how her words translate into play?


Oh!  I LOVE this idea!!!  She would just die if she had an Amelia Bedelia magnet set.  I could see her playing with that for...5 whole minutes!  (No sarcasm intended.  5 minutes would be awesome.)

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#7 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 10:50 AM
 
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newmamalizzy-

first of all, I don't htink you are doing anything wrong! I have read some of your other posts and you sound like a thoughtful attentive considerate parent, so let yourself off the hook!

as for playing alone- do you mean playing totally alone without having a parent interacting/watching, or do you mean even if you are playing with her, she won't initiate it?

My 27 month old plays on his own only for a few minutes- well sometimes we can get a 15 minute stretch but that is onlyif he has had some busy fun days prior. Otherwise he likes to have me or dh's attention on him almost always- but he will play with his toys without having to be lead.

Anyway, also every kid is different and just likes what they like!  Idn't think they need to be in school at this age. I Am always with my 27 month old- or dh is- and we try to socialize him as much as possible but at this age I think they like being with the parents and learning about the big wide world.

Anyway- it is frustrating if they never give you a minute to breathe and be alone. I count heavily on ds's daily naps, his bed time, and the times when dh gets home to carv out my me time and down time. Do you have opportunities for that?

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#8 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 04:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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newmamalizzy-

first of all, I don't htink you are doing anything wrong! I have read some of your other posts and you sound like a thoughtful attentive considerate parent, so let yourself off the hook!

as for playing alone- do you mean playing totally alone without having a parent interacting/watching, or do you mean even if you are playing with her, she won't initiate it?

My 27 month old plays on his own only for a few minutes- well sometimes we can get a 15 minute stretch but that is onlyif he has had some busy fun days prior. Otherwise he likes to have me or dh's attention on him almost always- but he will play with his toys without having to be lead.

Anyway, also every kid is different and just likes what they like!  Idn't think they need to be in school at this age. I Am always with my 27 month old- or dh is- and we try to socialize him as much as possible but at this age I think they like being with the parents and learning about the big wide world.

Anyway- it is frustrating if they never give you a minute to breathe and be alone. I count heavily on ds's daily naps, his bed time, and the times when dh gets home to carv out my me time and down time. Do you have opportunities for that?


I mean both kinds of playing alone.  I would indeed love for her to play totally alone for a while.  That happens once in a blue moon.  I think it's reasonable that I should be able to set her up with in activity in the same room as me while I cook or something.  That generally doesn't happen.  And she should definitely be able to play with me sitting right there watching and or joining in.  But that really doesn't work for us either.  She does great with DP on this one.  But for me, even if I think I'm playing with her, she keeps asking me to help.  Or she won't start playing and we just sit there.  She'll say, "Can Mommy play?"  And I say "Sure, what should we play?"  And she says "Trains."  And I say, "Sure, let's play trains."  I get out the train bin.  She sits.  I sit.  I say "What should we do with the trains?"  She says "Play."  I say "Should we build a track?"  She says "Good idea, Mommy!"  Sits.  It's just kind of painstaking.  And she definitely won't play by herself if I'm around but NOT "playing" with her.  Then it's just a constant barrage of "Can Mommy play?"

 

I agree wholeheartedly that they don't need to do preschool at all. But...I guess I believe that they spend that time learning through play, absorption, etc, which is so much more efficient than the kind of deliberate learning introduced in a school environment.  So then I feel like it's doubly important that she should be playing, because it's such an important way to learn.  I guess I just have to trust that she's learning in her own way. 

 

Anyway, DD doesn't nap of late, but she does go to bed REALLY early, so I get some time to myself in the evening to recharge. 

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#9 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 05:44 PM
 
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I've recently happened onto a school of thought called RIE, which I think complements AP well.  They have a lot to say about ways to allow independent play, but I couldn't find much geared specifically toward toddlers, most of it focuses on infants.  But I personally found this post really inspiring and helpful for where we were at with DD when I first read it: http://www.regardingbaby.org/2011/11/02/what-is-play/, and this one too http://www.janetlansbury.com/2012/03/how-to-work-at-home-with-your-baby/.  Check out other articles on those blogs too.


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#10 of 17 Old 06-12-2012, 02:21 PM
 
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For what its worth, RIE has a lot of interesting things to say about play and positive discipline but I don't think of it as AP at all. I know a lot of RIE families in real life and they will all point out that anything "natural" they do is totally un-RIE approved. RIE talks a lot about freedom but also views like extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping as mom-led dependence. Real independence apparently springs from a scheduled babyhood.

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#11 of 17 Old 06-12-2012, 03:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've recently happened onto a school of thought called RIE, which I think complements AP well.  They have a lot to say about ways to allow independent play, but I couldn't find much geared specifically toward toddlers, most of it focuses on infants.  But I personally found this post really inspiring and helpful for where we were at with DD when I first read it: http://www.regardingbaby.org/2011/11/02/what-is-play/, and this one too http://www.janetlansbury.com/2012/03/how-to-work-at-home-with-your-baby/.  Check out other articles on those blogs too.

