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Encouraging Independent Play: A special conversation with Avital from the Parenting Junkie

Encouraging Independent Play A special conversation with Avital from the Parenting Junkie

If your little is NOT playing independently yet, you could be setting yourself up for a difficult parenting journey 🤨

Today, I welcome on Avital from The Parenting Junkie and she shares why it’s essential to our and baby’s wellbeing, and HOW in the world we can help babies as young as newborn ENJOY playing independently! (And give us mamas a well-deserved break 🥰)

This is a game-changer, y’all, and completely in alignment with elimination communication and early potty training (because the goal there is independence as well!).

All 5 of my babies learned to play independently as babies, and all of them were out of diapers by walking. Let’s take a moment to absorb Avital’s timeless wisdom.

Here is the full transcript of our chat (and watch the whole thing at the Go Diaper Free YouTube Channel if you prefer!):

Andrea Olson:
Today we have a really special guest. You guys know that I always do this podcast by myself because I'm a mom of five. And I'm really busy. And this is the best I can do. And it's efficient and fast. And you get your info. And we're all good. But today I really wanted to interview my good friend Avital. Avital runs The Parenting Junkie. She is amazing. She actually was in our coach program in one of the first years, right?

Avital Schreiber:
Yeah.

Avital from The Parenting Junkie
Avital from The Parenting Junkie

Andrea Olson:
For Go Diaper Free, she is a trained coach in EC. She also just had her fifth baby, and isn't sure if she's going to have more or not. So anyway, we recently connected last year more deeply. And I just love what Avital's doing in the world of parenting and mindset and relationship and play and so many different things that she has to offer. So everybody, welcome Avital to the show.

All right. So let's talk about something that I always tell people to do with their babies, but they have no idea what to do like how to actually do it, right? How do you encourage independent play with babies? That's what we're going to talk about today. Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your work and how independent play kind of integrates with the whole scene?

Avital Schreiber:
Yeah. Hi, Andrea. Thank you so much for having me here. I always love connecting with you. And yeah, so my work as a parenting coach, my whole goal is to help parents to love parenting and to parent from a place of love. And I think one of the most potent available free easy tools to really enjoy parenting more is to reclaim independent play. And to make sure that our kids have the time space and ability to play independently, which is what they are naturally wired to do. But not what our culture kind of directs them towards. And often that's a muscle that atrophies because they're not given the opportunity to play independently. But when we do reclaim that, I think it makes parenting so much easier. And I think it's great for kids. So that's why and I'll come to that.

Andrea Olson:
Tell us a little bit more. How does it make parenting easier? I know because I also practice the same thing with mine. I did it with the first one. And that was really really hard. But my other four are very independent. How exactly does that help us as parents?

Avital Schreiber:
Yeah, so I think we all have this strong desire to be the best mom or dad that we can be and to give our kids everything, give them the world. And we receive a lot of advice about being present and playing with our child and teaching them and narrating what they're doing. And there's all these kind of things we all have in the back of our mind. These pieces of research, like how much vocabulary words they hear corresponds to their academic success later in life and that kind of thing. And so, there seems to be an increasing pressure on parents throughout the last few decades to spend more time with and on their children and more money as well.

And if you look at a typical 1950s housewife in America, a stay at home mom as it were - even though she was a stay at home mom and she wasn't in the workplace, she was actually spending much less time with her kids than parents are today, even when they're juggling a job as well. So even though we're doing a lot more outside, "Outside the house, in terms of work," We're still also doing a lot more as parents. And that's not necessarily so good for kids. It's good for them in some ways, but it's actually not so great for them in other ways. But I'll just answer your question, which was, how does it make up parenting life harder? I think it just puts too much on our plate, too much pressure, not enough time for self-care, or to just get our homes in order, or to simply rest.

And it's not actually our natural mode. Adults and any other animal creature are not spending the majority of their time hovering over their little ones. That's not actually how nature evolves because it is too much, especially when there's no village around. And so I guess just to anyone listening, if you feel like you're doing too much, and it's too much on your plate, and it's too much on your shoulders, it probably is because you are. It's very well-meaning and well-intended. But it does lead parents to resentment to feeling like a victim all the time. You know, this is too hard. It's too much. I'm all alone. I shouldn't be doing this. I'm messing up. Why can't I ever do all the things I'm supposed to do?

