Struggles With Independent Play

Self-directed play is a gift that keeps giving with profound benefits for every aspect of our children’s development. As an added bonus, nurturing our child’s ability to self-entertain affords us the occasional much-deserved break. So, cultivating independent play and establishing it as a habit is well worth the effort. Unfortunately, no matter how early we start noticing, valuing, and then encouraging our children’s inner-directed play choices, there can be setbacks along the way. In this episode, Janet responds to emails from parents who describe their own setbacks. One parent shares how her 14-month-old flits from toy to toy, then suddenly announces she’s “done!” and cries until the parent removes her from the play area. She’s also begun demanding to be “done” with car rides and walks in the stroller. Another parent shares that her 8-month-old, who previously reveled in his play time and entertained himself for long periods, has lately become angry whenever there’s a gate between them, even when she’s doing chores right next to him on the other side. Janet shares insights for encouraging self-directed play and suggests ways these parents might help their kids get over their respective humps.

Transcript of “Struggles with Independent Play”

Hi, this is Janet Lansbury. Welcome to Unruffled.

Today I’m going to be doing something it feels like I haven’t done for a long time, which is talk about children who are, in one case, an infant, and then coming out of the infant stage into the early part of the second year. And so while this is focused on younger children than many of you have, I believe that some of the ideas I’m going to bring up will apply to toddlers, preschoolers, and maybe even older children, because this will be about boundaries around the attention that we’re able to give to our children. And as early as possible, I recommend starting to take care of ourselves in this relationship with our children so that this becomes normalized for them. And also so that they have the space they need to flourish as children who can entertain themselves, who learn through play the way that children do, enjoy their discoveries, their me time, getting to create their own activities. All things that serve our children well for life.

I have two questions that I received from parents around play and establishing play in the beginnings, or at least around the end of the first year and beginning of the second year, and the issues that can come up that seem to get in the way of this working and what we can do about them. What we can do to cultivate this time for our children, this really important time for them to spread their wings and have a healthy sense of control and agency in their world, following their interests.

Here’s the first email:

Hi, Janet-

I have a question regarding my eight-month-old’s independent play. When I am in the same room, even if I’m just observing, folding laundry, or reading a book, he excels at independent play and can entertain himself for long periods of time without intervention from me. I have observed him creating a challenging task for himself and focusing on accomplishing it for upwards of 25 minutes. Or standing at his window, observing the nature in the front yard. Or getting curious about tiny details in his room, like the door hinge, and returning to them repeatedly to investigate.

It’s a delight to watch. His room is a thoughtfully designed Yes Space with low shelving and a few toys on each shelf. When he was younger, he would stare at a mobile or out the window for up to 30 minutes sometimes while I did a few quick chores— while watching him on the monitor, of course. Now if I leave the room, he stands at the gate and screams and cries even if he can see me and we are chatting. I acknowledge and accept his feelings when this happens.

My question is, is he just not developmentally ready for me to leave him alone in this Yes Space to play for a bit while I do some tasks and will he grow into this and one day be fine with it? Or, should I work on doing some exposure therapy, so to speak, leaving the room for short periods of time, even if it is just to do laundry in the hallway where he can still see and hear me, knowing he will hate it and being ready to gently support him as he rages? I’m fine with holding that boundary and giving him practice dealing with those feelings, if it is a developmentally appropriate expectation that he be able to play alone in a gated room, and a skill he should learn.

Thank you.

Okay, so this parent has made this incredible discovery—important discovery, I believe—that her infant son has his own interests, his own ideas about what he wants to explore. He’s making all these discoveries and she’s learning that she can do a lot less than a lot of us think that we have to do with a baby to entertain them or keep engaging with them, getting them to engage with us. When we do that constantly, children don’t have this kind of time. They don’t have this space to express themselves and their own interests and develop important skills like attention span, creativity, their unique take on things. So she’s already done the most important, biggest thing here by valuing her child’s inner direction, his self-directed play, and wanting to nurture that. That’s the first step. So she’s done that.

And she sounds like she set herself up, and this is in I guess his bedroom or his nursery, she created a Yes Space. Yes Space is my term for the 100% safe, gated-off or enclosed somehow spaces that children can feel free to explore in. They’re free of us stopping them, interrupting them, saying no to this, no to that, and we’re free to be able to leave for short periods of time with the secure feeling that our child is safe. That’s freedom for us and freedom for our child. So, she’s designed this and now she’s running into trouble because it seems like all of a sudden, her child is having a hard time with her not being in this space with him.

