Around age 3, children may begin to show signs they are ready to drop their mid-day nap. Some parents dread this day because naptime is your time to recharge and get things done uninterrupted. I am here to tell you that even if it’s time for naptime to go, it is still possible to have some mid-day peace and quiet! This blog will walk you through the benefits of quiet time and how to introduce it with your child.
If your toddler is totaling 11-12 hours of consolidated sleep through night and seems well rested though the day, then it may be time to drop the nap and introduce a quiet time. You can read more on this nap transition here.
Disclaimer: if your child is age 3 or older and still napping, that is okay! It is not mandatory to drop the nap at this age. If their nap is still working and not affecting night sleep, then keep it around as long as possible!
While your child may no longer need sleep during the day their bodies still do need to rest and recharge. Quiet time gives your child a chance to choose between sleep or quiet activities as they break away from constant stimulations of the day and focus on more calming activities.
What is quiet time?
Quiet time is a period of the day when your child engages in unstructured, independent, and low-stimulating activities. The key here is independent. Quiet time is an opportunity for your child to have some alone time to give the brain a mental break AND it gives you a much needed break as well!
What are the benefits of a daily quiet time?
1. Offers a chance to recharge.
Our fast-paced society is very stimulating for children. As adults, we typically know how to recognize when our brain and body needs a break. Children are more like energizer bunnies and still learning to recognize the signs their body needs some rest. They are constantly learning and taking in information from their environment. Even 20 -minutes quiet time gives children a chance to process information from the day and deepen their learning.
2. Increases independence and creativity.
Quiet time is unstructured, meaning you may have activities set out in their space, but nothing is formally planned. They get choose! Research shows, quiet time offers the perfect opportunity for them to tap into their imagination! Without external stimulation the brain is able to process and internalize information, giving creativity a chance to bloom. They may complain of boredom at first, but I honestly believe boredom is good! It is a great way for them to hone their problem-solving skills and figure out a way to make the time fly by!
How to introduce quiet time:
1. Choose a quiet space in a specific location for them to independently engage in low-stimulating activities like reading books, puzzles, coloring, building blocks, etc. This can be their own bedroom or just a quiet room in the house. The goal is to give the brain a break, so we want to focus on setting up a low-stimulating, relaxing environment. For siblings that share a room or are together all-day, consider separate spaces for quiet to give them a break from one another (and avoid spats during quiet play).
2. Avoid Electronics or screen time. While your child may be quiet when engaged in screen time, their brain is far from resting. Screen time stimulates your child’s sensory system and depletes their mental reserves. This is opposite of the quiet time goal! It is good for children to feel bored without screens. Boredom helps our children think outside of the box and use their imagination! This is a good thing!
The goal of quiet time is to give the brain a break to recharge. Make up a basket of low-stimulating activities that your child can enjoy. You can swap these out from time to time to keep things novel. Listening to audio books or playing soft music in the background is also a great option! Turning on an audiobook or music can be a great tool for cueing your child it is time to transition to their quiet time.
3. Build up to 30 minutes. Ideally, we want quiet time to be between 20-30 minutes. If your child cannot handle 30 minutes at the start, that's okay! Build up to it. Start small at 5-10 minutes and add a few more minutes each day until you reach 30 minutes. If they can go for longer, great!
4. Set a timer for a specific period of time. Setting a timer is a great visual way for your child to know how much time is left without having to ask you every 5 minutes. Show them how it works so they understand. Here are my favorite timers!
The key to helping your child learn to respect the timer is to consistently enforce it every time. If your child comes to you asking, “how much more time,” always refer back to the timer… respond with, “your timer says X more minutes. When the timer is out, quiet time is over!” This means you must respect the timer as well by not adding more time once it’s up. When the timer is done quiet time is officially over. If they choose more time, great! They can play as long as they want, but without a time frame.
Dropping the nap can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the mid-day rest. Follow these steps and in time, with lots of patience and practice, you will have a quiet time everyone looks forward to and enjoys!