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I first learned about “blanket time” from Growing Kids God’s Way by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. The main idea is for your child to learn to play independently on a blanket, which in return teaches them about boundaries, obedience, self-control and self-entertainment. What’s great about using a blanket is that you can take it anywhere – the airport, doctor’s office, bible study, park, or your backyard – so you don’t need to haul a playpen around or be limited to some sort of physical boundary.
The key is to introduce blanket time to your baby before they’re mobile. We started with both girls when they were around 5-6 months old, because that’s when they could sit up on their own but not quite crawl or walk yet. We even used blanket time when my oldest was 2-3 years old and would add in crafts, sensory activities or games with small pieces to her “school” time while she played on a blanket for 30 minutes.
HOW TO START
- Lay 1-2 toys on a blanket (see my list below for brain-stimulating toy ideas)
- Set a timer for 1-2 minutes – I prefer a physical timer as opposed to my phone
- Sit next to your child and let them play independently
- CELEBRATE when the timer goes off – YAY, they did it!
- Gradually remove yourself and add more time
- You’ll be surprised by how quickly your little one catches on!
This will require lots of practice, patience, consistency and dedication.
I remember when my girls started walking or crawling, and it added an extra level of redirection where we had to physically pick them up and place them back on the blanket over and over — but after a few months of consistency, they could stay on the blanket happily for 15-20 minutes! This is really nice for when you need to toss a load of laundry into the dryer or wash a few dishes, or when you need a little time to do school or an activity with older siblings.
A question I’ve received after sharing about blanket time on my stories is if I use our pack & play for the same reasons, and the answer is ‘yes and no.’ Blanket time and playpen time are similar, but serve different purposes for our family. I usually don’t implement playpen (or crib) time until my kids are mobile, but it’s essentially the same method: starting with 1-2 toys for a few minutes and working our way up. I utilize playpen time more for learning independent play so that I can walk away to clean or cook or teach school while my baby is in a safe environment; and blanket time is more for learning boundaries (along with independent play, too) but something I usually do when I’m nearby or in the same room to help redirect if needed. Blanket time can be done anywhere, while playpen time can obviously only be done with some sort of crib or pack & play. They both work well for us for different purposes and situations.
Now for the fun part! Here is a list of all sorts of toys and activities we use during our own blanket time, depending on your child’s age.
TOYS + ACTIVITIES
- Sensory bins
- Playdoh or kinetic sand
- Reusable sticker pads (we love this ballerina one & this animal one)
- Blocks, puzzles, shapes (our favorites are linked here)
- Bees game
- Threading beads
- Balance rocks
- Magnetic wooden blocks
- Dress-up magnetic dolls (we have Abby & Emma, and these ballerinas)
- Wooden instruments
- Princess matching card game
- Small Frozen LEGO set
- Take-along horse figurines
- Wooden farm animals
- Busy briefcase
- Popper fidget toy
- Buckle caterpillar
- Threading apple
- Poke-A-Dot books or any sensory/touch-feel or lift-flap books
- Seasonal items – seashells, leaves, flowers, rocks, etc.
I hope this blog post was informative and these ideas are helpful! Blanket time has been such a useful tool for our family, and I’m sure will bless others as well.
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