Why 'Sittervising' Is a Trend Parents Need To Know

Here's permission to sit back—literally—and let your child play on their own.

Parents sit at the playground and watch their child play independently
Photo: Lauren Lee/Stocksy

Remember during the pandemic when you needed to let your child play alone while you took marathon Zoom calls?

Here's your permission to stop feeling bad about it. In fact, a social media trend called "sittervising" is encouraging parents to continue to allow their children to play independently. First coined by Susie Allison, M.Ed., the person behind the popular Instagram account @busytoddler, sittervising doesn't recommend parents leave their kids in the lurch. But it does promote supervised independent play.

"You do not need to hover over kids while they play OR feel like you absolutely must be playing with them at all times. You can supervise kids from a seated position," Allison wrote in a caption from a post dated July 1.

The term is getting a lot of attention and praise on social media.

"I feel like any parent who went to a work-from-home situation during the pandemic with littles learned to sittervise whether they wanted or not," one commenter said.

"Love LOVE LOVE this. So true," wrote another.

One Instagram user pointed out how sittervising helps her autistic daughter. "My daughter is 3.5 and has ASD and is non-verbal. Sometimes, sittervising is the only acceptable form of play for her. I just let her be her, and that's the way she likes it. When she wants me to join…she will let me know," the person wrote.

To be fair, this concept isn't exactly new. Independent play is a hallmark of the Montessori method, which emphasizes that independent, open-ended play is a child's job. What are the purported benefits? For one, it gives everyone a break from each other.

"Kids need to play without adults. Adults need time to recharge from kids," Allison also wrote.

And some social media users feel it can have long-term perks for children.

"Learning how to play by yourself and be independent is a valuable life skill," noted one TikToker named Angeline, who posts under the username @treksandbudgets.

Not interrupting can be hard—you want to interact and compliment your child. But Allison advises against it. "Play is hard work," Allison wrote in another post. "When a child is deep in play, their brain is working overtime. And when we walk in and interject with questions about play ('What are you playing?') or comments ('Look how great you're doing!'), we break that concentration."

Instead, she suggests waiting until the child naturally stops playing. It can also be tempting to step in if you notice your child is struggling with something, such as stacking cups in the correct order. But proponents of the Montessori method have long held that stepping back and allowing a child to figure it out can develop problem-solving skills.

Want to give it a try? Allison offers ideas on her page—not all require an expensive toy subscription. Her sittervising activities include:

  • A washing station with plastic toys, tear-free soap, sponges, and a bin of water
  • Ice cube sensory play with an ice cube and water
  • Spray bottles

It's important to note that sittervising still requires attention to the health and safety of the child, which Allison says varies based on age. Child-proofing the house, such as by keeping medications out of reach and outlets covered, are some ways to keep sittervising safe.

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