My one year old is entering a really clingy phase. He used to play really well on his own, but now he follows me around and pulls on my pant legs and cries. He really just wants to be held or engaged. All. Day. Long. So is this a normal--and temporary--phase? Is there anything I can do? I'm not sure if I should ignore him (it doesn't seem to make him stop) or if I should indulge him. Any suggestions?
Normal. Totally Normal. But "normal" doesn't make it enjoyable.
I vote for something in between indulging and ignoring...
Remember when your baby would happily play with the remote like it was the greatest toy alive. It would genuinely consume him for an hour; or at least until he sat it down because he saw that the chair was near and he needed to experience that too. Well, I'm sorry to say, that those days are sadly more behind than ahead of you. Because your baby's memory is developing it isn't as interesting to play with the same toys all of the time. In fact, to play really well, he has to be really interested.
I'm all about "sorting and classifying" my toys. For example: the puppets, the playdough, the blocks, the cars, the Little People, the foam puzzles, etc. all have their own spot. And when its play time, I get down one thing. The puppets - for a one year old it would be just a five-ish minute play. And then (here's the key) I take it away before it gets boring. Then, give him the blocks and again, take it away while he's still wanting more. I know it takes some work - but the idea is to start stretching their play time. Its a learned (not innate ability) to sit and entertain yourself.
Ok, second part, you need to start creating some distance. Not all at once - because his memory is just learning that when you leave you might not come right back. So, you want to help him understand what happens when you exit the room. So, plop that fun toy down and hurry towards the exit to the room - but don't go out. Just watch him far enough away that he can still see you. Then, everyday scoot farther back. Literally, a big step at a time. And try and come back before he wants you. Try to switch the toys fast enough that he doesn't have time to get worried about the distance.
This may seem like a lot of juggling of toys and you - but if you work on it for two weeks consistently you'll start to see a change.
At one point, sit out of the room so that he can feel comfortable playing and just seeing a leg. And then, for awhile, be right outside or around a corner. So, that if he crawls to find you, you are right there. I'm not really big on hurrying to them when they cry because they are missing you -- because it sends the message that if "I cry she'll come faster." So I like to let him come to me...and then pretend that you barely notice his cry - just his presence.
Finally, I'd put a few extra awesome toys in his path. Hansel and Gretel style - but instead of bread crumbs leave out a kitchen pot or a set of measuring cups. A few things to slow him down will stretch the time he is away from you. Little by little, he'll trust that you aren't far if you aren't visible.
Sorry for the novel :)
Painting: Carnations by John Singer Sargent