Even to this kind of low-level resentment of their children, you are so clingy, you are so needy, you're always asking me things, you're always talking at me, you're always demanding of me, leave me alone, give me a minute, right? If those are the types of feelings and thoughts that we're having when we're with our kids, Independent Play might really be the main solution that we want to look at.

Andrea Olson:
That's amazing. I think a lot of our listeners, watchers, and followers are new moms for the first time. I think this is going to be really eye-opening like, "That's why I've been feeling this way. Because it's okay to feel these things, I felt them as well." And you start to feel like you're not enough. You're not built for this parenting thing, you don't have any confidence. And then everything kind of becomes this chore, like "I have to do all of this. Whereas before I felt really free before I had kids." So it feels like shackles.

So you're both saying that this is much better for children - like, this is the way they're built. They actually learn better, grow better and develop better with independent play specifically, without the parent hovering or directing or facilitating or saying “this is what we're doing right now”. Free play, independent play. It's also better for the parents, because well, not only are women more in the workplace, and we have a lot more entrepreneurs in the world right now too, but we're all getting burned out. So this could be a way to prevent burnout.

Avital Schreiber:
A million percent. I mean, you deserve and you should be able to in a normal situation. Not when there's some kind of extreme emergency, or you're suddenly on lockdown, or whatever it is. But in regular life, you want to be able to have a cup of coffee, while it's hot, to read a chapter of your book, to make a phone call, to answer an email, to cook dinner, to put a load of laundry on, to do the things that you need to do without that being too hard. Right? Because your child is demanding that you play with them or needing you or talking to you. You really do need those pockets of time, all throughout the day to get your adult stuff done. And that's legitimate.

Andrea Olson:
Like when am I even going to fit in a shower anymore because my baby won't be left alone. Or I feel guilty or they cry or whatever - all the mind tricks we play on ourselves as well. It might not actually be that you can't leave them to play by themselves, you might just think that you have to or should... to be a good parent.

Avital Schreiber:
100%. We have received that message that you should and it's counterproductive also. Because burnout, that's a real thing. That's a very real thing. When moms told me, I didn't have time to shower, that means to be a little bit of a red flag for each of us that something's not sustainable here, right? We need to be able to shower even when we have babies, even when we have many babies, even when we have many babies on a job. And if we feel that crunch, then it's time to start looking for a different way of doing things.

Andrea Olson:
Absolutely. It even comes down to asking, not permission, but like, my husband will often just say or he just announces, "Hey, I'm going to go get a haircut." And I'm like, but I can't just announce and say that I'm just going to get a haircut. So I start to feel resentment and jealousy. And like, I'm stuck here with all the kids and I'm the default parent. So this could also impact the relationship and so many other things.

We both have five kids. How did you start integrating this into your family? Did you already know this before your first kid or did you kind of have to learn as you went?

Avital Schreiber:
No, I didn't already know this before my first kid and the reason my business is called The Parenting Junkie is because I became a bit obsessed. I became a bit of a Parenting Junkie for all parenting information with my first kid, just on this kind of rabid journey to get all the information I could on how I could do this differently than what I was seeing around me. Because, bless them, everyone's doing their best. But many of the parents around me really looked exhausted and miserable, and just always looking for an out like, "Hey, take my kid. Give me a rest." And I was like, "Is there another way? Like could it be a little bit less stressful?" I get that there are inherent challenges with parenting and I certainly find those.

But are there some things that I could do differently that might make it easier. So anyway, the point being that I became a bit of a research freak, and I learned a lot about the power of K. But it wasn't really until when I had my third, and I was in a two-bedroom apartment in New York, and bitter cold winters with lots of snow. No family, I just moved across the earth to America. And I had no family or friends, no support system. My husband was a resident doctor so he was never home including weekends. He was just never home. And I was working. I was the primary provider as well during that time. So it was just a lot of stress.

