When Nora was still a newborn, a trusted friend of mine asked me if I had started blanket time with Phoebe. She probably could sense that I was overwhelmed having a busy toddler and a newborn that was not quite on a consistent schedule, and she knew that blanket time would be a blessing to us. As I'm in the process of blanket training Nora (slowly but surely!), I wanted to document it here -- both for my own use later, and also for my sweet friends who have asked me about it.
When I am blanket training, my goal is this: to teach my child to remain on the blanket joyfully with one quiet toy and one book for thirty minutes. It can be done! I promise! If I can do it, anyone can do it. And blanket training produces beautiful fruit.
In order to blanket train, you need a heavy blanket and a baby. You also need a fun (but quiet) toy and a book, if you're going to do it just the way we do it. (But really...this is just the way we do it. This is not gospel.) Gather up a timer and something for you to do (I've been folding laundry while training Nora), and you're all set.
The first thing you need to do is put the blanket on the floor. You can use a heavier "fleecy" blanket or fold a big blanket to a reasonable size. Both of our girls have been trained to sit on a 2'x3' blanket. You just want to make sure that the blanket doesn't move around too much because trust me, your child is going to test the limits anyway and you don't need the added frustration a thin blanket will cause. Place your child on the blanket with their toy and book, and tell them to stay there. Set your timer (I suggest starting very small...five minutes is a long time, especially for younger babies) and get busy with your busy work.
But watch that baby with at least one eye, because I guarantee that baby is going to find out if you mean what you say. When your baby ventures off the blanket (be it a finger or their entire body), gently remind them that Mommy said to stay on the blanket. Follow up with your preferred method of discipline...I think you know what I mean here...let's just say that "time out" won't work in this situation. Your baby will probably cry, and you might want to as well. Just stay the course. Repeat this process until time is up. I've noticed that it's generally a little easier on the baby if you're not staring them down; fold your laundry, read your book, but don't leave the room. The most important thing here is being consistent: when baby wanders off the blanket, follow through by returning them to the blanket and disciplining them.
After you've had success at five minutes, start extending the amount of time spent on the blanket. Work your way up to thirty minutes. This may be a sloooooow process. I started training Nora (a little inconsistently) around her birthday, and we're still not up to thirty minutes. My goal is to have her there by the time her little sister arrives.
Blanket time has been such a HUGE blessing in our house. After we trained Phoebe, I noticed a huge difference in her ability to focus on a toy for longer than five seconds. She was also more responsive to other directions. But more than that, the boundaries of the blanket have brought us tremendous freedom. We can take her to meetings and expect her to sit quietly. She's a delight to bring along for doctor's visits. And I'm excited to see some of this same fruit in her sister.