 



Funny you should post this article because it is EXACTLY the type of thing that led to my post in the first place.  When I read this type of thing, I tend to agree with it in theory.  And then I get very confused about how to apply it in practice.  A few questions that I had when reading this particular article:

 

1.  If everything they do is play, wouldn't there be no time when it's "okay" to show them the correct way to do something?  I wonder this in particular because my daughter wants to be right at my side most of the time.  I deal with this by teaching her to help me with chores.  She LOVES doing chores, so I think it IS sort of like play for her.  But if she's going to help, she wants to REALLY help, and if she's going to REALLY help, then I want her to do it right.  Also, in the same vein, I think of the Montessori idea of empowering children with practical skills.  Do you...give the child pants and a shirt every day, but not show her how to put them on?  (That question is in earnest, BTW, not intended snarkily.)

 

2.  "Children quickly come to look to adults to show them or tell them “the right way to play,” and even to do it for them."  This is very much where my daughter is at.  I feel like this has been the case for a long time.  And it's this kind of thing that makes me feel like I must have played with her "wrong" and have now somehow eroded her ability to play.  In the play dough example, for instance.  We recently DID give my daughter Play Doh for the first time.  She absolutely did not explore it for a long time.  She wanted me to show her what to do with it, and since I am awful at playing, I couldn't really show her why Play Doh was fun, and she lost interest.  Did I make her this way???

 

3.  How do you deal with your child's repeated requests for help and whatnot?  What if they want you to show them what to do? 

 

4.  The wooden pegs in the jug thing.  It would take my daughter about 2 minutes to start screaming in frustration about not being able to get the pegs out and throw the whole jug across the room.  Then she wants mommy to help.  How to deal with that situation? 

 

5.  Play is everything your child does.  Okay, so maybe I'm right about her "playing" with words?  Perhaps toys just aren't her chosen medium for play?

 

6.  "You don’t have to do anything but trust, watch, and enjoy."   Oh, but that's not the case at all.  Again, this statement makes me feel like I must have done something wrong.

 

Those are just some thoughts.  I think that perhaps this is all easier in a class-type setting than in the home on a normal day where there are chores to do, behavioral issues, time constraints, etc.  I think I just respond to this type of reading by assuming it is complete truth - if you do this, your child will respond like this.  And when I see my daughter responding in a different way, I assume I must have done the wrong thing. 

 

NOT meaning this to knock down your post in any way, Brambleberry!  I like being able to clarify my questions, and I really do like this philosophy! 

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#12 of 17 Old 06-12-2012, 04:17 PM
 
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do you have the opportunity to hav her spend time with other young kids? sometimes watching other kids play can be a good way for them to learn and imitate.

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#13 of 17 Old 06-12-2012, 05:48 PM
 
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First of all, *hugs*. I can feel your concern for you DD from your posts. I don't think you have done anything wrong. 2 is a transitional time for play, children are moving away from parallel play of the toddler years towards imaginative play of preschool, sometimes with someone else and sometimes alone. Your DD is still working on seeing herself as a seperate entity from you and she sounds like she is very attached to you, which is a great thing for the confusing life of a 2 year old. My DS1 did not play independently well and did almost no imaginative play until we started watching a friend's son, who is older, a few days a week. After playing with this friend for a few days, his imaginative play took off quickly. DS2 already does some imaginative play, but he has been playing with DS1 for quite some time and a lot is just imitating DS2's play. Do you have a friend with an older DD who is good at imaginative and independent play? I would try to arrange some playdates and see if your DD picks any of it up. If not, that's fine she is still young.

 

Also, did you play a lot as a child? Maybe talk to your Mom (if possible) about your play at that age. The reason I ask is because a couple of times in your posts you say you don't know how to or you are not good at play. 

 

As far as RIE, I would be very careful about what you take away from that philosophy. They push very strongly for independence in young infants and advocate strongly for self-soothing (CIO) at sleep and other times. IME, those who follow the RIE philosophy do so to the point of arrogance and being closed to any other ideas or philosophies. 


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#14 of 17 Old 06-12-2012, 06:51 PM
 
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I get the "if you can't show them... what are they supposed to do" sense from some art books, too.  (First Art)  They tell you not to "amend" your child's artwork, or work along side them to discourage them... but I had the SAME problem you mentioned with playdough exactly!  I end up playing alongside, but not on top of them.  Sometimes I prompt with a fun story about say... their farm animals to give them a "script" to start off from.  I do art with them, but I don't do anything realistic.  I make squiggles and swirls and splatters, etc etc etc.  When they start floundering, I throw in something new, or suggest something else to try.  I must be terrible at playing, too.  I have to actively think of these "scripts" ahead of time to re-engage the boys with toys and such, but then they do take off from there.  I think it's a good compromise.


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#15 of 17 Old 06-13-2012, 06:59 PM
 
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I agree that there are drawbacks to RIE, specifically those that pammysue pointed out, and I would pick and choose RIE techniques to apply to infants, but I REALLY have found some super useful suggestions from especially Janet Lansbury's blog.  I said it is a good COMPLEMENT to AP, not replacement for.  I must admit that I've not read much AP philosophy other than Dr. Sear's "Baby Book" (read cover to cover and re-read large sections), but I've been frustrated moving from infant-hood where AP is all I needed to toddler-hood where it certainly didn't provide all the answers for our family.  I don't think one single parenting philosophy is going to provide all the answers, but I think one can pick and choose what intuitively feel right for one's own family.  

