When my first child was a baby:
“My baby is so cute, smart, and I love her with all my heart! But…she pretty much just sleeps, eats, makes dirty diapers, and cries ALLLLLLLL day. What should I do to entertain and play with my baby for the next eight hours???”
When my third child was a baby:
“My baby is so cute, smart, and I love him with all my heart! But…I’m having to spend a lot more time on housework with all these littles and my two older kids need a lot of my attention. I don’t have time to entertain and play with my baby for the next eight hours!!!!”
Can any of y’all relate to either or both of those scenarios? If we can all be honest for a moment, although babies are so very sweet to snuggle with, that particular age can be very draining. They aren’t mobile but they are becoming increasingly aware of interesting things around them. They want to stay close to Mommy, but, again, are not mobile, so they want you to carry them at all times.
But life goes on. The house still needs to be cleaned. Meals need to be prepped. Errands need running. And, most importantly, the older siblings need you too.
No wonder mothers of wee ones often find themselves at the end of their emotional and physical rope!
So, today I am hoping to help with this difficult situation! Would it be appealing to you if you could learn how to teach your baby to entertain themselves? It would? Then let’s do it!
Accept the hard truth
When it comes down to the basics of it, we are moms. We are designed to be nurturing, loving, and soft-hearted. Our desire is to wipe away tears, soothe broken hearts, and be that safe place for all of our little ones!
That is why this is a toughie.
If we want our children to learn to entertain themselves, we NEED to wrap our mind around this fact:
“A baby’s cry is often the same as a child’s whine.”by Krista Sutton
Think about it for a moment. If you tell your 6-year-old to go make their bed and they said, *whiny tone* “Aw, Mom! I don’t wanna!” Would that go over well? Would you just say, “Oh, ok sweetie. Then you don’t have to!”?
I hope not!
That response from a child that age seems very inappropriate and is in need of correction. But why? It is because we know that our child is able to do our request, is not in pain of any sort, and is simply putting their foot down because they don’t WANT to do what we have asked. That is not a reason to ignore what a parent has told you to do!
And now we get into the yucky reality…
As we all know, a baby has many different cries. But one, frequently used, cry is the, “I don’t want to be put down! I want to be held!! NOW!”
Essentially, you are telling them to entertain themselves on the floor for a few minutes while you…use the bathroom, finish dinner, quickly straighten the house, etc. There response is, *screaming tone* “Aw, Mom! I don’t wanna!” And how do we respond? We quickly go pick them up and say, “Oh, ok sweetie. Then you don’t have to!”
But they are so little
Am I sounding a bit harsh? Well let me soften the scenario a bit.
I do firmly believe that it is very valuable to teach a baby how to entertain themselves. It benefits them because they are forced to use their imagination and motor skills. It benefits the other kids because they get focused time with you. And, of course, it benefits you because…I’m taking a shot in the dark here, but I’m betting you have a to-do list a mile long?
But we are talking about a baby. Since there is no verbal skills, this process of training needs to be a gradual one. I don’t even start until they are out of the newborn stage because, at that time, I am still learning what their different cries sound like. In addition to that, they can’t hold on to a toy, see more than a couple of feet, and basically have no way to actually entertain themselves yet.
I tend to carry them in a wrap (LINK) until they are 2.5-3 months old. This is simply so that I can continue to get life done during this time. Then we enter a rough transition time. I’m not going to sugar-coat it. Being a parent is hard.
I’m going to suggest that you let your precious, little baby cry some, and it is going to tear your mommy heart to shreds. But just keep thinking about the invaluable benefits that I already talked about, and that in a very short time your baby will be a self-entertaining, happy, little bundle of joy! And you will be as free as a lark to get done whatever you need to during the day!
As I mentioned, around 2.5-3 months, I find that little ones are able to see a good distance, grab at toys, and become entranced at the hustle and bustle going on around them. This is the perfect time to begin getting them used to the idea of playing on their own.
I start off with just a few minutes at a time. Set a limit in your head. Maybe it is a time limit – I would suggest starting with 2-3 minutes. Or, you can choose a task that you want to complete – using the restroom, brushing your teeth, unloading the dishwasher, etc.
There will almost certainly be instantaneous tears that will probably continue the entire time Sweet One is out of your arms. That’s ok. You know that it will only be a few minutes.
After your pre-determined time is up, wrap you little bundle in your arms and remind them that Mommy is here!
I would purposefully do this multiple times a day, continuing to grow the length of time on the floor. They will gradually begin to learn to focus on the things around them, practice their motor skills, and realize they will indeed survive outside of Mommy’s arms!
My main suggestions would be to always be changing their position/location. For instance, Charlie (my youngest) got severe eczema about the time I began this training so I kept him in his little Bumbo chair (LINK) most of the time so what he couldn’t scratch his legs. It was necessary at the time but after we got his eczema under control we had to start the training over again so that he would be will to self-entertain on the floor and not just in the Bumbo.
Secondly, get a variety of things that are very entertaining to them and rotate them out. I am wanting to help them with this process as much as possible! Here are some of the things I use:
And, finally, be just as intentional about giving your baby some focused playtime WITH Mommy! One of the reasons I have become so diligent about this process is that I want to still be able to give one-on-one time to my two older kids. But I always need to remember that little baby Charlie needs that too!
I can not explain enough how much this has helped me in my day-to-day life! Not just cutting down on my own stress but I believe it has also helped avoid any jealousy with my older kids. They see that Mommy values time with them just as much as little Charlie and that she will do whatever it takes to be what they need!
Also, as with any other training I’ve written on before (LINK)/(LINK), the training time is tough but, after it is done there is so much more happiness and so many less tears from my babies then before the training even began!
Thank you for reading! Let me know if you have any questions or comments below!