To try to answer her more completely, I had some questions, so I wrote back:

What a wonderful setup you have. Could I please ask you a couple of questions?

  1. Can you please describe in detail what this is looking and sounding like when you acknowledge and accept his feelings?
  2. Is the gate closed or open when you are inside the play area with him?

I have some ideas for you and I look forward to sharing them. Sounds like you’re doing great.

This parent wrote back:

Thank you so much for your response.

  1. While he is expressing his feelings, I calmly say things like, “Wow, it sounds like you’re having some big feelings about me leaving the room. You really wish I could be available right now for you and I’m not. The problem is that I have a few tasks to get done and I don’t want to carry you around while I do them because you need more time to play. I know, you really wish you could get to me and there’s a gate up. That gate is to keep you safe. Your room is a safe place for you to play while I work. I hear you. You’re feeling angry/upset/frustrated/sad about having to stay in your nursery. I have some other responsibilities right now, but I will be right back to check on you. Thank you for telling me how you’re feeling,” etc. All in an empathetic tone. I stay close enough to continue to talk with him, acknowledge him, and reassure him while I’m working on other things within earshot and usually within eyesight.
  2. I have been intentionally closing the gate most times when I’m in the space with him to get him used to it. He either ignores it and plays in the room, or he treats it like a fun challenge, pulling up on it and trying to figure out how the latch works, trying to leverage his weight to move it, etc. He’s not upset by it.

For added context, we did have some very severe separation anxiety starting at five-and-a-half months and peaking about six-and-a-half months, in which he freaked out even if I set foot in a different area of our open-concept living space—for example, getting up to throw away a piece of trash—or if I was out of his sight for a second. We have mostly moved past that now that he is crawling proficiently. I can work in the kitchen and he is totally content playing out of eyesight in the dining room and crawling around to explore. I can tell him I’m leaving to do laundry in the hall and he will usually follow behind contentedly.

The issue is when he’s unable to get to me. I have the same issue if I put up a play yard fence as a barrier to something in the main part of the house. He’s fine as long as we’re both on the same side of the barrier. If I step over it and he can’t follow, he gets mad. These reactions sound much more like anger and frustration than the terrified cries a couple of months ago.

If he’s going to outgrow this the same way he outgrew that, I won’t make a concerted effort to get him to be okay with the situation and we’ll just wait it out. However, since it’s anger and not fear, I think, I am more okay with practicing, if this is a skill he can learn and not developmental.

Thank you so much.

Okay, so that was helpful that she gave all that information. Again, she’s very much on track here, I just want to help her with a couple of thoughts.

First, she gave a lot of examples of things she’s saying to him when she’s acknowledging and accepting his feelings. And I don’t believe she’s saying all these at once, but this is a lot of verbiage for somebody eight months old. He’s not going to really keep up with any of that. It may be that she’s kind of saying it for herself, to bolster herself that what she’s doing is okay. And that makes sense, but I would recommend being much simpler in the way that she talks to him. Really just focusing more simply on his side of this. So, less about what she’s going to do and how she needs to do this and keep him safe and all that. That’s a common thing that we do as parents is that we want to share a lot about why our child shouldn’t feel the way they do, rather than, You’ve got a right to say no to this, and I want to hear that. Almost like, Thank you for telling me you didn’t want me to leave.

So, much more in-the-moment, less explanatory. A simple explanation: “I’m going to go do this and I’ll be back in a few minutes. Can’t wait to see you again then.” That kind of thing. And then from there, mostly focusing on, “Wow, you’re not liking this. I hear you. You’re saying no, you don’t want me to leave you ever, right? You want to be on the same side with me.”

And these reactions he’s having make sense for several reasons. First, I have the sense that he is a child with a stronger type of will. I have a special love for that type of child, my first was like that. And one of the things about them is that they tell you everything and they tell it to you strongly. Obviously at eight months, he doesn’t have words yet to explain. So with infants, when we have a child like that, it can sound like they’re deeply upset about everything, when they just are being emphatic. They, again, express a lot more than a more passive-type child.

So it can be tougher as a parent to assert ourselves with those types of children, especially when they’re this little. And he is just a tiny baby, but he’s kind of raring to go here, he’s giving it to her. He’s telling her in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t approve of her being the one to decide to separate from him and have a gate between them. It’s okay if he separates from her. As she said, he’s in the dining room and she’s in the kitchen and he can’t even see her, but he gets to decide whether to go see her or not. And now he’s crawling. So it makes sense that this started coming up before he was able to crawl. He didn’t even want her to be away from him. 

