NEWS

What Is Sittervising?

Photo illustration showing a parent watching children at play

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Tara Anand / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • “Sittervising” means to sit down and supervise your children’s play from a distance.
  • The term was coined by Susie Allison, MEd, a blogger with Busy Toddler.
  • Benefits of sittervising include helping kids learn the art of independent play, and protecting parents against burnout.

If you’ve spent time lately browsing parenting-related TikTok or Instagram posts, you may have come across the term, “sittervising.” Sittervising is exactly as it sounds: it refers to sitting down while supervising your kiddos during play. This creates a bit of a healthy distance between yourself and your child. You are there if they need you, but you aren’t hovering over them, which allows them to work on their independent play skills. And did we mention that it involves you taking a load off and sitting down? Win-win.

Sittervising was coined by Susie Allison, MEd, a mother of 3, and blogger at Busy Toddler. “I came up with sittervising sitting on my couch one morning, enjoying a mostly warm cup of coffee and listening to my toddler play,” she says. “I joked to my husband that I was ‘sittervising’—mashing together sitting and supervising.”

Soon after, Allison wrote an essay about the term on her blog and posted about it on social media. Before she knew it, sittervising went viral, and the rest is history.

How Does Sittervising Work?

Sittervising is an understanding that parents are not required to always be a part of their child’s playtime, says Allison. She adds it's good for both kids and their parents. “In sittervising, children get the necessary time to play without adults interfering with the play-learning process,” she describes. “Adults get back the time they need to rest or complete jobs, helping to ease stress and burnout.”

Susie Allison, M Ed

Sittervising works as a catch-all anytime a parent is making an active decision to allow children playtime while the parent does something else.

— Susie Allison, M Ed

While the term implies “sitting” on the parent’s part, planting yourself in a chair or on the couch isn’t strictly required. “Sittervising works as a catch-all anytime a parent is making an active decision to allow children playtime while the parent does something else,” Allison explains. “Sittervising doesn’t always mean you’re just sitting, but ‘laundry-vising,’ ‘email-vising,’ and ‘cooking-vising’ didn’t have the same ring.”

Whatever it looks like for you, sittervising is an opportunity to throw “mom guilt” to the curb and recharge your batteries with the knowledge that what you’re doing is good for everyone involved. As Allison puts it: “I’m a better parent when I’m rested.”

The Benefits of Sittervising for Children

Probably the main benefit of sittervising for children is that it helps them gain a sense of independence and self-sufficiency, says Laura Petix, OTR/L, a pediatric occupational therapist, and mom to one neurodivergent daughter.

“Sittervising allows children to safely explore their environment, their toys, and activities with their trusted adult or caregiver nearby while still feeling a sense of autonomy and independence,” she says.

Petix says this skill is especially important for neurodivergent children, who are still learning to play independently, and may need a parent nearby. It’s also great for children who are experiencing separation anxiety and need a bit of a safety net as they explore. “This may be the perfect in-between if they aren't ready to play alone in their room,” Petix describes.

Alexis Zamchick Farber, a doula, certified lactation support counselor (CLSC), and mom of one from Long Island, NY, says that she practiced sittervising before she knew it was even a “thing.” She saw benefits in terms of her child’s socialization skills. Farber said that when her son was little, growing up in Queens, NY, she practiced sittervising anytime she’d take him to the park. “I think it made him good at making fast friends with new kids,” she says.

She saw a stark difference when she moved to the Long Island suburbs, with parents more likely to be hovering over their kids while they played—following their kids around or climbing up on play structures with them to supervise. Not only did she find the change jarring, but she found her child had fewer opportunities to be social with other kids. That's because those kids were mostly interacting with their parents.

“My kid would say ‘there’s no one to play with,’ and there would be two other kids on the playground who were his age, but being followed every step around the playground with their parent, or playing hide and seek with their parent, and those kids seemed less interested in branching out and interacting with my kid, because they were already playing with someone,” Farber describes.

Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP

By giving children space to play without hovering or intense intervention from their parents, they can explore their world with more freedom.

— Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP

Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, the founder and CEO of the Modern Mamas Club, agrees sittervising isn’t just important for building independent play skills in kids but is an important way for children to interact with the wider environment around them—including other children. “By giving children space to play without hovering or intense intervention from their parents, they can explore their world with more freedom,” she says.

How Sittervising Is Beneficial for Parents

Sittervising doesn’t mean lazy parenting, says Allison. It doesn’t mean that you never play with your children, but it’s the idea that you don’t have to be “on” all the time to be a good parent. “Playing with kids is one of the many ways we build relationships with them, but playtime doesn’t have to (and can’t!) consume the entire parenting day,” she says.

