Brooke and Mackenzie occupied with their favorite book with removeable pieces
45 minutes…60 minutes…75 minutes…I am watching the clock to see how long Brooke and Mackenzie can occupy themselves without needing anything from me. I am cooking, cleaning, checking email and don’t even look at them unless they call out to me. If one of them babbles something that is clearly directed at me, I look at her, repeat what she said, then add, “Okay, mommy is cooking,” and go back to cooking. They then go back to doing what they’re doing.
At 9 months old, Brooke and Mackenzie can play up to 1.5 hours by themselves. If they crawl to me, I will pick them up and talk to them/play with them for 5 minutes, then put them back on the floor. If they call to me, I will respond by saying something to them. If they cry, I will pick them up, of course. I am on alert for danger, but I never interrupt them unless it’s necessary. It’s hard, but I have to stop myself from even looking at them because my stare distracts them and pulls their attention to me. They are completely happy playing by themselves.
From very early on, when they were less than 2 months old, I would allow them to do tummy time on their floor mat without interrupting them. Unless they cried or needed to be fed/changed, I allowed them to “play” by themselves. As they got older, I would give them a toy or hang one above them (see mobile), and do my own thing (cook, clean, read, etc.) while they played. When Brooke was 4 months old, she could play with a toy for 20 minutes by herself. And if I switched out the toy, she could play by herself for at least another 20 minutes. The time stretched as they got older.
I cannot stress how important it is NOT to interrupt a baby when he is exploring a toy, doing tummy time, looking at himself in the mirror, crawling around, just cooing to himself, etc. During that time, do not touch or interact with him. Do not even look at him. Your look is distracting. Model for your baby what it means to do your own thing. He needs that time to play and explore by himself, which builds concentration, motor skills and teaches him to occupy himself. Start this trend when they’re newborn and soon enough, you’ll be reading books, cooking extensive meals and taking much-needed naps…all while they play.