“As soon as I’m on a phone call, my child seems to have a melt-down”
“I need 5 minutes to respond to an emergency email and I can’t, my toddler seems to need me every moment of the day”
In the ideal world our child should be able to play on his/her own, right? …. Well unfortunately it seems like at the moment we need the child’s cooperation, which is when he needs us most. Here is just one idea that might help your little one be able to play on his/her own:
“Mommy is Busy” Box
1. Find two rectangular 16 qt. boxes (Target or any school/paper supply store has perfect boxes.)
2. Create Box #1
Think about what your child likes – what is he/she interested in? Collect a few items and place them in this box (This box will be in the adult’s possession, not accessible or visible to your child). The trick is to find items your child is not using every day. They don’t necessarily have to be new store-bought items, they can come from your kitchen. In time you will add more and more items to this box—it is your storage. (I will share my list of ideas with you for this box).
3. Create Box #2
This box will be the box that you will make available to your child when you are about to make a phone call. Create a label: “Mommy is busy” (with a picture of mommy occupied by some business, such as mom on the phone. It could also say: “Daddy is busy”, “Grandma is busy”, “Sister is busy”, etc). Tape this label on the lid.
4. Introduce Box #2 to your child.
- Pull one set of items/toys from box #1 to box #2. Store box #1 somewhere out of reach.
- Be honest about the purpose of the box. “I know how hard it is to wait when I have to talk on the phone with Aunt Susie. I created this box just for you. I wonder if you will like to see what’s inside while I am talking with Susie.”
- Show Box #2 to your child.
- The first time, I suggest “doing a pretend session” where you are busy for 2-5 minutes. Eventually, you can expand the time.
- Observing your child will help you to know when you should rotate the set and put something new from Box #1 to Box #2.
- The box shouldn’t be accessible for your child during the day. The idea is the contents of this are novel and not available at all times.
- When you finish your business and see that your child is still engaged with the contents of this box, honor his interest and allow him to finish before you put the box away.
Few Ideas for Box Contents
|2 yo||4 yo|
|Photo album with child’s baby pictures||Empty toilet paper rolls with small animals in them on one string. Hang across the room. And small rescue figure. Can he save animals? (recycled-free)|
|Set of empty containers from lotions with Lids for children to open and close (recycled-free)||Expand on this set of empty containers from lotions and perfumes. You can have multiple sizes, small to large, you can put items inside for sorting. Lids can be removed and kids can match the lid to the jar. (recycled-free)|
|An empty coffee can from Trader Joe’s. Cut the lid. It makes a perfect sorter. Cut one opening for items to sort in the box. (recycled-free)||Expand this idea by cutting three lids in a different ways: long and skinny, small and round, and large and round. Provide small items to sort. Could be small sticks, rocks, and cards. (recycled-free)|
|Set of small plastic cars||Set of small metal cars (you might have one already)|
|Duplo Set||Lego Set|
|Pretend Phones (recycled)||Bolts and screws|
|Kefir bottle from Trader Joe’s with plastic bracelets and plastic curlers||Markers and paper that are usually not available ($2 – 3)|
|Stacking cups||An empty coffee can from Trader Joe’s. Cut the lid (long skinny opening). It makes a perfect mailbox. Provide small pretend letters. Include a letter from you to your child, from dad to child. (recycled-free)|
|Set of locks and keys ($3 – 4)|
Not only will the “busy box” occupy your child while you are busy, but it will also foster the independence we strive to model in our children.
Our goal is to provide resources for parents to be able to attend to the phone call, email, the business that needs urgent attention, however, we want to make sure parents don’t “misuse” this idea to replace themselves from connecting with their child. It is important to spend quality time with your child where you will be present, observing and allowing the child to lead the play.
Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!