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My 5 year old refuses to play independently

I am a stay at home mom getting to three end of my rope with summer vacation. My 5 year old refuses to play independently. He always wants me right there with him 24/7. I can't clean my house, have a 5 minute phone conversation or anything else without him freaking out about it. The only time I get any time to do anything is if he's in front of the Tv but I hate having it on, and even then he wants me to sit and watch it with him.
Today I had some important paper work I had to get done. He is now crying in his room because I had to lock myself in my room to get it done. It has taken me half an hour to get 10 minutes of paper work done because he interrupted me so much.
I know a part of this is because at his dads the TV is on all the time - it is never off.

Also before people start telling me I need to spend more time with him. I am with him all day everyday, sometimes I need a few minutes to get things done. Him playing by himself with no TV for half an hour a day is not to much to ask.

How do I teach him to play independently? Also how do I get the crying and begging to stop when I can't be in the same room as him?


Asked by Amelora at 1:03 PM on Jul. 13, 2013 in School-Age Kids (5-8)

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This question is closed.
Answers (10)
  • Actually you don't need to spend MORE time with him. My mother always thought modern moms were strange, spending SO much time with their kids... for us, play time was OUR time and she was pointedly UNinvolved until bandages were needed.

    I agree, a preschool or a summer camp or other activity would be helpful. When he goes to school he will also learn more independence.

    If your house is child-proofed then you probably did the right thing to get the papers done. An alternative: He's old enough to tell time. Tell him: I will play with you when the big hand is on the 6. If you bother me before then, we WILL NOT play. If you leave me alone to do what needs to be done, we'll do anything you want. (Yes, bribery works.)

    Answer by gdiamante at 1:28 PM on Jul. 13, 2013

  • New toy? Something that doesn't require an extra person.
    Or you could be mean and knock over his legos or something enough times till he tells you to go away.

    Answer by PartyGalAnne at 1:20 PM on Jul. 13, 2013

  • How about letting him play educational games on the computer? Look up his favorite TV shows & they usually have interactive learning games with that character. We have a Train Table that both my kids love. Sometimes we put the tracks on it & sometimes it's just for cars or coloring. Play Dough, Legos, matchbox Cars. When you need to get something done then put on a DVD like Cars or Thomas The Train Movies for him. Go to the library & borrow some learning DVD's like Phonics & Movies too. Let him take out books with animals or whatever. I think every Mom deals with this. Just be calm & prepare for when you need to get something done.

    Answer by ILovemyPaulie at 1:27 PM on Jul. 13, 2013

  • Sounds like he needs to be around other kids for social interaction for awhile.. look into Summer activities you can put him in. Something you can drop him off for so he's not distracted with you being there.

    Answer by anestheticsex at 1:07 PM on Jul. 13, 2013

  • I agree with gdiamante. Schedule short periods of time for him to play by himself (start with 5 mins and work up), if he does without bothering you he gets a small prize (30 min tv, cookie, a sticker, 10 mins of your time, etc - whatever will motivate him). Also start telling him you will play with him for X minutes, then it's time for him to play alone.
    Some kids just have a harder time with this than others. My 4 yo has always been great at independent play, my 3 yo wants me right there under her 24/7.

    Answer by missanc at 1:53 PM on Jul. 13, 2013

  • Is there a summer camp or a mom's morning out that you can join? If he is 5, I am assuming he will be going to school in the fall. It's best to go ahead and schedule some away time for him to practice being without you. It will make it much easier for him, you, and his teacher/classmates in the fall.


    Answer by JeremysMom at 1:07 PM on Jul. 13, 2013

  • What about your other kids? Why aren't they playing with him?

    Answer by SleepingBeautee at 3:53 PM on Jul. 13, 2013

  • We are in Canada ago he was in full day school (jr kindergarten) till the summer break. He is used to having other kids around him all the time.

    There is nothing on our area to put him in that doesn't involve me being there as well. Also I want him to learn independence, not just put him somewhere that will foster the sane issues.

    Comment by Amelora (original poster) at 1:27 PM on Jul. 13, 2013

  • same not sane lol

    Comment by Amelora (original poster) at 1:27 PM on Jul. 13, 2013

  • Whatever you decide for the short term...
    To help encourage his independent play & self-directed activity over time, pay attention to how you DO interact with him when you're spending time together. Don't unconsciously respond to him in ways that orient him to you, rather than to his own values, opinions & assessments. That just reinforces the existing dynamic!
    If you rely a lot on praise, you likely are creating an attention junkie. He feels better when he's getting feedback & affirmation. He's oriented toward YOU & what YOU think, what YOU value. There's not much "self" there. He is focused on pleasing someone, and he feels "real" when he is getting feedback (so he "needs" it.)
    Emergent energy is what fuels purposeful, self-directed play. It is "venturing forth" energy & it's rooted in the Self--in a child's own ideas, imaginings, creativity, purposes.
    Start where you are & begin orienting him to himself/his own evaluations.

    Answer by girlwithC at 7:48 PM on Jul. 13, 2013