Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The value of alone time

Since the 1990’s ‘Decade of the Brain’, parents are frequently reminded of the importance of stimulating a baby’s developing mind. There are toys, classes, and activities that all profess to help build a baby’s brain. We hear of studies that link cognitive development with activities we can do with our children, such as reading, listening to classical music, or infant massage. However, “allowing babies the time and space to do nothing—or a quiet activity of their choosing—is crucial to their development,” says Katherine Lee in her article Why Babies Need Downtime.

Quiet Time Is A Solution To Over Stimulation

What counts as quiet time? Just about anything that allows a baby to slow down and reflect—at his or her own pace:
·         Sitting in the high chair, watching you make dinner
·         Lying in the crib and babbling to herself
·         Looking at a picture book (alone)
·         Studying the textures on a set of blocks
·         Riding in a front carrier while you go about your routine
·         Staring into space

Children Can Learn Independence

Another important benefit from time alone is that babies will gradually start to understand that they’re independent from you.  It’s only in solitude that a child really gets a chance to think, reflect, and discover; to renew and replenish her energies; and to have time and space for creative work. A child’s emotional well-being lies in achieving a healthful balance between attached time and alone time—a balance that permits her to enjoy her own company as much as she enjoys that of others.

Providing Solitude For Your Child

It’s so exciting to have a newborn that it can be hard to keep your hands off him. And no one will deny that babies flourish with lots of love and attention. But even the tiniest infant needs some time to himself—time to watch his mobile move in the sunlight or listen to the sounds in the street—so that his growing brain can learn to make sense of what he sees and hears.

Leaving your little one to his own devices for a few minutes at a time encourages him to become more curious about the world and helps build his self-reliance. After all, a baby who can amuse himself is a baby who is learning to build and rely on his own intelligence. If you fill your child’s every waking moment with stimulation, he will come to depend on your resources to keep him occupied.

Does My Infant Really Want To Be Alone?

Take your cues from your child. Some babies have an independent temperament and are happy to watch the world from their infant seat. Other babies need your constant presence to feel comfortable and have a harder time being left alone.

Remember, a parent who interrupts a happy baby is discouraging rather than encouraging his sense of independence.

Sources for this article:
Age by Age: The Importance of Time Alone by Ava L. Siegler, Ph.D.
Why Babies Need Downtime by Katherine Lee, March 2003 Parenting magazine
(The above articles are available in our article library. If you are interested in reading more, ask your home visitor for a copy.)
Quite Time and Transitions for Children by Nancy Monson, www.runningriver.sprout.org

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