Because what happens is children get to this age—and he got to it pretty young at five-and-a-half months—that they realize, Hey, sometimes you go away and I don’t have control over you, and we’re not sort of the same person. You’re this separate person that can be away from me and I don’t decide that. I don’t like that. And separation anxiety is actually more common for the age he’s at now, it’s usually like eight months through 12 months, but maybe he started having it a little early. He has strong feelings about it and he wants to share. It’s hard to see that as a positive, but that’s one of the keys to being able to put it into perspective.

So, strong-willed children express themselves more strongly. And then with separation anxiety, we want to be sensitive to it, of course, so we’re not going to go off for a long time to show him or try to teach him a lesson, making him upset. We want to be sensitive to it, but we can’t let ourselves be completely ruled by this and still do something that’s super important, which is holding space for ourselves in this relationship. That’s the most loving thing to do, not only for us, but for our children. For them to learn, in this age-appropriate manner, that we are a separate person and that we have needs too. And yes, we subvert a lot of them to be there for our children, but we can’t erase ourselves in this relationship, or it’s going to be harder for us to manage the day and our feelings about our child too, to be honest, and much harder, therefore, for him.

To answer more directly some of her questions here: Is he just not developmentally ready for her to leave him alone in this Yes Space to play a bit while she does tasks and will he grow into this and one day be fine with it? Children like this, they’re almost never fine with just letting us go. So that’s a hard pill to swallow, but that goes with the territory. They’re not going to say, “Oh, go have some nice time off,” or “Go do the chores and I’ll just be here, I’m totally fine to hang out.” Oftentimes there is a bit of a complaint, at least. But is he developmentally ready to be left alone for a little bit? Absolutely.

And it’s much easier for him and for us to get comfortable with this the earlier we start it. Having some times away from our child, even when they’re just a few months old, being able to go get ourselves something to drink or go to the bathroom alone. Starting that not to train children in some artificial way or to even, as she says, do some “exposure therapy.” No, I wouldn’t consider this some kind of structured plan or therapy that she’s doing. It can be a natural, organic way of taking care of ourselves in the relationship, taking our space. Trusting that our child can learn this and handle this. We’re not trying to force a lesson. It’s just the way that relationships go, that we have needs that don’t always match our child’s wants.

He’s getting his needs taken care of, she’s not abandoning him. She said even if she’s right there, but there’s just that gate in between them, he’s still getting mad. Yeah, because he’s saying, Hey, wait, I can’t get to you right now. I can’t control this part of the situation. And I guess we have to decide how we feel about if he should control that part of it. But then when do we ever get to establish ourselves and have personal boundaries? That’s a question we have to ask ourselves. Because actually, it gets harder later when children aren’t used to this and it’s a new thing that we try to spring on them at age two or something. It’s much harder for us and for them.

So I would trust your needs and trust his right to have his own reaction to that— Hey, wait a second! And see that as strength in him, not something pitiable or terribly worrisome. It’s very typical and very healthy in a child like this. She’s got a live one here.

The bottom line is, for this or any kind of boundary that we’re going to set, ever, with our children or anyone, the more comfortable we are with setting the boundary, the easier it will be for that other person, the more settled they can feel around it. Not that they’re going to be comfortable and love it, but they feel that conviction coming from us and it’s much more comfortable than if we’re ambivalent, we’re wavering. Then they get stuck there, now they’ve got to keep asking and pushing. It’s like they’re reaching for a boundary and it keeps moving and they can’t get a handle on it. So that’s not really doing them any favors. Our comfort is always going to be the baseline for our children’s comfort in any situation. It’s especially true when we’re kindly and lovingly setting a personal boundary.

And the most challenging part is to find a place of okayness—I’m not going to say “comfort,” because that’s way too much to ask of ourselves and unnatural to be totally fine with our children expressing their discomfort. But okayness with it is vital, because it’s that okayness that gives us the conviction in our decisions to take care of ourselves, without having to supervise our baby 24/7, as in this case. To go to the bathroom by ourselves, to be caring to ourselves, and consider the household, that we have to get food ready for him, we have to do whatever it is. It’s all in his best interest and we need to do it. Finding that okayness so that they can feel settled in their rejection of our decisions.

