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But they dont entirely help me.. I'm pursuing Post graduation and my exams are around. My little one is a three year old restless girl who shows little/no interest in any activity except tv and running around.

Its monsoon here in India, so outdoor activities are a total no-no.

Pity we have no neighbour kids to keep her company, and she is the only child at home. (I live with my parents so as to complete my PG and her dad is away!)

That leaves plenty of time in front of the tv.

I have bought her plenty of books, she dos not like more than 1 story read to her. She shows little interest in colouring. her favorite toy is the "kitchen set"(not more than 15 minutes)and her favorite activies are the physical ones, running-jumping-somersaulting-climbing windows/furniture and whatever she can think of! She can go on for hours like that!!

Her only playmate is me and I barely have time after coming from college (and with a mountain of books to study).

She wants me to join her in anything that she does, (I know that's her age and the physical activities she is interested in, tires me out compeletely), and is tugging at my skirt the moment i come home till she goes to sleep. so in order to buy some time i would send her to watch tv n she's slowly getting addicted(feeling guilty all over).

She watches around four hours of tv currently(i am a bad mom, sigh !). My momma (looks after her while I'm gone) is all softy-softy with her, catering to all my daughters whims, letting her watch tv when she is busy in the kitchen(and we have no household help).

My question is how can i get her to play alone(I'm bad momma???) and reduce tv/computer time? (at least till my term exams are over ie in 3 weeks). Help !!

  • 5
    I'll echo a key part of Valkyrie's answer: You are not a bad mom!!!. If you were a bad mom, you wouldn't care enough to worry. Every decent parent has ideas as to what would be the best way to raise their child; few, if any, actually have the luxury of doing that 100% the way they'd like.
    – user420
    Jul 31, 2013 at 12:15
  • you can still care and be a bad mom, though. that's really important to remember. moms who care have to actually execute well, too.
    – user428517
    Mar 18, 2015 at 21:12
  • not an answer to the question, but maybe useful: long time in front of the tv is not great, but you can at least select what she watches. Random youtube videos are terrible, selected youtube videos can be a teaching window to the world: a place to discover new sports, new muscial instruments, etc. You can prepare watch lists in advance.
    – Vince
    Oct 20, 2022 at 7:39

2 Answers 2


I will echo what the other's have said - you are not a bad mother. You are a mother who is balancing your own expectations for parenting with reality. The world is not an ideal place and therefore we can never be ideal parents.

It sounds like both of you would benefit from her learning independent play. Unfortunately for you both the process of learning independent play is somewhat long and somewhat hands-on. However whatever steps you can take to help her learn how to play on her own will really benefit you both.

I find Janet Landsbury very helpful for discussing independent play. She provides the following steps for reducing or eliminating toddler TV time, since you wish to do so:

  • Explain it to your toddler. Make sure she feels like an equal participant in the changes. Acknowledge that she enjoys TV, explain to her that she's going to have a new way to play during whatever time you want to eliminate TV useage, like when your mom is cooking. Then tell her what it is she will be doing instead, like some new activity. Here it might be helpful for starters to set up an activity option or two for her. You can find a myriad on Pinterest. For example while your mom is cooking she can enlist your toddler's help. Yes, toddler help is probably more of a hinderance, but at the end of the day it prepares your toddler to actually be helpful when he or she is older!
  • When your toddler does start whining, screaming, or crying for TV at the appointed time, acknowledge how hard it is. Acknowledge that your toddler likes TV. Tell her that you understand that. Don't tell her it's alright or that she's not allowed to be sad. Provide comfort - either your own cuddles or perhaps a favorite stuffed toy or blanket to hold. But don't give in.
  • When she asks about it in the future, explain again why you want her to play another way. Make sure that you treat her with respect as another little human being, though one who is developmentally different then you.

While activities such as ziploc bag painting, picking up things with tongs, coloring, a busy board, and so many more may help ease this transition, the ultimate goal is that your toddler becomes more self-directed and independent in her play. Again, Janet Landsbury provides a 3 step method.

