When we realized it was time to drop Olivia’s one and only nap, I knew we all still needed a mid-afternoon rest time. Although it certainly takes time, teaching, and practice, a great way to still give your child some resting time during the day (and you some space) is to establish a quiet time in place of that nap. And now, 8 weeks out from this transition, we are up to almost an hour of quiet time every day, so I’d like to share our journey to quiet time with you in hopes that it gives you the confidence to establish one when it’s time.
What is quiet time?
In our house, quiet time means Olivia is in her room, playing independently, until her “clock is all done.” The goal is to give her body and mind a mid-day rest, and let’s be real…I need that time, too! She has a little basket of quiet time activities we keep in her room for her to use each day, and my plan was to rotate activities out every once in a while to keep quiet time exciting, but my creature-of-habit-toddler is quite happy with the same activities she started with eight weeks ago, and when I tried trading just one puzzle, she wasn’t having it. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
I know some people who have their child sit in bed and read stories for quiet time, and it absolutely works for some families; so if that’s you, keep going! But here’s why I chose not to do that with Olivia. My first hesitation is that if your child falls asleep, it kind of defeats the purpose of quiet time; your child is certainly getting rest, but bedtime will likely become a battle, or it will be super late! And asking your child to stay in bed the whole time is just asking for her to fall asleep. My other hesitation is that developmentally, I can’t expect my toddler to sit in her bed and “read” by herself for an extended period of time. And because my goal is to reach an hour of quiet time, that just wouldn’t work.
How do you teach your child to have a quiet time?
- Have an end goal, but start with a reasonable and attainable amount of time and work your way up. Our end goal is one hour, but we started with 7 minutes and slowly inched our way up. Once Olivia caught on to how the timer worked and therefore grasped some sort of concept of time, we were able to jump up in bigger increments. When it comes to choosing a starting time, you know your child! I’ve had some families start off right away at 20 minutes and their child has done very well. Olivia is not a natural independent player; if she gets caught up in something, she’ll absolutely play on her own for a while, and very happily. But as soon as we say, “Go play,” good luck. She also doesn’t like being left anywhere alone (unless, of course, she chooses to go there by herself), so going into quiet time, I needed to make sure she would be confident and successful on day one.
- Because toddlers thrive on routine, pick a general time of day and try your best to stick to it! We set Olivia’s quiet time for when her nap used to be, after lunch. There were some days I tried pushing her quiet time back a bit to match up with Avery’s nap, but those quiet times almost always had some “fight” in them, and she would simply cry, “I’m so tired!” Now that she’s fully adjusted to not taking a nap (it usually takes 4-6 weeks for kids to adjust to such a change), I’m able to push her quiet time back a bit to try to match her and Avery’s schedules more, but I tread carefully!
- Just as it’s important to establish nap time or bedtime rules, it’s important that your child knows her quiet time rules! Olivia’s rules are to stay in her room and play independently (yep, we use the word “independently”; I’m all about teaching kids big words!). Just like any rule, it’s important to have rewards and consequences to reinforce them, so set expectations and stick to them! Similar to “potty treats” when potty training, we gave Olivia a (vitamin) gummy bear when she had a successful quiet time. As of about two weeks ago she has forgotten about those treats, and mostly looks forward to the big hug we give her and hearing, “I’m so proud of you.” (I know some people use screen time right after as a reward, also lengthening that amount of “quiet time” for the parent.) If your child leaves quiet time because she just doesn’t want to do it, walk her back to her room and remind her of the rules. If she leaves again, walk her back, and a simple consequence could be holding the door closed for one minute, and then again reminding her of the rules. If Olivia seems to be hesitating more for quiet time on a certain day, I remind her of the rules and tell her if she follows them, I’ll come check on her, but if she doesn’t follow them, I can’t come check on her. That anticipation alone *almost* always encourages her to follow through, and I can certainly take a minute to go check on her here and there.
- Set a little quiet time routine; this one was actually Olivia’s idea and I think it’s brilliant! She takes a bathroom break, we then pull out all of her activities, read a story together, and then “give a big smooch and hug.” On day three or four of establishing quiet time she was having a really hard time with me leaving and she said, “I need snuggles, can we read a book?” Um, yes! Why didn’t I think of that? We had a nap time routine, why not have a quiet time routine? And who am I to turn down some lap time with my girl; so now it’s just part of our routine.
What toys or activities are good for quiet time?
When putting together a quiet time bin, make sure everything you give your child can be played independently! And if there’s something she may need help opening, do so before you leave her room. You also want to make sure you can trust your child to be left alone with whatever you leave her with. Olivia loves Play-Doh, but there is no way I am going to let her play with Play-Doh unsupervised for that long, in her carpeted room. She also loves markers, but I saw those as a disaster waiting to happen. So I tried to think of what Olivia loves to play with and what would leave her with open-ended possibilities, and our favorites include:
- Magna-Tiles (quiet time aside, these have by far been a favorite toy of ours, and they’ve been a favorite for over a year now!)
- Jumbo Coloring Pads (really any coloring book will do, these are just perfect for younger kiddos!)
- Colored pencils (we color with crayons and markers regularly, so colored pencils feel extra special)
- A baby doll
- Peg puzzles (pro tip: place them inside mesh laundry bags to make clean-up quick and easy!)
- Books, lots and lots of books
- Beading/lacing activities
- Cars, trains, tracks
- Doll house, Barbies
- I Spy books
- Find It Games
Our journey with quiet time started because my daughter needed to drop her nap and this mama wasn’t ready for that mid-day rest to be gone. We started SMALL – just 7 minutes, friends. But now, 8 weeks later, my not-yet-three year old is rocking 50 MINUTES of quiet time every day! It’s not always perfect, and some days have certainly been a fight, but it has been SO worth it! And quiet time is now a time of day Olivia looks very much forward to, and I plan to keep it around for a loooooooong time.