Now I want to offer some ideas for helping this parent feel more conviction and comfort, and her child as well, with this situation. And encouraging his play the way she wants to do, which is such a great thing. It’s a gift that keeps giving, seriously. One thing I want to offer her is routine, routine, routine. So it sounds like sometimes she’s in there with him, sometimes she lets him wander now that he’s crawling. And I’m wondering if she has any kind of routine around this because that will help her and her child a great deal to get more comfortable with this. For her, setting the boundaries; for him, accepting her boundaries. So, routine, routine, routine means we develop something that works for both of us, keeping his energy for play in mind, which for most young children is earlier in the day when they’re the freshest. That’s a time that we really want to take advantage of because that’s when they have the best energy for that kind of play. But it can be other times in the day too.

And she mentioned him outside. I don’t know if it’s possible for her to create a safe play yard for him outside. Yes, he will still complain when she’s on the other side of it, but that could be a part of his day, when it works weather-wise. A lot of people don’t have outdoor area available like that, so that becomes a park or something else where the parent does need to supervise. But if you can have a less-supervised area like that, that’s going to be easier for us.

So a routine might look like, she takes care of his needs in the morning when he gets up, breakfast, nursing, diaper change, however that looks, giving him her undivided attention then as much as possible. And then there’s playtime. And maybe in that first morning playtime, she’s with him for a short period and then she gets up. She communicates she’s getting up. That’s another thing I forgot to ask this parent, if she’s letting him know. Because sometimes we don’t want to say, we just want to kind of sneak out. It sounds like she’s very communicative with him, so I imagine she’s saying, “Now it’s the time I’m going to get up and go do this, and then I will be back.”

And with a child who’s reacting the way her son is, I might even say, “And you get to be mad at me if you want to. And I will come back, and then you can yell at me when I come back, if you need to.” That’s for him, but also for myself. To feel that I have actually written that into the script here, I’ve written that into the play. So that means I can expect that that’s very likely going to happen, and I’m giving him permission and I’m giving me permission for that to happen.

But we don’t have to say that part. We can just say, “And then I’ll be leaving.” And maybe we even say that as playtime’s starting: “I’m going to be sitting here with you for a bit, and then there’s going to come a time where I’ll let you know that I’m getting up.” And of course we want to let them know, because otherwise it’s much harder for them to get involved in their play when they’re kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop and we’re going to go. The clarity and the consistency of the routine can be really, really helpful.

So now we get up and we go. He knows that we’re going to come back, because this is part of our day that we’ve set up. Maybe we want to set it up that we’re not staying with him in that first morning period. That that’s when we say, “Okay, after I’m done with this diaper or after we’re done with this feeding, I’m going to place you in your play area and I’m going to leave. And after I do some chores, I will soon come back. And you can yell at me. I’ll hear you, wherever I am. I know, you’ve got a right to do that, right? You don’t like me to leave. I will be back.” And then there’s other periods in the day that we have this regularity.

And some people, they want to be spontaneous all the time, I know. It just makes it a little harder for children, who are newer to the world and really kind of like those guidelines of being able to predict what will happen next. It’s confidence-building and it makes it easier for them to let go of us. Which doesn’t mean they do it calmly, without complaining, but it’s easier.

The other part of consistency is to have that gate in his play area always closed when we’re in there with him, if possible, so that that really gets established. It sounds like she does that. But sometimes people will want to leave it open until they leave and then they close it. And it’s understandable that a child like this, he’s very excited, he’s crawling now. That’s cool, but wait, now I’m crawling and now they’re stopping me and putting gates up? What’s going on with that? That’s not very encouraging, right? So if it’s part of his play area, as his parent is making it, it sounds like, then he does explore it the way she describes. And I asked about that to try to figure out if that was part of this or not, that maybe she was just closing it on him when she was leaving.

And also sometimes when children are up at the gate, they’re pulling up to stand and they’re very excited about what they’re doing and exploring the gate like she described. I mean, she’s very insightful here about what’s going on with them. She’s obviously a practiced observer, which I recommend, and she’s noticing that he enjoys figuring out the gate. But it can certainly appear as if, Oh no, my child just wants to be at the gate the whole time while he’s playing, and that means he wants out. And that’s not really true. They’re as interested in a gate or a bit of fencing as they are in anything else. They’re exploring all of it. So that is part of the consistency and the routine. That gate is established as a closed gate while he’s playing.