  • First, when you do have time to play with your daughter, be less intrusive. Perhaps when your exams are over is the best time to begin this. Start letting her determine what toy she wants to play with. Discuss with her what she's doing, but don't step in and redirect her or change it. When she asks for your help instead redirect the question back at her. If she says, "I want you to build me a tower of blocks," don't do it. Instead you respond "Which block do you want to go on your tower first?" Then instead of putting it on for her say, "OK, why don't you put it where you want it to go?" For each step of the way you "sportscast" her actions as needed to encourage her to go the next step. As she gets more confident in this she will need less of your interaction and will begin doing more and more on her own.
  • Provide limits, such as boundaries that protect her safety and health. These will help her feel that she is loved and has freedom within those boundaries. One of your important limits is on your time. You can acknowledge that she wants to play with you, tell her when you will next be able to play with her again, and ask her what she will be doing to play while you study or while your mother cooks. Empower her while remaining calm and comfortable with the situation.
  • Encourage play that is mind-active. Provide open-ended toys such as blocks. See what kind of games she can invent on her own once she has a few ideas under her belt. When she comes up with her own ideas, encourage them rather than redirecting them because they are "wrong" or "not good enough."

Here are further tips for fostering independent play in toddlers.

A second thing which may be helpful for you, though possibly cost-prohibitive on a student budget, is hiring a local tween or teenager to come play with your child. Because you are still present while the older child is playing you don't need an experienced babysitter and the cost is lower. It provides the benefit for the tween or teen of some income and babysitting experience for his or her resume. Perhaps you even have an extended family member or family friend who you can find a non-monetary way of compensating. These older children are usually called "mother's helpers" in my circles and are quite frequently hired by at-home mothers who need another helping hand.

A final note is that you ideally will get your mother on-board with your plans. If you are trying to redirect your toddler's play and your mother is turning on the TV during that time you will have much more of an uphill battle to fight. You hardly need to eliminiate television (I believe the recommendation at 3 is that less than 2 hours is ideal, but some is not considered a problem), so your mother can certainly allow your daughter some. However when you have stated that now is time to play not watch TV, your mother needs to back you up not undermine you.

  • +1 very good points - thank you very much for the links!
    – BBM
    Aug 2, 2013 at 0:07
  • 3
    +1 for specific examples. Would add that 3-year-olds usually love water play. If you can study in the bathroom, put her in the tub and let her swim and make bubbles and wash her toys...
    – MJ6
    Aug 5, 2013 at 0:08
  • thanks @justkt .. i voted this answer as i was looking for specific activities/ resources to them.. thanks all again !
    – Shaima
    Aug 7, 2013 at 5:42

Repeat this to yourself until you hear and believe the words: YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOM! You are going through some stressful times, and on top of that you have a THREE YEAR OLD! You're allowed to let things slide right now that you might not otherwise. Cross my heart.

Now, it sounds like you need to not only give yourself a little love and forgiveness, but come up with some alternate activities that won't make you feel quite so guilty. Is there any way she can "help" you with your work? For example, when I'm home working 'cause one or more of the kids are home sick (so we're housebound, like you), I will get them some paper and crayons/pencils/whatnot and ask them to make notes for me. So, as I code (I'm a geek by profession) I will think out loud while they "write" what I say (the 5-yr-old actually does, but she can play much more independently at 5 than she could at 3, so doesn't participate much; the 2-yr-old scribbles quite diligently for a few minutes). Then I ask them what I said and sometimes I might get something intelligible and sometimes I might get stories about a dump truck but they feel like they're participating and I actually get some work done.

So maybe there are ways she can help with your coursework. Reading while Mommy reads, writing while Mommy writes, listening while Mommy talks out a problem in the coursework; kids that age love to help and this might actually let her feel involved while allowing you to distract her with something other than TV and the jungle gym you call a home.

Another thing that I use to keep mine occupied when I need to concentrate is errands. The 2-yr-old is my big helper, so I invent things for him to fetch for me. ("Can you bring me the stuffed bear? Thank you! (gives the bear a kiss) Okay, now he wants to go sit on the sofa." Lather, rinse, repeat.) The 5-yr-old will do this too, but her motivation is time; I can get her to do ANYTHING if I tell her "I'll time you!" So she races around doing whatever it is she's doing and I time her and somehow she almost always has a new record. ;>

Hang in there, and forgive yourself a little. You have a heavy load right now and you're doing what you can to survive and better yourself and your family. Other busy moms across the globe have your back. :)

  • 2
    Asking her to scribble.. thanx.. That will work for a week. I do try errands but she quickly realizes why I'm doing that and replies with a sly-smiling "Mom do it, me small girl !!" but she has little sense of time, thanks anyway. @Valkyrie you make me feel a lott better.
    – Shaima
    Aug 1, 2013 at 0:47
  • 1
    +1 very good points! Just a little remark: "YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOM!" I absolutely agree, but I'd try to say that positively instead like "you're doing the best you can for your child" or "you are a GOOD mum". The negation seems to get lost easily in our brains (see parenting.stackexchange.com/a/3544/1092 - I think this is as well true for adults!)
    – BBM
    Aug 2, 2013 at 0:04

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