 

newmamalizzy - I hear you with the frustration raised by articles that really DON'T give all the answers.  Every child is going to be a little different than whatever children are used for examples in every blog or article.  What I took away from that article were some aha moments that highlighted some things that we were doing with DD that were NOT working well.  It didn't give me a lot of help with what TO do, unfortunately, but there were some eye-openers.  For example, I had recently made DD a block set and played with it with her for a short time.  I made a playground out of the blocks even adding a little swing with a piece of string and cardboard.  For the next few weeks DD wouldn't do anything with the blocks other than try to make playgrounds which she simply didn't have the skills to do.  She would fuss and cry and ask us to help her and refuse to play with the blocks on her own.  So do you not demonstrate anything at all?  In a lot of cases that may be what's best, but I personally think it's ok to do some demonstrating sometimes: what else are you doing when your children watch you do housework?  I have been avoiding demonstrating too much or too high above DD's skill level.  I'll sometimes do just enough to get DD started with something.  You keep saying that you don't know how to play.  MOST of us adults don't.  I don't think it's "natural" for kids to learn how to play from adults.  Kids observe other kids playing and learn from them, and kids love to watch adults WORKING and eventually start pretend-play mimicking adult work.  I agree with what pammysue said about getting some play time with other kids that are good at imaginative play.  I forget where I read it (maybe Waldorf philosophy?), but supposedly kids get much more out of mixed age play groups than just playing with peers.  That is also a much more "natural" scenario.  

 

And yes, I think you're right about her playing with words.

 

 

 

Quote:

3.  How do you deal with your child's repeated requests for help and whatnot?  What if they want you to show them what to do? 

 

4.  The wooden pegs in the jug thing.  It would take my daughter about 2 minutes to start screaming in frustration about not being able to get the pegs out and throw the whole jug across the room.  Then she wants mommy to help.  How to deal with that situation? 

Yes, both those things have been a problem at our house too.  DD has gotten better about dealing with her frustration and not begging for help constantly since we've started being more intentional about not DOING EVERYTHING for her.  But she's also gotten older during that time, so maybe it's not our doing at all shrug.gif.  When she does need help with something I try to walk her through it verbally or with minimal "me doing it" so that she is actually learning how to do it herself.  If it's something really beyond her skill level I try to redirect (not always successful!).  If she's frustrated about something I let her be frustrated and try to empathize ("yeah that's really frustrating, I see that you're upset that you can't do it yourself.  It's ok to feel upset but it's not ok to throw things.")  I don't ignore cries and tantrums, but I don't "give into" them either.  I try to be supportive, empathize, and offer a loving and understanding home-base without doing things FOR her.  The same goes for discipline.  If I have to say "no" to something and she cries about it, I don't give in, but I do give hugs.  And then I redirect.  If you redirect before offering guidance, nothing is learned.

 

 

Quote:
6.  "You don’t have to do anything but trust, watch, and enjoy." 

yeah I disagree with that too. 


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#16 of 17 Old 06-13-2012, 07:46 PM
 
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Is there a class you could take together?  Our local recreation program has a parent-child yoga class that's really just singing, stories, and simple poses based on the stories (walk like a monkey, reach up high like a giraffe, etc.).  DS loves to pretend to be any kind of animal.  To pretend you have to have seen the animals, either at the zoo, a farm, in a book, on youtube, on a DVD, etc.  Something like a class or storytime could help your daughter make the connection to imaginative play.  There are good yoga DVDs for kids (search yoga kids on Amazon).  

 

Curious George is another good one.  Lately we've been pretending to be skunks and then "taking a bath in tomato juice" (sitting on our red couch), all because there's an episode with a skunk in it.     

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#17 of 17 Old 06-13-2012, 07:51 PM
 
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newmamalizzy--I haven't had a chance to read through the other responses, but your daughter sounds a lot like my son. Up until very recently, he absolutely would not play on his own. Just in the past month or so (he turned 2 in May) I've started noticing him focusing on activities for a bit longer stretches (maybe 5-7 minutes at the most) and actually self-selecting things to play with around the house. I also watch a few other kids at our house throughout the week, and my son is pretty good playing with them, especially kids older than himself. It actually makes my life easier having a house full of kids because it means my son will have someone to play with other than me!

 

I have my degree in early childhood ed. so I've had a lot of experience watching little ones, and I think that personality really has everything to do with how kids play. That being said, as a mother, it drives me absolutely crazy when my son demands my attention and engagement every minute of the day! I know lots of kiddos my son's age who will sit for long periods of time and focus on an activity, such as coloring, blocks, books, etc----but my DS isn't one of them. I wouldn't worry too much about your daughter (unless there are other concerning issues.) It sounds like you're doing a great job including your daughter in your daily tasks and keeping her engaged. She may just take longer than others to develop a sense of self-directed play. 


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