Eleanor can crawl around on the floor and play on her own for considerable chunks of time. If you put a variety of toys down, she’ll explore them in detail for up to three quarters of an hour at a time. She likes toys she can chew, toys that make music and toys she can push around. She’s also just discovering toys that she can bang to make a noise. And, if you leave a shoe anywhere in her vicinity, she’ll be your friend for life.
This is, of course, very convenient. It means I can take her upstairs and do a bit of work in the morning, while she crawls around the office floor, playing with her toys and desperately searching for some paper to chew on. It means I can leave her in the living room with Rosemary for a bit, while I load the washing machine or empty the dishwasher. In theory, it means I can sit and catch up with blogging for a bit, though in practice work or housework is taking priority most of the time, as we’re so humungously busy at the moment.
When she does get bored, just 15 minutes or so of attention, be it walking her round the room (she loves to walk and stand), bouncing her on your knee, dancing round the dining room, ticking her, changing her nappy, giving her some milk, etc. and she’ll be able to go back to her independent play, though not for as long. Or she can go in the bouncer or her bouncy chair for a bit (both of which will probably have passed their use-by date soon! She does get frustrated sometimes, if she’s trying to get to something and can’t pull herself up to it, for example, but for the most part, she plays happily, chattering and squealing away.
At the other end of the spectrum, Rosemary has been struggling with independent play recently. When a friend comes round to play, they’ll play imaginatively together for ages, but on her own she is finding it difficult to come up with independent play that she wants to do. She’s getting bored with a lot of her toys, or can’t find them, because the toy corner needs a good sort out.
But mostly, it’s because her default position is in front of the TV. When she gets up in the morning, she asks to watch TV, when she gets home from playgroup/nursery school, she asks to watch TV. And for this I entirely blame myself. She’s always (well, not quite always, of course!) watched TV, but since Eleanor was born, I’ve found myself switching the TV on for Rosemary, so I can get on with sorting Eleanor out, whether that’s changing her nappy, feeding her or just playing with her. Or, indeed, leaving her to play on her own while I catch up on the washing. It’s just easier that way, and I’ve done it far, far too much.
Chris, when he’s on Rosemary and Eleanor duty, tends to have the TV off. He comes up with things for Rosemary to play with, if she’s not thinking of them herself – he’ll get the blocks out or the Happyland people, for example. Or he’ll just leave her until she starts playing independently and imaginatively, which really doesn’t take a huge amount of time after the TV is off. And he usually manages to get a bit of housework done, too. This is what I used to be like and I’m not entirely sure where the laziness has come from – maybe from the constant exhaustion?
Anyway, we are now trying to gradually cut down on the TV, making sure it doesn’t go on the second she comes downstairs or in the front door. Encouraging other play, for example, we made some playdough yesterday, as all the old stuff had dried out ages ago. And we’re trying to encourage watching a DVD or video instead of the TV, so it’s for a finite time and not just vegging in front of the TV. Rosemary is fantastic at independent and imaginative play, given the chance. So we (I, really) need to give her that chance. Even if it means being interrupted while filling the dishwasher or having ten times as many toys to pick up at the end of the day.
How are your children at independent play? Do you have one better than the other? Has TV taken over and how have you changed that? Do you think it’s OK for a 7-month-old baby to be spending so much time on independent play?