So anyway, now let’s say that she leaves and he’s upset. That’s when I would say, as she does, but I would say it simpler: “I hear that. You don’t want me to go, you don’t want me to go do this. You’re telling me no.” And then I would do whatever it is I have to do, and in another 30 seconds or another minute, I would say from wherever I am, “I hear you. You’re still not liking this. You’re in a hurry for me to come back, it seems like. I’ll be there soon.” And because I’m expecting this as a parent, because I know that this is a good sign of my child’s expression of himself and his wants, and it’s a very strong position to be in, to be able to kind of be the boss saying, Hey, I didn’t give you permission! So that’s not as intimidating when we get perspective on it. He’s not abandoned. He knows quite well that you mean what you say because you’ve always shown him that you come back. And especially if you’re there right in front of him, he knows you haven’t done some terrible thing to him.

He’s shown that he loves play and he’s very into his time and doesn’t need you every second. But he wants the option that he has you every second. That’s the difference. He’s not in pain, he’s not desperate. So we can respond in a welcoming way, not pitying, not trying to explain it away or convince him not to feel the way he does. Allowing him to vent. And oftentimes when we come back, then children really vent on us, and that’s when we can say, “Oh, I’m back. That was hard for you. You didn’t like that at all. I always want you to tell me. I always want you to tell me how you feel. When you’re mad at me, when you don’t like what I do, you can always tell me.” I would try to see it that way. I mean, that’s a wonderful setup for life, right? Letting him know that we’re okay with his communication no matter what it is and his feelings, even if they’re angry feelings towards us. We can hold space for that, we can handle that. We can handle him.

Sometimes parents will tell me that they felt like they were too much to handle, they were just too much as babies. And oftentimes that’s because the parent was afraid to set boundaries because of the reaction they were getting, or for other reasons, very understandable reasons, couldn’t handle those reactions and got mad at us for them, as babies or toddlers. So we get that message, because our parent’s exasperated: “Okay, I’ll come,” or “I’ll let you come with me.” We feel like we’re too much because we know that they’re doing things they don’t want to do, because of our reaction. They can’t handle our reaction. So we can do something much healthier by welcoming these, along with every other feeling that our child has. Anger directed towards us is probably the hardest one of all, right? So, welcoming the feelings, saying less, trusting more.

Okay, so here’s a different issue that another parent asked about:


I’ve loved listening to your podcast and try my best to follow your philosophy of respectful parenting. I am a mama to a strong-willed 14-month-old-girl who is always on the go. It seems that she becomes bored easily and nothing seems to hold her attention for more than five minutes at a time. I would love to encourage more independent play but, more often than not, she starts repeating the word “done” over and over again, only minutes after starting a new activity. She will throw her hands in the air and continue to be upset until I pick her up. This “done” repetition has also started when she’s in her car seat, right after leaving the house, or in her stroller on a walk. I want to encourage the use of her words, but sometimes we simply can’t be “done” with the activity.

I acknowledge that I have heard her and explained that we’re not done until we stop the car or get to our destination in the stroller. She just keeps repeating, “done, done, done,” louder and louder until she starts crying. Do I keep acknowledging her every time she says “done”? Or is there a point where I should just let her keep talking without a response?

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Okay, so this is a little more unusual, but one thing that I do hear commonly is about children who don’t seem to have a long attention span, they’re going from one thing to another, they can’t seem to settle down. What I would do generally is trust that and see that as just where they are in their process and not worry about it. Because it’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. And sometimes if children feel that we’re uncomfortable when they’re doing that, it kind of keeps them stuck there. Like everything we feel uncomfortable about, children key into that and keep exploring it on some level or get stuck there. Especially strong-willed children, right? Because they’re sometimes extra-attuned. So I wouldn’t worry that she’s bored, she’s just doing it her way.

But this parent still can encourage more independent play with some of the ideas that I offered this other parent: the safe play area; the routine, routine of when we’re with them, when we go do stuff, that this sort of happens the same way every day; that we’re putting their communication, their reaction in perspective. And that’s a big one here, because this little girl’s saying, “Done!”, and it seems like maybe when she said this, the parent felt, Uhoh, that means she can’t play anymore. What I would do is practice when you’re with her in her play area—I don’t know if this parent has a safe play area for her daughter, but I’d recommend having one if possible—but even if she doesn’t, being present, just sitting there. Not worrying when she’s going from thing to thing. And when she says “done”: “Oh, you’re telling me that you’re done playing right now. Okay, you can come sit with me.” So we’re not picking her up and taking her out of this situation. We’re doing less. We’re letting her come to us and be with us.

