Toddler Won't Play Alone?

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Sometimes young children refuse to play alone and demand your full attention. Playing by themselves is not only a break for you, but good for them as well. This is a page about when a toddler won't play alone.


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December 17, 2009

My 4 year old son doesn't like to play in his room by himself. He follows me around most of the time saying hes bored, and he also has a really nasty temper and breaks all of his toys. Any ideas on what I can do?

By sara from Ontario, Canada


December 18, 20090 found this helpful

I do not know of any child that will play in another room alone,they want to be in the same room with mom,mine stayed in the kitchen or dinning room with me when I were cooking ,maybe some coloring books will help him or some tinker toys he can build something with,good luck.

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December 18, 20090 found this helpful

I'm not sure when my daughter got to where she'd play by herself in her room, maybe at 4 or 5. She used to prefer to play in the living room, but I got tired of her millions of little pieces of toys that she refused to pick up after playing (like Littlest Pets and Legos), so I banned her from bringing those out of her room. So I think that helped transition her back to her bedroom.


So I don't know if the independent playing will come with time, but if he is intentionally breaking his toys, I think you probably shouldn't replace them. If the broken toy poses a danger, throw it out. If it isn't dangerous, he can try to get by with what he's done. There need to be consequences, or else he will continue the behavior, and he will never learn to appreciate what he's been given.

My daughter tried the "I'm bored" and nasty behavior for a while. She lost her privileges (TV/computer/video games) for several days, and had to figure out how to entertain herself. So if you let him do any of these things, maybe unplug for a while. Initially it'll be miserable for you (the complaining will increase), but provide him with things for his imagination (craft items, Legos, etc), help him along a bit, and I bet he'll figure out what to do.


Best of luck -- I hope your little man turns the corner soon!

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December 18, 20090 found this helpful

I would not think a child of that age would like to be too far away from their mommy. They like to be close to mommy. Using rewards might encourage him to stay in his room, like if you go there and remark how good it is to be in there. I would buy little gifts and hide them around his room. If he goes into his room, I would praise him, I would not let him know you want him to play in his room, being the age he is, that would be like telling him to stay out of the room completely. It has been a while since I have had a four year old, my autistic child at four was so unlike a typical child and then my typical child at four was pretty calm but since she turned 9 she is more like a teenager with all the accompanying attitude. It is really funny. They are such blessings. I do not know you son's individual personality, but usually rewarding behaviour, usually works. We take all our kids to a therapist for things that might be bothering is a nice thing to do if you are worried at all that they are stressed.


Blessings, Robyn

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December 18, 20090 found this helpful

Sounds like he's needing more interaction. No one likes to be shoved off in a room. Maybe take short walks with a small container for gathering treasures. When you get home, have a snack, then let him draw pix of his treasures [rocks, weeds, sticks, and so on]. Have a tray he can put the stuff on, Then next time, he can decide what to throw away.

Let him play with small bunch of toys near you and chat with him if he wants to chat, or leave him alone
if he's imagining, but tell him he has to be calm and no tantrums [watch supernanny for ideas on calming kids down, she's great] but at another time.

Lots of kids are not getting enough sleep [latest research is: must be asleep by ten, and in the dark after falling asleep. Seems we are synchronized to the earth, even when we can't see it.


Tell him you can play with him sometimes but you also have to do grown up work, because that's what grown ups do. Tell him he can play near you and watch some of the work people need to do to keep their houses in order when they are grown. However sitting and watching TV doesn't qualify, though he can draw near you, etc. Drawing, building toys are great for kids. Action toys, have their pluses and minuses.
Another things kids like are boxes. All sizes, for their toys, and to make forts, etc. The big stuff is best
for afternoon when there's time to clean up before fixing dinner.

I know many people do dinner rather haphazardly anymore, but a regular mealtime once or twice a day does a lot to set the tone of the day. Also a little meal planning tends to reduce costs over time. Chatting at dinner also gives child a different kind of attention.


It's okay for kids to know there are work times, quiet times, chatting times, etc. You might have a tea time
in afternoon when you make a snack [small sandwiches, cut in cute shapes where you have tea, and he has juice] or a bedtime snack, after which the kitchen is closed for the evening. That gets control of
constant snacking, which means constant requesting.

All these things give small children the idea that everything from small to large in life has a beginning, a middle, and and end. Not an endless, never ending [no matter what the movies say}fantasy of all I want, as much as I want, for as long as I want, and all right now. Children like the sense that parents are in control, in a calm and reassuring way. One doesn't need tremendous resources, just thinking things out a bit.

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