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Toddlers Playing By ThemselvesIf you’re a mom of a toddler, do you ever just dream of 10 minutes all to yourself?

Today Katharine Grubb shares with us a letter to her toddler explaining why she needs to learn to play by herself–so mom can be by herself, too! And that means that we moms need to TRAIN our kids to play by themselves.

If you’re a mom feeling guilty for not being with your child every minute of the day, read this this morning. Breathe it in. And let the guilt go.

Here’s Katharine:

You are absolutely the cutest thing in the whole world. But it’s time you learned something big.

It’s time you learned how to entertain yourself for a few minutes each day.

I’ve got all your needs covered — you’re fed, you’re clean, you’re dry, you could probably stand a nap (who doesn’t?) But it’s time now to sit in a spot on the floor, pick up the things you love and entertain yourself, without my help, for ten full minutes.

I’ll coach you. I’ll bring you special toys that aren’t out often. I’ll let you pick out the alarm sound on my phone. I’ll reward you if you can sit, for ten minutes, and entertain yourself. (I suppose you could just have my phone, but I will not fish it out of the toilet again.)

Are ten minutes too much? That’s okay, let’s start with one. You sit and play and dont watch me and dont talk to me and when the timer goes off we’ll celebrate. You made it to one. Then we’ll try two. Then four. We’ll take the time to practice this over and over until you get to ten full minutes. This is far more than just a game. I’m giving you a gift and someday, you’ll understand why it’s so important.

I want you to see that there is joy in being creative.

Trust me, it feels great to see in your hand a completed work (don’t remind me of that cross stitch I started for Grammy and Grampy for their 40th wedding anniversary.) It feels good when you stretch yourself to be more than you are, (maybe it will be ready for their 50th next year?) I want to see what you’ve done in our time apart. I want to share this joy with you. I’ll say nothing about the mess you made, (but dear, we cut paper, not hair with the scissors.)

When you pick up a crayon for the first time and you rub it across the paper, you’ll see magic. When you pick up blocks for the first time and pile them up, you’ll see potential. When you push a button on that V-Tech toy (that Daddy “accidentally” caulked all the speaker holes up to make the music less annoying) and you saw lights, you were mesmerized by the laws of cause and effect. As your mind grows your discoveries and creations will grow too. For every scribble, for every drawing, for every time you had to get Rainbow Dash’s mane just right, you’ll rehearsing for sitting at a future desk with a future task that will be less forgiving and less fun. But those tasks will need a creative mind and an eye for detail and persevering spirit. You only get those by practicing and playing and sitting alone, for a little bit each day and working on something you love.

We’re doing this because I want you to try new things.

I want you to gain confidence in your decision-making and risk-taking. I want you to trust your own judgement, learning logic and cause and effect, learn how shapes and colors and art and physics all work together. Someday, you’ll see that self-discipline is the only way to get tasks done. Someday you’ll be glad that I didn’t allow you to indulge yourself in your whims 24/7. Someday, you’ll spend hours alone studying for a big exam, or writing a paper or creating some project that a grade or a job will depend on. Someday you’re going to earn a paycheck, darling baby, and you’ll take me to lunch. (I’ve already picked the restaurant. And I’m not wearing yoga pants and a stained t-shirt so you may not recognize me.)

Helping children learn to play by themselves--and be creative

I fully expect you to fail.

The crayon will break, the KNEX won’t go together the right way, the tower will come falling down. But that’s why we play: to practice life because life is messy. (What is that smell? What did you eat?) I want to give you the gift of being able to deal with mistakes, failures and messes gracefully. But if you’ve sat at my feet, working on your projects, and failed near me, I can remind you that you are not your failures. I can remind you that you are loved anyway. I can remind you that you may have a solution to your problem nearby if you take the initiative. Playing alone will do that.

I suppose I could argue about brain development, independence, creativity and self-discipline all day long, but the truth I need a minute! And I need you to be within sight and within earshot, but fully entertained, just long enough for me to do something for me. I can check my email, catch up on Facebook, read a chapter in that book I started last year, crochet ten stitches, sketch a drawing or try to write that short story. I like making things too and surprise! The things I make are just as important to me as that glitter disaster on the dining room table. (Who gives a toddler glitter? The nice neighbor? That’s it! I’m giving her kid a drum set and a kitten!)

Making art is fun. Creating beautiful things is an act of worship. You are an amazing creation and whenever you make something, you are reminding me of who made you. In the same way that I put your drawings on the refrigerator door and we all look at them proudly is the same way that God looks at you — his creation. He is proud of you. When you create, you are doing what he did first. This is more than just play, this is worship. Let’s learn to work independently for ten minutes, so we can both glorify God in our creations.

You are absolutely the cutest thing in the whole world. Let’s spend a little time apart today and be all the better for it.

I love you!

Mommy

headshotWrite a novel in 10 minutes a dayKatharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five children and lives in Massachusetts. Her book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day, has been recently published by Teach Yourself Books. She blogs at 10 Minute Novelists–a blog I’m reading as I’m starting to work on my first novel! Find Katharine on Facebook, too.

Katharine uses her time away from her children to write–in extremely short bursts. If you’ve longed to make better use of your short bursts, check out Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day! That’s what I’m doing right now.

Now let me know: did you ever have to train your children to play by themselves? Was it hard? Have any tips for us? Share them in the comments!

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