I get it that I was still incredibly blessed in many ways. But for me, in my context, that felt like a large burden of responsibility on my shoulders. And there was this one weekend, I was two weeks postpartum with my third, my husband had been called emergency to fly back to Israel to visit his sick dying father and be at his deathbed. So I was by myself with a newborn just recovering from birth, and two little kids. And my toddler and my four year old suddenly started vomiting everywhere in the apartment. And it was February. And it's New York. So the washing machines are in the basement. And I was just like going up and down the stairs with a newborn, like washing all the disgusting--- It was just this miserable weekend and I was like, "Okay. You know what, I'm a designer by trade. I always help people with that problems and come up with creative solutions. I have to look at myself as if I was my own client. If I was my client, what creative solutions could I start to put into play? When are things a little bit easier when you're with three kids at home, and you have no help?"

And then I realized, when my elder two are engrossed in building with blocks, or with Lego, or playing something, my gosh, that's when I quickly get stuff done. I get to make the dinner, I get to nurse the baby without interruption. I can have a shower. And I was like, "If I could elongate that, if I could make that more of the time." And because I was reading, I knew that that was also really healthy for them. So it's like a guilt-free thing to be promoting, rather than sticking them in front of a screen for more and more hours. It was like, well, if they could play for more and more hours, good for them good for me, right?

Andrea Olson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Avital Schreiber:
That's a win win. And so I started to look at it through the designer lens of what elements in the home, what kind of toys, what kind of structure, and also behaviorally, what things do I need to say and do that do encourage and allow them to sink into that state of flow more often, and for longer? That's become kind of my lifelong journey and a lot of what I do with my work. And I have really made a huge difference in my life. I mean, it really got me through that time. And it's been a tool for me ever since that, "I know my kids can play for hours." So if I have to book a meeting, if I have to clean the whole house, if I have to cook for guests, I don't know, whatever it is I have to do. Yeah, there might be some fights and there might be some tantrums, but I'm pretty much confident that I can get stuff done. And that makes all the difference when you're a parent.

Andrea Olson:
It does. Yeah, you think about people, like the Amish, or a lot of people I know who have 10 children and homeschool and also have a side business of something. Yeah, and how do they possibly do this? And people ask me all the time, how do you do all the things you do with five children? And I'm like, "Well, I raised them to be independent." Do they play with each other? Yes, they fight with each other? Yes, not every day is perfect. But we also have spaces set up throughout the house, where they can find the things they need without a lot of clutter, they can go there and play.

So a lot of the people listening and watching have newborns or just under 12 months old (probably most people). How do we start this early? Is it about just setting up the space? What would be like the first couple of steps? And can you start encouraging independent play with a newborn?

Avital Schreiber:
So yes, absolutely. And I'm sure you preach this as well and have witnessed someone who's so in tune with babies and understands that babies communicate so much more than we typically give them credit for. And I think absolutely, all babies are wired to become really engrossed players, right? They’re wired mammals that learn through play and that's what childhood is for. It's for play because that's how they learn. That's how they grow into the adult they need to be.

And so I'll go backwards. What we often do is sabotage babies' play. We often teach them out of it just like we teach them out of signaling and queuing their potty needs, right? If you keep sticking a diaper on a baby, and you never answered that need, then eventually they'll stop. Right? And I think it's very similar with play is if you keep entertaining a baby, you keep shaking the rattle in front of their face and holding them all the time and showing them stuff and doing stuff for them rather than allowing them to discover on their own, then you're teaching them out of that skill.

But for the most part, if you allow a baby who has been fed, and who has slept, and who is clean, and comfortable to lie on the floor, and look around, they are fascinated by what they see - and that is playing for a baby. They're lying on their backs, they're trying to gain control of their hands, trying to gain control of their feet, eventually, they start to play with their bodies and with moving, and they don't even need a mobile. I mean, you could give them a mobile, but they don't even need that.

Because just if there's a plant, if there's a shadow on the wall, if there's a light, these are things that are... Everything is new for them. Everything is a toy, and just giving them those pockets of time, it's just 10 minutes at a time to begin with, right, with a newborn, and then they might fuss and cry and that's when you'd pick them up. Right?

