If you asked me what my single best parenting trick is, the answer would hands-down be “quiet time.”
We’ve been doing quiet time for almost five years now, starting when Ella began giving up her afternoon naps shortly after her second birthday.
I have friends that worry about their children having to skip their naps when they start kindergarten, but I most certainly do not have those kinds of children.
My girls have all been done with naps before their third birthday.
As the mom, though, I was not about to be done with that peace and quiet every afternoon for two hours.
I love my children, but I’m definitely an introvert and the constant interaction of parenting is pretty draining for me, so that two hours is a much needed reset for me. And, frankly, I think they benefit from a little break from me as well.
If you’re interested in doing quiet time with your children, here are seven things that have worked for us (and I hope they’re helpful for you!):
TIPS FOR STARTING QUIET TIME
Start doing quiet time as soon as they begin giving up naps. Star started giving up her afternoon nap about two months ago and she’s been the easiest transition because she’s very familiar with quiet time since her sisters have been doing it her entire life. I read her a book or two, sing a song, and then tuck her into bed. She can fall asleep if she wants or she can get out of bed and play in her room. Also, there is still a crib in her room, which she hasn’t learned to climb out of, so she knows that if she comes out of her room during quiet time, then I’ll stick her in the crib (I’ve never actually had to do this at quiet time, but I have a few times at bed time after she transitioned to a bed, and so she’s VERY good about never coming out. My other girls weren’t as easy). Some days Star plays for a few minutes and then falls asleep, and other times she plays the entire two hours.
If you’re starting quiet time after your child has already given up naps, you can start with 30 minutes and work your way up to a longer period of time.
Get a digital clock. When Ella was about three, we bought the biggest, ugliest digital clock at Wal-Mart and every day, I’d set it to 1:00 p.m. (regardless of what time it actually was) and she’d do quiet time until it said 3:00. It was pretty straight-forward to teach her to identify 3:00 and so she didn’t have to ask me a million times how long it was until quiet time. Now that she’s older, I just tell her when we’re starting quiet time and she knows it’s two hours from then, but for years, we set that clock every single afternoon, and it made all of our lives much simpler.
Be consistent. In the beginning, with Ella, there were lots of days where quiet time felt like more hassle than it was worth. Ella would call out for me a million times with questions, complaints, or needing help, and I was seriously tempted to just give up. But we continued to do it every single day and always for two hours and now there’s never any question about it. And when we occasionally leave the girls with my parents or Bart’s parents or other babysitters, they always say, “That quiet time is a LIFE saver.” Truly, everyone needs a break in the middle of the day.
Give them quiet time activities. This is less important now as my girls are getting older than it was in the early days, because they’re so used to quiet time that they have plenty of things they can do, but especially in the early days, I like to make it as easy on them as possible – I give them gigantic stacks of library books to look through, give them puzzles or small games, download audiobooks for them to listen to, hoard stickers and art supplies for quiet time. All my children are a little different – Ella had a hard time in the beginning because she was so used to constant interaction as an only child. Ani has always been really good at playing on her own and has a strong need for alone time (like her mama) but has days where she is very whiny about doing quiet time. So far, Star has been the easiest and I haven’t given her anything to do yet during quiet time, since she has been totally capable of entertaining herself with just the one or two toys in her room and a rock she’s convinced is her phone (I love hearing her carry on these long 10 minute conversations with her imaginary friends).
Do quiet time on the weekends too. Now that my big girls are gone during the day, they only do quiet times on days off or the weekends. We almost always do it while we’re on vacation too, especially since we still have 1.5 nappers, and it’s a nice low-key time for all of us to recharge. Plus, whenever we skip it, I feel like it’s that much harder the next day because it seems slightly negotiable to them. Also, because my girls have less time to play together now, they love quiet time because it’s their time to play their own elaborate games, from art class to house to puppet shows.
Don’t worry about them being bored. I know this might seem weird after saying that I give them things to do, but after giving them some options likes books, stickers, and puzzles, I don’t worry all that much about them being bored. My mom used to say that, as a homeschool parent, boredom was your best friend. Of course there’s that initial whining that there is NOTHING to do, but I’ve been delighted at what fun, inventive things they’ve come up with over the years as they’ve realized that being bored is their problem, not mine. About a year ago, Ella and Ani made a list of all the things they could do during quiet time and they had about 45 games and activities. I don’t see it as my job to make sure they’re entertained for every moment of quiet time and I’ve loved watching their ability to stave off boredom increase with each year. So much of my childhood involved playing with my sisters – hours of dress-up, American Girl dolls, pretend gymnastics and dance classes, house, elaborate lip-sync dances and radio shows – and it’s really fun for me to see those same kinds of play emerging for my girls. I also think this has made it much easier to keep the screen time to a minimum in our home because they’ve developed a whole arsenal of activities, so they don’t automatically ask for screen time if they’re bored.
Don’t be too strict. I’ve picked what I’m totally not flexible about – every day, two hours, no electronics or screens except for an audiobook, minimal parental interaction – but other than that I try to be fairly low-key. The big girls can play together if they want (they play in the basement so that Star doesn’t know they’re playing together since I want her to take a nap if she’s tired instead of forcing herself to stay away to play with her sisters), they can play in the playroom or in their rooms or even in the backyard. And if they come in to ask me a question, that doesn’t bother me either, as long as they’re not stretching it out unnecessarily.
I love quiet time for kids because it gives me a chance to do my own things (usually work, sometimes read, and, when I’m pregnant, often take a nap).
But I REALLY love quiet time because I feel like it’s made a huge difference in my children’s ability to entertain themselves and let their imaginations flourish. I feel like it’s helped them learn to love books because they have plenty of time to look through them on their own or listen to hours of audiobooks.
And I appreciate that before quiet time, I can be more patient and present knowing that I’ll get a break in the afternoon, and after quiet time, I’m ready to shut down my laptop or close my book and really engage with the girls again.
At least once a week, Bart says to me, “I think quiet time is the best thing we’ve ever done.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
If you have questions, I’m happy to try to answer!
if you liked this post about quiet time for kids, you might like these other posts:
- 20+ Fun Activities for Kids While They Listen to Audiobooks
- 20+ Screen-Free Activities When You’re at Home
- