Sunday 27 February 2011


Room Time (for Toddlers/Preschoolers from 21 months)

Age: From 21 months old

I heard about the concept of Room Time Time from “On Becoming Toddlerwise” By Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, a Christian-based parenting book. Room Time is a progression from Blanket Time as the child gets older. I wanted very much for J to be able to do Room Time and have been wanting to implement it. Today, I was determined to follow through with my plan, and I succeeded with 10 minutes with J.

What is Room Time?

Room Time is a form of structured independent playtime, where toddlers/preschoolers play on their own in their room, where mommy chooses the time, the place and the activity or toy the child should pay with.

What are the objectives?

1. To teach focus skills – so that child does not jump from one toy to another without really exploring it

2. To teach parameter skills – so that child is willing to stay in a place, although there is no playpen gates to restrain him

3. To teach obedience and self-control – so that child will be willing to listen to the instructions of mommy and daddy

When to start?

Room Time is generally suitable for toddlers/preschoolers from 21 months, but you can start earlier, if you could feel that your toddler is ready.

How to implement Room Time?

1. Start slow

Start with only 5 minutes at a time consistently every day or once a week. I set the egg timer to 5 minutes and told J that it is now independent play time. I allowed him one toy. During Room Time, usually mommy chooses the toy, but today, I asked him what he would like to play. He chose the aeroplane. I told him that he should play with it alone for 5 minutes and he can get out of the play room when the timer goes off. He played with the aeroplane while I stood outside the play room, encouraging him to go on. When the timer went after 5 minutes, I praised him and told him that Room Time is now over, and that he can come out of the playroom, or he can continue. He chose to continue. So I set the timer for another 2 minutes and then again for another 3 minutes, at his third request. You can always add time again, but once you set the timer, you should not take time away. Slowly work it up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes and 45 minutes.
If you have never implemented Blanket Time and jumping straight to Room Time, you might want to start Room Time together with him. You may want to read a book of your own on the bed, while he is playing in one corner of his bed room. Then slowly back away until you are out of the room and he is willing to play happily.

2. Use a timer

Use a timer to set the time you aim for your child to have Room Time. In this way, your child will come to understand that Room Time is limited, and thus, he may treasure it more. You can always add time.

3. Plan ahead

Think the night before, what activity or toy you want your child to play with during Room Time the next day. Then prepare the activity or toy so that it will just be ready, when you start Room Time. By doing it right at the beginning of Room Time, and showing resolve, it will reduce the tendency of your child from choosing the toy himself, and then jumping from toy to toy.

4. Be consistent and keep trying

Even if you don't succeed the first time, try it again for 5 minutes the next day (or for working moms like me, the next week). Try it again and again for 5 minutes until one day you succeed. And even if you succeed, there will be good days and bad days. Good days when you suceed and bad days when the Room Time just do not materialize. Just keep going. For me, even if I fail throughout these two years to implement Room Time, the effort will still be worth it, as the by-products I would have gained from trying - such as determination, persistency, never giving up spirit - would be worth it. If anything, I would have gained a refining of character in the process of implementing Room Time, whether I succeed eventually or not.

5. Pray and commit your plans to God

Now you have your plan, and it all looks very good. For me, my spirit is willing, my plan is fool-proof, but alas my flesh is weak. When I pray and commit to God my plan, I humble myself before God and show respect for Him. I acknowledge that I am mere human, and I find strength and help from God to overcome my weaknesses. When I do succeed, I know that the glory truely goes to God, and that it is not my own effort.

If you ever wonder whether God really answers prayers, and if you have not known Jesus, I wish for you sincerely my friend, that you will come to know the God who loves and cares deeply for you. You can start by praying to Jesus and commiting all your plans to Him, and see for yourself whether He does not prove Himself real in your life.

What is the ideal room?

It can be your child's bedroom, or any area or corner that is convenient for you. For J, it is the play area near our living room, as it enables me to keep an eye on him easily.
Should the room door be open or close?
The goal is to close the room door eventually, but it did not be. If you close the door, be very sure that the room is child-proof. Our play area is closed off by shooting doors. So my plan is to slowly reducing the opening, until one day it is completely closed, when J is ready. If your room is just a play area, without any door, it is also fine.

What toy would be suitable?

It should be a toy that has some novelty effect, or could hold his attention for some time. For J, it is the following:

• kitchen toys
• stacking wooden blocks
• stringing wooden beads
• cars and trucks
• building wooden or plastic train tracks
• colouring
• musical instruments (tambourine, drums, xylophone, etc)

Don't worry, however, about changing toys too frequently. It is alright for the same toys for a week as it will help a child to play with what has been given to him.

What to do when your child wonders out of the room?

If your child comes out of the room to ask for help with some toys, gently lead the child back to the room. Tell him firmly but gently that he should not leave the room until the timer goes off, but if he needs help, he should wave to mommy and calls out to mommy and from behind the door line to get mommy's attention.

What are the benefits?

1. Provide you time to unwind

Your child will be able to focus and entertain himself for some time during the day. This provides you some time to catch your breath, or do the chores such as preparing dinner, without having to resort to the TV as a babysitter, or having a child constantly whining for your attention. It is good for the child and healthy for mommy’s mental health.

2. Easier to manage during outings

Having been able to play alone in a room setting, your child will also be less likely to be some wild fireworks that flutter around, whenever you bring him to a supermarket, for example.

3. Higher chances of pursuing a tertiary education

You will increase the chance of your child, especially if he is a boy, going to university. Reports shows that in Denmark, there is a growing problems of girls pursuing tertiary education and boys not. The explanation is that the education system is more conducive for girls than boys, since girls are in general better able to sit down in class and pay attention. It will be a big social problem, if this problem is not addressed, as the boys will have problem finding a marriage partners, when they grow up. Thus, being able to sit still, concentrate and pay attention is a very important skill to acquire that will increase the chance of academic success.

On Becoming Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

10.9.2011 (2Y6M5D) - Room Time with fanta colour peg board...
On Becoming Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam is available from Amazon:

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