But you could wait, maybe they're just making noises, maybe they aren't necessarily calling you for you to pick them up. But once they are okay, then you pick them up. But rather than it just being this default that a baby could never just be by themselves on the floor. But I really think that they can and they need to be and they'll likely develop all of their gross motor skills in a maybe quicker or more natural way rather than if they were always entertained.

And I'll just take one more thing onto that is that, in our culture, we tend to strap babies in all the time. So they're strapped into a stroller, a high chair, a bouncy chair, and even the carrier which I love. All of these things are useful and I carry my babies a lot. But they also need time, outside of being strapped, not unrestricted. So that that independent play muscle can thrive and flourish.

Andrea Olson:
Those were all beautiful suggestions. One of the things we used to do was do diaper free time after the baby was pottied, then we put them on a waterproof pad. My babies tend on the fussy side. I know your new baby is totally chill. And I've only had one out of five who was totally chill. So I have another question on what to do if they're fussy? We would put the big wooden arch over top and have just a simple bell on a rubber band or elastic. And then that one circular wooden, the Montessori things, right?

Avital Schreiber:
Yeah.

Andrea Olson:
And then she can ram at them or grab and put in her mouth or whatever. And I felt like for me having a fussy baby that that was kind of helpful to have something for her to focus on.

Avital Schreiber:
Yeah.

Andrea Olson:
And also have her diaper-free because the first fuss after feeding is going to be she needs to go to the bathroom. And if she wants to do it on the pad, that's fine. Or maybe just like the air out the areas too. So that's a suggestion to have for people doing EC like that's one way you could do it.

Another way, what Avital is basically saying, you guys, is that you don't need any things. You don't need stuff for your babies. And on her website, she actually recommends what you can get if you want to get things for your baby, like as they're growing and developing. And a lot of this is movement-based and exploration-based. So definitely check out her amazing amount of information there. Okay.

So what do we do if the baby is fussy and they don't want to be lied down? Do we just wait a little bit? Yeah, what are your ideas about that?

Avital Schreiber:
So I've also totally had fussy babies. I can really relate to you. And I love the idea of just a simple thing on an arch or whatever it is. My baby now is 10 weeks old and he's exactly doing that. He's just looking for one thing. It's exactly what he said.

Andrea Olson:
Yeah.

Avital Schreiber:
And he does it for quite a length of time. And it's really amazing because had I not known what I know, I might have thought, "Well, no one's teaching him anything. He's not being entertained. He's being bored." Right? But that's kind of my adult projections. And I will just say when you are choosing things, the simpler the better because you don't want to get them hooked on flashing, shining, singing swinging objects that are basically teaching them passivity, right? We want them to be active. Some of my favorite toys for the 12 month and under crew are in your kitchen already, right?

Your wooden spoon, your stacking bowls, your Tupperware boxes are great because they're all safe to put in the mouth and free and there you don't need extra stuff. So that aspect. But yeah, with a fussy baby look, and here's one of the things I think with fussy babies/with fussy children, etc. is, I always think you have to match the level of expectation with the level of support.

So, it's not that we want to lower our expectations necessarily, it's that we want to increase our support to meet that baby's needs, right? So a fussy baby could be as you... I don't need to tell you this, I'm sure all of you are listeners very in tune and very aware of what they might be fussing about and what might be bothering them, and trying to answer those cues really as timely as possible and as well as possible.

But also, we don't want to give up on them and label them as, "This baby just can't play or this baby can never be put down." Because babies develop very quickly and change very rapidly with the seasons. And we want to hold the belief in them and not give up, right? Like you want to keep trying is basically what I'm saying. Like, okay, so it wasn't before the feed, it was after the feed, it wasn't at two months, it was at four months, it wasn't at four months, it was at six months. In other words, you just keep offering, keep offering and keep the belief that they will eventually enjoy a little bit of time on their own. Because it's such a gift to them and to you and to future them and future you. Right?

