We’ve been doing quiet time in our house almost every day for over two years, ever since Porter stopped napping. I LOVE quiet time. I think not only is it really great for moms (hell0, mid-day break), but its a really great way for kids to learn both to play by themselves and that taking breaks is an important part of self-regulation. Knowing that I’ll have a little break every day helps me be much more present and patient with my kids during the rest of the day. I talk to Porter about how its important we have time to rest our brains and our bodies so that we have energy to play and learn later. Now, Porter has quiet time every day for two hours while Wyatt naps. In fact, I’ve started implementing a mini quiet time for Wyatt, which I’ll talk about below.
If you’re wanting to start quiet time, or are curious about ours, here are some tips/ things that have worked for us that I’d like to mention:
- We started with small amounts of time, and worked up to two hours over the course of several months. I think I started with only 30-45 minutes, but the longer we did the better Porter got at keeping himself entertained.
- Lately Wyatt has been taking fooooorever to fall asleep at night, so this week I started waking him up from his nap after only an hour, and giving him a few small toys to play with for as long as he’ll stay up there. I usually give: a few books, some megablocks, one of those shape sorting cubes, and a stuffed animal that sings him songs when he pushes its hands and feet. So far, this is working well. He’s happy for about 45 mins up there, doesn’t cry after I wake him up and leave him, and is falling asleep better at the end of the day.
- We use a visual timer, so that Porter can look up and have an indication for how much time he has left before he’s allowed to come downstairs. We use a Glo-Clock, but you could use a plain old alarm clock, a kitchen timer, something like a Time Timer (I like this one, its great because the kids can literally see the time pass, but it is only an hour), or even this visual timer, which has red, yellow, and green light indicators.
- The expectations have to be clear and consistent. I don’t have to do this often anymore, but I would go over our quiet time rules with Porter every afternoon before I set his timer and left. (1. You must stay in your room. 2. You must play quietly. 3. Wait for mommy to come check on you. 4. You must clean up your mess.) He always had to stay in his room, and if he started to get bad about leaving and coming downstairs, I would put up the baby gate. He hated this, so often the threat was enough to keep him in his room.
- We went through a phase of him crying for help with something, or wanting to show me something, about 2-3x every day. So I explained that quiet time is important for mommy to have break too, and that it helps me be a better and nicer mommy when its over. During this phase I explained a new rule, which I went over every day until he got it: that he was not to cry for mommy, but wait for me to come up to check on him. Nowadays, sometimes I go check on him and sometimes he has to remind me to check on him, and some days both of us forget. My point is: some times we have to emphasize certain rules over other while our kids learn.
- Learning to play by themselves is a learned skill, and we have to be patient with our kids while they are learning, while still maintaining boundaries. Sometimes Porter needs me to go check on him more than others, and sometimes he needs reminders and suggestions of things he can do during quiet time, and thats okay. Its normal.
- I’m not above bribing my children, but I like to think of it as positive reinforcement. When Porter follows his quiet time rules and cleans up his toys, he is allowed to pick a treat from a bowl I keep just for this purpose. I stock it from the bulk section, and from our Halloween stash.
- And finally, what I think is truly the key to making quiet time work (other than clear and consistent expectations), is our quiet time boxes. We have boxes of special toys that are saved just for quiet time. Yes, this was a little extra investment, but its been worth it. I started small- with three small boxes filled with toys we already had and some things from the dollar store, which I would supplement with iPad time once a week or so. Over the years I’ve collected 4 boxes of what I like to think of as a carefully curated collection of toys and activities, that we rotate through during the week.
- Each box contains: some sort of coloring book or drawing activity, a construction/building toy, something for imaginative play, and a few books.
- I have a small box set aside for Wyatt than includes the above mentioned items, plus a search and find pillow and some stacking toys. I typically give him a few books and two toys.
- Occasionally we still bring out the iPad for quiet time, but 2 hours is a lot of screen-time, so I’ll bring it to him partway through.
- We’ve had the same boxes for about a year now, and recently hes been telling me they’re boring. So I’ll let him take some toys from downstairs like his Duplos or train set until the phase passes. Which it does.
- I’m consistently amazed at his creativity in amusing himself during this time. He’ll look at all the picture books we have in their room, make himself a picnic, bake me cake, build fires, build a fort (with a little help), and all sorts of imaginative things.
Here are the contents of a few of our quiet time boxes:
This wasn’t in either of the boxes I pulled to photograph, but I wanted to share it because its been such a great hit! I found mine at Costco, but I’ve often seen them in the discount section of Chapters. And I know Amazon carries a few different versions as well. They’re great because it allows kids to look at the books by themselves, while following the simple picture cues on each page to have a narrator read it to them. Priceless.
I’ll be the first to admit that part of my success in implementing quiet time is luck. Porter has always been good at playing by himself. I’m already anticipating the challenges that Wyatt will bring when we begin doing a full quiet time, my little shadow who must be all up in whatever I am doing, and doesn’t even want to be in separate room from me. But I think quiet time is important enough, for both me and my kids, that I’m willing to figure it out.
Here are some additional articles and blog posts I’ve found helpful:
5 Quiet Toddler Activities – this has great suggestions for the child who just cannot bear to be seperate from mommy, but they’re all activities that can me done mostly by themselves, giving mom a little break.