I first heard about the "Blanket Time" concept in one of the BabyWise books... it might be "ToddlerWise". One in the series anyway...
The basic gist of it is your baby is trained to sit on a blanket (or whatever) for anywhere from 5 minutes to a half an hour. For a person with no room for a play pen, and my children associate being put in the crib or on their bed with punishment for misbehavior, I like this idea. I remember when I was reading this in the "ToddlerWise" book and thinking that I should get Maddie in the habit of playing by herself for a little while each day. But somehow, it never happened with her.
Okay, I"ll admit it. I was a big squishy softy with her.
A few weeks ago, I picked up the Duggar Family's book at the library. Whether you agree with their convictions or not, you've got to admit that a woman with 19 children probably has a few tricks up her sleeve! It was a really easy, fun book to read. I don't have cable so I've only seen maybe 2 episodes of their show, but their book was chucked full of humor, down to earthness (I think I just invented that phrase) and good solid ideas.
She presented blanket time as "a play pen in your purse". The way she explained the method was a bit more user friendly and realistic. She had a basket of special little toys that her baby/toddler could choose from and then sit on their blanket until instructed to get up. They baby had to SIT on the blanket, not stand or jump around. (As you can see in my picture, I am just fine with the baby laying around and pretending that she is a beaver and her tea cup is a tree trunk. But that's just me!) Mrs. Duggar made it sound to the child like a fun thing and was very enthusiastic about the whole thing. Young kids learn what is fun by our voice tones and facial expressions! If the child threw their toy, they simply didn't have a toy for the remainder of blanket time and they soon learned to keep a hold of their toy.
When I first reading her describe her routine for blanket time, my initial reactions were:
1. That sounds wonderful.
2. My kids will never cooperate.
But, I decided to try it anyway by virtue of necessity. I was trying to make dinner, both girls were whiny and under foot every second and it was just a stressful time of the day!! So I thought, It can't get any worse; might as well try it. So I got out a blanket and a favorite toy for each girl. I plopped Eden down on the blanket and Maddie was told to stay in a chair until I said to get up. As I fully anticipated, neither were a big fan of this idea. But dinner was burning so I left them fussing in their individual areas and went about my work. Eden got up once, was reprimanded and put back. In typical Maddie fashion, Maddie stayed put while exclaiming that she was obeying while Eden wasn't. Na na na boo boo. (She didn't say that exactly but that was her attitude!) Eden fussed for another 5 minutes and then it suddenly occurred to me that other than food sizzling in the pan, the house was quiet. I looked into the living room to see both girls engrossed in their toy.
So this has become a regular thing in the McCoy house, especially while I cook dinner or do something else that requires my full attention. As cheesy as it sounds, and as much as I was skeptical, Maddie actually gets a bit excited about "Chair Time" as she calls it. I think she has figured out that this little block of time lets her play with a special toy, like her key board, without a certain little red head coming by and banging on it. And I actually think Maddie just likes having me direct her activities. She doesn't like to be aimlessly wandering around looking for something to do. For Eden, it's still 50/50... half the time she still fusses, but then gets over it and plays well. But half the time she takes her cue from Maddie and I and settles into blanket time happily.
My two cents for making it effective:
Remember that it's not time out... it's not meant to be a punishment but rather an "activity". A time for each child to play alone without having to share their beloved toy. Sometimes I am tempted to declare blanket time when they are being naughty but then it's dreaded and it is so much better if it is is seen as a fun thing. It's better to punish naughtiness, give it a few minutes, then declare blanket time.
It's probably obvious but this idea will not work if the toddler hasn't been learning to obey in general. It may be good "practice time" for them to learn to obey mommy and stay put.
All day every day can't be blanket time! Ah shucks! I save it for the times when I really need them to be independent for a little while. My girls can handle around 25 minutes well (we set the timer) at this point. But oh, the things I can do in 25 minutes!!! The first time we did this, I set the timer for 10 minutes, which was perfect. They could manage it and weren't dying to get up by the time the timer rang.
So far, we have only done this at home. I'm hoping that next time I have a double appointment at the pediatrician's office, this idea saves me the embarrassment of one kid hanging from the ceiling while I try to discuss the other child with our doctor! Our last checkup did not go so smoothly!!! Maddie was doing Evel Knievel moves off the firetruck examine table while Eden was being looked over.
Aside from simply giving mommy as little time to get something done, an expected benefit arose from doing blanket time. The girls ENJOY their toy and are content with that one toy for a time. I really like that. The typical play routine is for the girls to get out a bunch of stuff but not really play with it. Maybe it's having SOOO many options they are too distracted to actually focus on one item. It just seems like it's good for them to be calm and quiet and self entertaining for a small stretch of time. So there- it's not COMPLETELY selfish! ;)
Well this turned out to be a long post on a simple subject! Enjoy your day!