Like you're investing in yourselves in the future to really offer them this opportunity and not just say, "Well, at two months, I tried a couple of times and he fussed so I never tried again," Right? This is a muscle. It's just like, well, a baby didn't crawl yet at six months. But then at eight months, they did stop crawling, right? Eventually, we want them to get there. It's a developmental thing. You want to hold the belief and continue to support it.

Andrea Olson:
Right. And it also brings up some things like, while also ruling out, why is the baby so fussy? Are they having gastrointestinal issues? Is it a lip tie or tongue tie? Like I had with Twyla. We had a major one. One of my Instagram followers pointed out, "Wait. Her tongue looks heart-shaped. You should rule that out." Once we got that resolved, she could lay there and play for hours. It was amazing.

Avital Schreiber:
That's amazing.

Andrea Olson:
Yeah, there's also like, do we need to give a homeopathic because there's teething going on? What is it? But also, and I teach a lot about this when giving privacy, I recently did a podcast on how do we give privacy so that they don't fuss when they're on the potty? It's kind of the same thing when leaving them to play. Like we know everything around them is safe. Everything around them, there's not that much. And it's things that they're allowed to have. And we feel comfortable. Going in the kitchen, you can still hear them and just trusting and giving them that privacy to explore and play is a huge gift.

Because they don't want us. They don't want to be the center of attention. Jean Liedloff’s book, the Continuum Concept, one of the first books I read about parenting when I was first pregnant. And thank goodness because it really talked about, don't make the baby the center of your attention. Because they don't like that. And they'll start to retaliate by fussing and like, "Get away from me. I need some space here. I need some time here." So this is really helpful.

Speaking of EC, you do EC also, how does EC and independent play relate to each other?

Avital Schreiber:
Yeah, well, I mean, there's a lot of touchpoints. And there are also a lot of comparisons between the two, right? When you're tuning into what a baby needs and what they're capable of, I think a huge part of EC is seeing our children as communicators and as capable and as whole from birth. And then also the gradualness, of EC. I mean, for me, I love the way that you teach EC where it's not all or nothing. And it's different for each baby and different for each parent. And I think the same with independent play, people often come to me looking for a formula or looking for a number. "Well, how long can a two-year old play?" And I'm like, "Well, how long is a piece of string?" Right? It depends.

So I think that there are a lot of parallels there. But I think if someone's drawn to EC, then they will naturally also perhaps be drawn to independent play, because it's very much honoring, right? What is already inside our babies, what they're capable of. And I think independence is a huge part of EC as well. Right?

Andrea Olson:
It is, yeah. All of my kids walk into a restaurant and we're sitting there and they're like, "How are all five of your kids so well behaved? They're ages one to nine. How is that possible?" And I say, "Well, I really feel like it's because we did EC, because I trusted them." We had communication from the beginning, I gave them the space to explore and to tell me and we had this kind of interplay. And then, eventually, I helped them by giving the tools they needed to be completely independent. And that happened around walking. So that really early independence is exactly right. They're capable of that. That's very complimentary.

Avital Schreiber:
I love that. And the other thing I love about it is also the gradual approach rather than the all in mind. I think, no shame if you're doing so on diapers, but if you are, you have to understand that basically you're blocking out an entire area of communication for say two years, and then suddenly expecting to like quickly catch up with that skill. And if you have a little bit of EC going on throughout those years, then you're building a gradual referral of the responsibility over to the child, right? It's like it was a partnership and eventually, you will expect them to be fully independent and take themselves to the potty, etc. I think we're all hopefully aiming to raise independent adults.

Andrea Olson:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Avital Schreiber:
You want an 18-year old who can make their own money and go out and travel and find a good partner and do all this stuff independently. And the idea is that we become irrelevant. You don't want to insert yourself, I bingo, I don't want to insert myself anywhere that it's not necessary. My kids are dependent on me for enough things like keeping a shelter over their head, protecting them, safety, providing basic education, that kind of thing. But anywhere I don't have to insert myself, I would rather they gradually assert their independence and grow it.