Dr. Casares says sittervising has strong benefits when it comes to establishing a healthy relationship with your kids. “The most secure forms of attachment are when children are able to go to and from parents comfortably as opposed to needing to be completely independent of their parents or needing to be close by their parents at all times,” she says.

In other words, sittervising can promote attachment security in children, an idea that’s considered integral when it comes to parent/child bonding and child development.

Probably most importantly, sittervising can help guard parents against parental burnout, described by researchers as emotional depletion, decreased happiness, and even depersonalization related to parenting.

Laura Petix, OTR/L

Let’s be honest, all parents these days could use a little extra time to sit, sip their coffee, or scroll.

— Laura Petix, OTR/L

“Let’s be honest, all parents these days could use a little extra time to sit, sip their coffee, or scroll,” says Petix. Sittervising gives parents time to relax, and not have to instruct or lead their child anytime they play. These extra minutes of peace and quiet can work wonders to decrease parental burnout, says Petix.

Is There a Downside to Sittervising?

Like every parenting method out there, sittervising isn’t all or nothing. You aren’t supposed to sit and do nothing all of the time.

“Any time that someone recommends something very black and white or rigid like ‘I only can sit while I supervise my children,’ it can create problems,” says Dr. Casares. “So while I do understand and appreciate the concept of not hovering or helicopter parenting your children, sometimes there are appropriate moments when you need to intervene.”

Times that a parent might need to intervene may include when another child is hurting your child, or when your child is doing something dangerous, Dr. Casares suggests.

And what about that sneaky voice in the back of your head that says you are a bad parent if you aren’t playing with your kids 24/7? Parents need to remember that at a baseline, you are likely interacting with your children plenty during the day, says Petix. You are getting them dressed, feeding them, kissing their boo-boos, and putting them to bed. “It doesn't always have to be in a back and forth play activity with their child for it to be considered healthy and beneficial to the parent-child relationship,” she notes.

Not only that, but you are doing something active with your kids when you are sittervising. You are teaching them how to play alone and become self-sufficient, which are important lessons in early childhood, says Petix.

Sittervising Becomes a TikTok Trend

Allison says she has a pretty good idea of why sittervising has resonated so much with her fellow parents. It has to do with the pressure they feel these days to be perfect.

“Sittervising gives parents permission to say ‘I’m not available for playing right now' without feeling like they’re a bad person,” she says. Allison says that there is so much guilt right now wrapped up in parenting, and sittervising makes parents feel like taking breaks is not only necessary, but can be good for their kids.

“Parents report back to me what a relief sittervising has been,” Allison shares. She compares current parenting practices to what things were like just a generation ago when children were free to go out and play without much supervision at all. That allowed parents to take care of business at home or take care of their own personal needs.

Petix thinks sittervising has especially resonated right now, as parents are coming out of two years of pandemic parenting, which has created even higher rates of burnout for parents, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

“I think so many parents coming out of the pandemic era of parenting are really hungry for this ‘permission’ to not have extra pressure to be sitting right next to our kid playing restaurant or doing crafts with them,” Petix describes.

What This Means For You

For many parents, sittervising is a refreshing idea, while seasoned parents say they've been sittervising before it even had a name. But the act of sitting and watching your children play is a practice that can help alleviate parenting stress. Not only that, but there are benefits for kids in getting some free space to explore, make friends, and play. Still, sittervising is not for every parent or every child. If you have any questions about the best way to care for your child while they play, please reach out to your child's pediatrician or a child therapist.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Yogman M, Garner A, Hutchinson J. The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. Pediatrics. 2018;142(3):e20182058. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2058

  2. Abramson A. The impact of parental burnout. Monitor on Psychology. 2021;52(7):36.

  3. Yogman M, Garner A, Hutchinson J. The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. Pediatrics. 2018;142(3):e20182058. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2058

  4. Lin GX, Szczygieł D, Hansotte L, et al. Aiming to be perfect parents increases the risk of parental burnout, but emotional competence mitigates it. Current Psychology. 2021. doi:10.1007/s12144-021-01509-w

  5. Stanford Children’s Health. Separation Anxiety Disorder in Children.

  6. Hong YR, Park JS. Impact of attachment, temperament and parenting on human development. Korean Journal of Pediatrics. 2012;55(12):449-54. doi:10.3345/kjp.2012.55.12.449

  7. Saavedra Rionda I, Cortés-García L, de la Villa Moral Jiménez M. The Role of Burnout in the Association between Work-Related Factors and Perceived Errors in Clinical Practice among Spanish Residents. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021;18(9):4931. doi:10.3390/ijerph18094931

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.