This is just part of her play, it’s part of her process. Every child has their own process around play and learning. Now she says, “done, done, done”: “Okay, you’re done. We’re just going to hang out in here until it’s lunchtime.” And then if that’s usually what happens, that will help her get used to that. But not seeing “done” as some urgent thing we need to try to fix or rescue her from, or a command that we have to follow. It’s an expression that, You feel like you’re done playing. You’re done with all those things right now. Okay, you can take a break. We’re just going to hang out here then. And if she says, “I want to leave. I want to leave”: “We’re not going to leave right now. In a few minutes we’ll leave. But for now we’re here.” Just being comfortable with that boundary. Because she’s not harming her child, she’s right there for her. She’s just not jumping into action to her child’s expression of “done.” And it seems like maybe this child has gotten used to mom feeling that, Uhoh, oh no, she doesn’t have a long attention span. Or, Oh no, I’ve got to do something now and get her out of this. She’s telling me she’s done. I would try to reframe “done” as just she’s done exploring those toys or whatever it is.

Throwing her hands in the air seems to suggest that she’s used to pick me up now. But let her be upset with you while you’re just sitting right there, because it sounds like she’s sensed the power in this word now. She’s discovered that this word gets people jumping for me. And so now it’s exploding all over the place—in her car seat or in her stroller, she’s saying “done.” And she’s wondering if that’s going to have the power to change the situation. So allowing her to explore this while you’re there for her with play is the best way for her to start getting a different message about this.

And I’m wondering about this little girl’s definition of done, if it’s even the same as ours, or if it was the same when she first said it and now it’s taken on this kind of command thing. It’s so easy to fall into this as parents with our children because we’re excited they’re saying words and now we feel like, Oh gosh, that means I’ve got to get her out of this because she said she’s done. So dial this back for yourself and let her say “done” in the car and say, “Oh, you’re saying you’re done with sitting there in the car seat. Yeah, you don’t want to be there anymore, maybe. I hear that.” And let her be mad about that. And it may be kind of loud the first couple times, but your calm, your conviction that you’re not doing anything wrong by not rescuing her there or helping her be done will help her get settled in very soon.

But what is the key? Our conviction, right? Having that conviction that this isn’t something I need to be alarmed about, it’s really okay for her to say this. I don’t know what it means to her when she first said it. It’s safe to just let her have this, and every, feeling and not try to explain why she shouldn’t, and it’s not okay to be done here. And if she keeps repeating it louder, louder, louder—which I’m sure she will at first, because now this is a thing—you don’t have to acknowledge her every time. You can let her keep talking. I would nod your head, look at her if she’s making eye contact. Just nod your head, “Yeah, you’re still feeling done, you’re feeling like you’re over this. I know. The thing is we’re not there yet, but I hear you feel done. You’re ready to move on.” Not being afraid to acknowledge that truth of what’s going on with her, while you, as the parent with conviction, hold those boundaries.

And the boundary could be that we’re not home yet, so we’re not done with the walk, which should be easy to believe in, right? Or that we need to still be in the car right now because we’re on the freeway. But the play one as well. For children to feel comfortable at all with boundaries or get used to them, they need our comfort and conviction in them. Our okayness with their not okayness.

So I really hope some of this helps. And I just want to say again, I’m totally behind cultivating play for children. I feel like it’s one of the best things that we can do for them as parents and do for ourselves. But it’s not going to be seamless. And even when we think, Oh, they’re so settled and play is working great for them, there will be bumpy parts where they need boundaries, they need our sensitivity. Maybe they need to be with us more certain times, but we still feel clear and comfortable with our boundaries. That we’re doing the right thing, that we’re doing the most loving thing, because we really are.

Thanks so much for listening. We can do this.

Please check out some of the other podcasts on my website, They’re all indexed by subject and category, so you should be able to find whatever topic you might be interested in. And my books, No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, and Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting, you can get them in paperback at Amazon and in ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and

1 Comment

Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Really helpful article, thanks so much for the insight.

    Are all toys meant to remain contained in the yes space? My 16 month old just cries in the section of living room that is his gated yes space, if myself or hubby isn’t in there with him.
    It’s also a small space and our son likes to run run run! Is it confusing for him to have toys inside and out? He has a small cupboard with four toys outside the yes space for his evening entertainment just before bed, so hubby and I can sit on the sofa together before the routine starts.

    If he’s out of the space he will make toys of the oven gloves, dog toys, clothes to run around with, too. He enjoys holding an object and running with it, back and forth.

    Thanks so much

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