And so I think it's really unnecessary to entertain kids. It's really unnecessary to play with them. I mean, you want to play with them here and there to connect and have fun and enjoy them. That's one thing, but for their playtime to be with you as their companion is, it's not only unnecessary and puts a burden on you, it's also not really fair to them, in my opinion. Because I think it really robs them of what they're already capable of, it infantilizes them, not in a good way, right? It's patronizing.

And also us adults, we insert a whole bunch of stuff that is not necessarily where they're at when they're playing. Like that building with blocks, and they've got this whole imaginary world that they're the superheroes, and we're like, "That's a blue block. And it's a square shape," Right? Because we want to teach them stuff. And it misses the point. And it overpowers the very important very deep work that they're doing there: processing the world and learning the laws of physics and social and emotional and all that stuff.

Andrea Olson:
So that brings a question then. So if you have somebody with an only child, just one baby at this point, are we encouraging independent play on their own? And then if we have other children, are we encouraging play multi-age? Or are we also bringing them for free play time with other children that are different ages, same ages? I mean, I'd say, "Just what do we have available?" Because being the primary playmate, I've never felt comfortable doing that with my kids. I've babysat a lot before, but it just didn't feel like, "yeah, I'm not on the same wavelength." I don't think like that anymore. So, if you have an only child, what do you suggest?

Avital Schreiber:
So if you have an only child, the first stages of play really are solo play but babies and even young toddlers, they don't yet play in ways that fully interact. Like they're not playing cooperatively with other kids, right? They're playing things like parallel play or onlooker play where they're just observing each other. Now, I mean, young babies won't even necessarily notice that someone's playing next to them. Right? It's not. Of course, they interact with us when we smile and talk to them. But their play is primarily that once a child hits more of a sociable age, age three, age four, we want to give them opportunities to play with other children.

You can play a little bit with your kids, sure, especially if you have an only child, of course, they'll want a playmate sometimes. But it's not the same as them playing with other kids. And you know how to wait your turn, you know not to grab a toy from them, you know that you'll just give in to whatever idea they have. You don't have to say, "No, I want to play Mermaids, not Pirates."

But other kids won't give them that leeway. Right? Yeah, they're not going to give them that grace. And they need to bump up against other kids who have their own ideas. And they need to learn the cooperation and the good negotiation of the rules, and the back and forth, and that I need to suppress my own want sometimes soo that you also get a turn. Sometimes I need to wait. They're not going to learn that with an adult. And so that's why it's important with time and with the availability and the possibility to realize that children make the best playmates for children, and the conflicts are part of the learning. They're a huge part of the learning. They're necessary. So if you say, "Well, I don't want my kids to play with that kid, because they always argue." I get that that's stressful, but that's also kind of the point.

Andrea Olson:
It's the point, yeah. It's funny because we have two new puppies. And the older one is like always on the younger one, and my kids, they keep breaking them apart. And I'm like, "No, you have to trust them." The younger one is going to bite back and is going to set boundaries and that's how, he and she, they're both learning how to be siblings together, and they need that conflict to grow. So I'm also thinking about birth. I have a book on undisturbed birth coming out and not disturbing that process because our bodies know how to make a baby, know how to have a baby, then you get an EC.

Babies know when they need to go to the bathroom and they try to tell us and we can either disturb that process by making them go on a diaper for two or three years like you said, or we can not disturb that process and respond to that. And then also, this other part that you're teaching about today is like, there's this whole other world of “how are babies learning?” We both homeschool. So it's like, how are we setting up the environment and giving this framework? And when do we step in and teach? And when do we actually just let them do what they need to do? Because babies and toddlers and children know how to learn. They already know. We don't have to disturb that process. This is a continuum of all, even with breastfeeding too like, I don't disturb that process either.

Luckily, I've been blessed to be able to breastfeed all my children. And it's like, if I would have inserted the bottle into the picture, it would have disturbed the process, I think, for myself. There are so many ways like, how can we pair it in a way that's respectful of what the baby's capable of, the actual developmental stages, and not what society tells us should be happening or we should be doing? Because a lot of us, who aren't fitting in a shower, I'm talking to you guys, if that's you. This is an alarm, right? That we need to do something different. And it's never too late to start encouraging independent play?

