When to start letting a child play by themselves

Manushi asks: My son is 11 months old. Is it ok if I let him play by himself? I mean I am there monitoring him, but I do my work, like household chores or watching TV or mobile, and I only step in if he is about to fall or something. Should I sit by his side when he is playing and play with him, or constantly attend him? My husband always sits with him when he is playing and teaches him stuff like “where’s the fan, where’s the light,” etc. I have a baby sitter for him for sometimes and even she does the same as my husband. I am confused as to what is the right thing to do? To attend him all the time and keep teaching him. or to let him be by himself and have his me time.

Hi Manushi –


As a dog, and especially as a dog who was spayed when I was six months old, I am absolutely unqualified to talk about the details of mothering a human baby.


But I think your question is so specific that NO ONE is really qualified to answer it.


And by that I mean that, on one hand, yes it’s great to give a child independence and let them play by themselves, and yet of course you’d never forgive yourself if something really bad happened to that kid when you weren’t watching.


But the main reason I don’t feel qualified is that I don’t know your son.  Kids develop at enormously different rates; some children are already talking and walking by eleven months, and others won’t get to those for a year.  Some children are very calm and focused, so you could leave one with a toy and assume he’ll play with it for a few minutes, and others are enormously energetic, destructive, and aren’t satisfied until everything in the room has been in their mouth (which completely describes the first two years of my life!).


My best suggestion is to try him out, in very little bits.  Is her ready for you to leave him alone at all?  What happens if you leave him alone for thirty seconds?  For one minute?  For five?  Does he get upset about you being gone?  Does he try to follow you out?  Bit by bit, as you find him able to last without you, you can leave him for a bit more time.


But the MOST important thing for you to do, of course, is to check the room you’d leave him in, many times over.  So, for example, you mention your husband pointing out the fan and the light – is it possible for your son to turn the fan on and stick his finger in the blades?  Is it possible for him to pull a lamp over onto himself?


Here’s the big truth – on one hand, children are very resilient and will survive all sorts of minor disasters; and on the other, your son is guaranteed to suffer some accidents in life.  Nothing you do will prevent those from happening.  Your job is just to keep him safe from being too affected by them, while also building his sense of independence and personal power.


I trust you, as a mother, more than any expert.  To have a good sense of what your son is ready for, and what he needs.  Just be careful, and trust your instincts, and I imagine everything’s going to be okay.


And of course, give him love and love and love and love and love.  That’s true for kids, for puppies, and really for everyone.  (But especially kids!)


All my best,


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