Nap time is a beautiful thing for a stay at home parent like myself. My child’s naps were crucial to my sanity and made me a better mom for the rest of the day. Then, one sad day, those naps came to a halt. I know that some parents embrace this change because it means they are free to leave the house and don’t have to schedule their day around the ever important nap time. Not me. I would support my children taking naps forever if they were inclined to do so. But alas, that is not in store for me. With the termination of naps came the birth of the glorious quiet time. So what is quiet time and why is it so important?
In our house, quiet time typically happens when my baby takes his second nap around 2pm. My daughter goes into her playroom where she plays by herself for about an hour. Typically, she entertains herself pretty easily the entire time. Occasionally, she has trouble getting started so I will help get her engaged in some way. I will get out the Play-Doh, suggest an art project, set up a make shift tent, pretend her dolls are sick and that they need her doctor expertise to get better, etc. Once she gets involved, she is good to go and I get my much needed hour break (assuming the baby actually stays asleep).
Occasionally I will use the beginning of my son’s nap time to connect with my daughter if I’ve had a busy morning. We might bake something, have lunch together, read a few books or play one of her make believe games before beginning quiet time. It all depends on how the day is going and what all of our needs are.
Also, there are times when my daughter entertains herself for a long chunk of time without me suggesting it. On these days, I will skip or at least shorten quiet time or I’ll put on a show for her later in the day when her brother is sleeping so that I still get my break.
- Set a timer and let your children know that when it goes off, their quiet time is over. When I do this, my daughter is much better about staying in the playroom until quiet time is over.
- If possible, start implementing quiet time as soon as your child is finished with naps altogether. This will make the transition easier.
- Don’t allow electronics. This is not the time for shows or games on the iPad.
- Be consistent. If you only have quiet time every few days, you are bound to meet some resistance. If your child knows it is part of the daily routine, they will embrace it much more easily.
- Start slowly. If you are trying out quiet time for the first time, try starting with twenty minutes and add increments of time throughout the week until you are at your desired amount of time.
- Let your child know when quiet time is happening ahead of time. I remind my daughter almost every day that when her brother goes to sleep, quiet time begins.
BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN:
Boredom is a childhood right and without it, our kids miss out on the chance to learn how to entertain themselves. We can’t expect our children to play happily by themselves if we don’t provide them with consistent, unstructured time to do just that. When a problem presents itself during quiet time, the child has to face it head on without mom and dad stepping in which builds their confidence in themselves. Self reliance is a fundamental life skill that can be encouraged at a very young age (I have to remind myself of this when the helicopter mom in me rears its ugly head).
By implementing quiet time every day, we are giving our kids an opportunity to learn about themselves and their interests. This is when their imagination takes ahold of them and they can immerse themselves in play and explore the things that spark their curiosity. When we quiet down the world around them, our children can listen to themselves more easily and deeply.
Quiet time is especially useful on busy days. Even if they don’t realize it, kids need time to process what happened at school or that playdate in an un-stimulating environment. If it’s go go go all the time, our children will eventually crash (usually right around dinner time) and they will turn into a tearful, raging mess. Children encounter stressful experiences just like we do, but they don’t always know how to cope with these stressors. Relaxing mid day is a healthy way to process life’s anxieties and is a tool they will continue to use into adulthood.
Young children crave routine because it gives them a sense of security in a world full of the unknown. Quiet time adds to the rhythm of the day which provides our children with comfort they can count on.
BENEFITS FOR PARENTS:
Quiet time for parents is like a deep breath. We have a chance to gather our thoughts, focus on what needs getting done, and just be alone for a moment. Parents can use this time to fold the laundry, prep dinner in peace, clean the bathrooms, take a shower, or just take a god damn break. I typically check in with my tasks for the day, try to get one thing done off my to do list and then do something just for me like listen to a podcast or read a book. Some days. I focus entirely on tidying or cleaning and other days I am so exhausted that I just lay there on the couch, surfing the internet.
Sometimes we just need a little bit of space. Our kids are like magnets to us: crawling at our feet while we are trying to make dinner, popping their heads in the bathroom to say hi while we are trying to take a shit in peace, and literally hanging on us throughout the day. We love our children, but sometimes we need a physical break from them in order to recharge. Remember that old phrase, distance makes the heart grow fonder? It applies to our kids as well. When I was working part time, I would pick up my daughter from her Granny’s house and I swear she was cuter and sweeter than ever during that first hour of our reunion. Having a short separation during the day gives both parents and children the energy to seize the rest of the day together.