Avital Schreiber:
No.

Andrea Olson:
And I just want to know, where can we learn more? Because I have so many questions. But I like to keep this pretty short. But this is great. I think everybody's probably eating this up. But we want to learn more from you. We want to learn more about like, at what age and stage do we like... Like I love all of this stuff you have on, movement areas and having zones for different things.

And then all you have to do as a parent is say, "All right. It's time for you to go play in that zone. Do whatever you want, while you're there." But this is time for that like, I have the kids reading book boxes right now. They have baskets of books, and they go find their own space. And they just look through them and explore for an entire hour. So like I set the boundary, "We're doing this for an hour," But they get that full like, I'm going to explore to my heart's content. So where can we learn more from you? Do you have anything upcoming that maybe people can join in on? Tell us how to find you.

Avital Schreiber:
Yeah, so this is really my life's work. And the main thing that I do is I run Present Play, which is all about reclaiming independent play, setting up a home for a floor and really creating a family life that you love to live that you enjoy. That reflects your-

Andrea Olson:
I'm part of that program, you guys. It's amazing. It's so good. Okay. Carry on.

Avital Schreiber:
No. That'd be good. Yes, so and what I do is, it only opens once a year, and then doors are closed for the whole year. So what we do is, we run a free challenge, and it's actually coming up on whenever this drops, it will have launched perhaps on April 5th, and you guys are more than invited. And, Andrea, I'm going to make a special link just for your community. So where you would go is the theparentingjunkie.com/godiaperfree, and that will be a free tester.

There's so much to learn. But we've got to start somewhere and whether or not you're doing presently, I want you to just get a bit of an experience of the possibility of your kids playing. If you're listening to this and you're thinking that my kids won't play, but my kids don't play, they're hooked on screens, or they only play when they have a new toy for about five minutes. So they only want me, right?

In this challenge, we're going to really work to build up from 3 minutes to 30 minutes. And finally three hours of play a day. And that's without screens and without yelling and without buying new toys. So, join us there. Yeah, it's going to be loads of fun and it's free and it will give you a taster of what I do. And you can see if you want to take that deeper and further but even if not, at least it will give you some tools to set you on your way.

Andrea Olson:
I will tell you, guys, it's an amazing program. It's very in-depth and also very step by step so you don't have to do everything all at once. But I'm going to take the challenge with you guys as well. This episode is going to air on March 30th. So basically, you guys when you see or hear this next week is when the challenge starts so go to, The Parenting Junkie, the theparentingjunkie.com/godiaperfree and sign up for the free challenge.

You're going to learn so much. Avital's free stuff is amazing. And her paid stuff is even more amazing. But like sometimes you get like something for free and it's just sort of underwhelming, not the case with Avital. So you guys are in really good hands. This is going to be amazing. And is there anything else that you want to add or any final words you want to leave our community with before we get to end?

Avital Schreiber:
Andrea, just one thing that came to mind when you were talking about disrupting processes is, I really do want to underline that we get the advice to play with our children. And I think we have to heed that advice very cautiously, very carefully. Because if you think about it, there's a great quote by Magda Gerber that said, "Be careful what you teach them, you might just interfere with what they're learning."

Andrea Olson:
That's amazing.

Avital Schreiber:
Isn't that beautiful?

Yes, and one of the things I like to have people think of is, if you imagine lion cubs playing like you said with your puppies, right? Lion cubs playing and they're exploring and they're rough and tumbling, what's the lioness doing?

Andrea Olson:
She's probably out hunting, honestly.

Avital Schreiber:
Yeah, she's out hunting. I always imagine her bathing in the sun.

Andrea Olson:
In the sun, yeah.

Avital Schreiber:
Right?

Andrea Olson:
Yeah.

Avital Schreiber:
She is spread out and enjoying herself and totally chill. And I think that's a great image to contrast with the hovering and the helicoptering and the over-involvement and overprotection that were often driven towards in our culture today. It's really we all need to kind of connect with that inner lioness, that trust that gets what nature is doing. Yes, she's got an eye on her cubs. She knows where they are maybe. But she is not down there in the weeds pretending to be a Barbie or whatever. She's just not. She's the queen on her throne. And they feel really good and safe with her in that position. And I think we've all got that within us.

