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What is 'sittervising' and why is it the latest expert-approved trend for parents?

It's something you probably already do ... and if you feel guilty about it, don't.
Boy playing toy blocks by mother using laptop at home
The "sittervising" trend encourages kids to be independent — and no, it's not "free-range" parenting.  Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

You've entertained your child with action figure battles, stuffed animal parades and hide-and-seek. Now, you ask, what's next?

Well, a social media trend called "sittervising" suggests you let children play independently, and let yourself off the hook.

The expression was coined by former teacher Susie Allison who introduced it on her Busy Toddler Instagram page. It just means supervising kids while you sit down, not directly engaging with them.

"You do not need to hover over kids while they play OR feel like you absolutely must be playing with them at all times," Allison captioned a video of her children hula hooping and climbing on a play structure. "You can supervise kids from a seated position."

"Kids need play without adults," she added. "Adults need time to recharge from kids ... Sittervising is a good thing."

In a different video, Allison demonstrates other sittervising ideas: Watching kids crush ice, eat popsicles, paint a fence and slide plastic balls off a cardboard slide.

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Allison told TODAY Parents that sittervising is the opposite of helicopter parenting.

"Play helps children develop, both alone and with adults," she said. "However, when parents play 100% of the time, kids lose the benefits of play, such as spatial awareness or risk management and conflict settlement."

Parents lose too. Hovering or participating in play 24/7 steals time from life management (writing emails, cleaning or self-care). "Parents often save that stuff for after children are asleep which causes burnout," she said.

Emily Kline, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, agreed.

"Learning to play alone is another step toward self-sufficiency, just like using the bathroom, getting dressed or tying shoes," she told TODAY Parents.

Stay-at-home mom Erin Asendorf "sittervises" her children, ages 6, 4, and 2.

"My kids love repetitive play but if I find myself dominating the storyline, my kids don't always get what they need," she told TODAY Parents.

Instead, she lets them lead. "Sometimes they stumble, but there's always a learning lesson," said Asendorf. "I pick age-appropriate activities my kids are capable of doing."

Sittervising can help kids develop confidence, she said.

"If you're at a playground where children interact with each other, there are many opportunities to practice social skills — asking new kids to play or introducing yourself," said Kline, the author of the forthcoming The School of Hard Talks. "In these situations, parents may want to get out of the way."

Related: How old is too old to trick or treat?

Sittervising is also a break for parents to watch TV, work or sip coffee while hot, without sacrificing peace of mind.

In one of Asendorf's TikTok videos, her kids ride a merry-go-round at Epcot Center while she drinks a margarita, regret-free.

For unconvinced parents, Kline asks, "What is sittervising replacing?"

"If your child is perfectly happy interacting with peers or reading a book, versus looking for support, they don't necessarily need you at that moment," she said. "We often think we always have to be there — and maybe we don't."