A few weeks ago during a Tuesday's Tot Trio post, I showed Greased Lightening having a board book "picnic" while plopped on a blanket. As promised, I thought I'd take a moment and explain his "blanket time" and how it works.
I have to preface this by saying this was NOT my original idea. I have actually adopted this helpful little trick from an idea I read about in The Duggar's: 20 and Counting!, the first of two books written by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.
My main purpose for instituting "blanket time" was to establish a routine that I could fall back on when I needed my little guy to be stationary and occupied for 10-15 minutes. I knew this modern-day play pen would only be used as a last resort and not as an everyday occurrence. But, I also knew that it would take some time and commitment to firmly establish the habit.
I started this training process when Greased Lightening was about 18 months old, or so. I laid a colorful blanket on the floor and in a very cheery voice told him that we were going to have "blanket time." I chose two or three small toys that I knew he hadn't played with in a while and invited him to come sit on the blanket to play with them. I told him that these toys stayed on the blanket and that to play with them, he had to be ON the blanket too. The key was to be very upbeat and excited so that he assumed "blanket time" was a privilege given only to him.
I sat right by him during this introduction...but NOT on the blanket. I did not talk to him...just sat there. After a few minutes of play, he wandered off the blanket. I reminded him that it was "blanket time" and placed him back on the blanket. I let this go on for only a few more moments before I announced that "blanket time" was all done. (It was essential that I announced the "end" when he was ON the blanket and fully engaged in play. It would have defeated my purpose if I would have ended this exercise when HE chose to wander away from the blanket. That would have established HIS control over when "blanket time" could be done.)
During those first few days of "practice", we had "blanket time" several times throughout the day. I continued to sit next to him, but did not engage in his play. I wanted him to be able to self-occupy. I kept these initial trials to about five minutes each. Every time he wandered away, I would gently remind him that it was "blanket time" and would place him back on the blanket.
After two or three days, I moved away from his blanket, but stayed in the same room. His play time was extended a few more minutes. Each time we "practiced", I was certain to place a nice variety of fun toys in front of him, but not so many that he would be overstimulated. I also made sure that I ALWAYS announced the "end" when he was, in fact, on the blanket and obeying the "ground rules" of "blanket time." After each short session, he helped me fold his blanket and put the toys away.
Over the course of time, I slowly started to move further and further away from the blanket until I could finally go into another room. I was fully confident that Greased Lightening was still completely occupied on the blanket and patiently waiting until I announced the "end."
As I had hoped, this little routine has allowed me to have 10-15...sometimes 20 minute increments of total TOT occupation when I absolutely need it. And, surprisingly, Greased Lightening really looks forward to his little "me" time. I think he has come to realize that during these times, he has complete, uninterrupted time with some special toys or books. I think he also enjoys the solitude, a rare occasion around these parts.
As he grows more mature, "blanket time" is becoming less and less necessary. But, it has worked so well that I plan on introducing it early on to the Newbie. I think Greased Lightening will enjoy showing him the ropes.