Recently I discovered that some of my mom friends don’t have a quiet time in their home. I guarantee you that this little mistake contributes to about 50 percent of the mess in your hot mess. (Who doesn’t love a statistic made up on the spot?) Anyway, you don’t have to have selfie-ready makeup, Pinterest-perfect coffee, or a vague platitude to pull this off. But if you put in a little effort, you can teach your kids to enjoy a quiet hour or two and you’ll get a mid-day revitalization.
We have quiet time every day. What I call quiet time is essentially a glorified mandatory time of rest in the afternoon. For our family, this period has ranged between one and three hours over the years. During quiet time, I am off-limits to anything that can wait. Profuse bleeding, vomiting, and legitimate fire alarms are allowable, as well as nursing babies and Amazon deliveries. I’ve used all kinds of strategies to get the message effectively across to my kids that I deserve a break. I believe they can benefit from a little solitude as well.
Quiet Time for Babies
Many babies naturally take a nap in the afternoon. When my older baby begins to develop a sleep pattern, I’ll try to move naps to the afternoon so that baby will sleep at the same time my other children are having quiet time. I don’t love the term sleep training, but there are many things you can do to encourage wakeful and sleeping periods.
Stimulation can wear out an infant. If I’m desperate to get a good rest, I might take my baby for a walk outside or give a bath right before a nap.
When I have a newborn, I have to remind myself to lower my expectations all around and rest when I can. However, getting my older kids on a good schedule can go a long way towards the rest I can steal even with a new baby.
Preschoolers Enjoy Quiet Time, Too
Once my toddler gives up afternoon naps, I get a little more creative. My little ones get a stack of picture books, an audio book, or a collection of quiet toys to entertain themselves while they stay in a clearly defined, specific area, like a bed or couch. I have found that restricting certain toys for use exclusively during quiet time prolongs the child’s interest in the activity. Later in this post, you’ll find more tips on toys.
If the idea of trying to convince a headstrong three year old to stay in her bed quietly for two hours seems a little stressful, I understand. However, I think you ought to take some deep breaths and give it a try. Patience and consistency are key here, and it won’t take long to teach your child to play quietly and independently. Explain to your child that he or she can play quietly in the bed with what you’ve provided, make sure he or she understands what you expect, and what things are valid enough to break quiet time rules. Then, grab a book, post yourself outside the room, and be prepared to offer frequent reminders of the rules and even physically place the child back within the boundaries.
What It Means for Older Kids
Quiet time for school-age children is easier. I tell them that they can basically do what they like as long as it isn’t a screen, doesn’t make the slightest sound, or require me for any reason. They usually work on their reading, but sometimes they finish up schoolwork or draw instead.
Sometimes I have fashioned a submission box so that my kids can get the satisfaction of immediately relieving their complaints while I enjoy the delayed response. This can be a fun way to prompt dinner conversation. We’ve laughed out loud over submissions about a lost toy that has since been found or an elbow that hurts when it’s moved in a specific way that is almost impossible to replicate.
Toy Management System
The positive effect of setting aside the toys has been so effective in my home that we gave up one of our two master bedroom closets to store a hoard of toys and activities. Some of our toys are reserved expressly for quiet time use, but we keep everything from puzzles and board games to modeling clay and building blocks in our closet. This limited access has multifaceted benefits.
First, my children cannot dump out every toy they own at once and neither can their friends. How many times have I watched children overturn a toy box and then walk away complaining of boredom! No thanks.
My kids have a manageable amount of toys available for free play and none require special permission. But if we ever see issues with the maintenance of these toys, there is no hesitation to withdraw that privilege. I can send those toys to the closet too. If my kids want to play with something from the closet, they must first clean up what they already have out. And since the toys are in my bedroom closet and not their own, there’s little risk of evading the system.
Additionally, the novelty of the toy is preserved by limitation. For babies and toddlers, I recommend rotating several large, plastic bins of toys on a weekly basis. Your two year old probably doesn’t need all three of his different shape sorting toys out at once. Older kids will benefit from the freshness of a toy once forgotten as well.
Quite-Time Approved Toys and Activities
- Calico Critters
- felt books
- Melissa and Doug Ice Cream Counter
- Melissa and Doug Teddy Bear Puzzle
- Melissa and Doug magnetic toys
- pattern blocks
- reading books
- bristle blocks
- marble run
- pop beads
- Rainbow Loom
- sewing with felt and embroidery floss
- lacing cards
- picture puzzle books
- letter tiles
- matching cards
- audio books
We have done alone time for awhile and it’s brilliant. When my oldest started kinder I noticed that when he came home from school he was happy but shorter tempered and more easily overwhelmed by normal stuff. We started doing “alone time” where for the first hour or two after getting home from school he just gets to decompress by himself. I keep little brother away and he can quietly play, read or sometimes use the iPad. It made a huge difference for him- he just needed some time to recharge from a busy day which I can totally identify with:) he’s 8 now and we have introduced it to our younger kid as well. It has saved my sanity since naps ended quite a while ago. Also, since they are used to quiet down time on their own they have learned that they don’t have to have a playmate at all times. And when it’s a weekend or other opportune time my husband and I can declare “alone time” on the fly without any hassle. It’s pretty sweet, especially if we wanna go play kissyface or something:)
Love the idea about toys that are reserved for quiet time-gonna find a way to implement this!