Andrea Olson:
Yeah, like she's within earshot. Your baby is going to tell you when they want you to come back. I mean, you're not far.

Avital Schreiber:
No, we're not talking about abandoning, Andrea.

Andrea Olson:
Don't leave your baby and then go outside and go do other things. And you don't know where your baby is, I have this tracking system. Like we're all built with this, where we know where our babies are all at one time. And I don't think my husband really has that. But I'm always aware. It's like diffuse awareness that women are gifted with, right? So we know. And we also have to trust that our babies are going to tell us, "I'm awake for my nap. I'm done playing with this toy. I need to go to the bathroom. I'm hungry, tired, whatever." And yes, the challenge is decoding that and trying to figure that out.

But Wow, if we can get up to three hours of independent play with a toddler, do you understand like I even feel like I have so much more to learn? Yes, I encourage independent play, but I don't think we're at three hours with any of them. It would be amazing. Just so I could sit down and read a book and finish a cup of tea while it's hot. When you said that I was like, "I have a warmer thing and Imma go take care of some emergency.” And it's like, now, I think we need to take it a step further. So I'm going to be joining you on the challenge. Yes, we are the lionesses. We just have to step into that role, right?

Avital Schreiber:
Absolutely.

Andrea Olson:
We're already that. we did-

Avital Schreiber:
It is the design frame of why to play. You have to realize that it's not some special skill. It's literally what their brain was designed to do.

Andrea Olson:
It's the same thing with EC. They are wired to know and to tell you when they need to go to the bathroom through whatever way. Yeah, we have so much to learn about unlearning, right?

Avital Schreiber:
Yes.

Andrea Olson:
I love it. Okay. Well, everybody listening, please join me in thanking Avital. And I just really appreciate you so much. Please lean on Avital. Please let's do the challenge together and let each other know how it goes. Because we definitely have a lot of unlearning to do. And anyway, just congratulations on your new baby. And I hope EC is going great.

Andrea Olson:
And hopefully, we'll see you again soon. Because this topic is only going to make EC better. It's only going to make your parenting better. Like they all feed into each other. So anyway, I'm so grateful for you to be on the show.

Avital Schreiber:
Thank you so much, Andrea.

Andrea Olson:
Thank you, Avital. Have a great one. And you guys, happy pottying. Have a great time. Happy independent play.

PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my husband and 5 children (newborn to 8 years old) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)

6 Comments

  1. Avatar Kristina on March 30, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    I feel so liberated after listening to this! I have a newly mobile baby and I feel so much more comfortable letting her roam in a safe space which then gives me so much freedom. Thank you!!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 31, 2021 at 2:39 am

      My pleasure! 💕

  2. Avatar Eva on March 30, 2021 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you for this episode!
    Luckily I already read about free development when I was pregnant so I always tried to give my daughter much time by herself, lying on the floor, crawling wherever she wanted, doing and learning everything in her own time, without us teaching her or interrupting her when she found something interesting. I’m really happy with that and we never missed the noisy and flashy toys or baby entertainment stations some other people seem to have.
    Now at 18 months she can play by herself for a while, she sometimes even reads her books by herself but since she loves books very much she often wants me to read to her. I’m not sure how to encourage her to do more on her own, so I’ll happily join the challenge :)
    On a side note: from listening to your discription of parenting (aka entertaining your kids) it sounds like it’s much worse in America than here in Germany. While I see those toys and know there are mums like that, I think think it the norm, but I might be biased :D

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on March 31, 2021 at 2:41 am

      So glad you started and your little one is already playing by herself. I think reading books to little ones is important, in time she will be able to do it longer and longer on her own. Keep up the great work mama! ❤️

  3. Laura Durkee Laura Durkee on March 31, 2021 at 11:48 am

    This is gold! I feel renewed already. :) Thank you, Andrea and Avital!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on April 6, 2021 at 10:44 am

      Yay! Happy to help ☺️

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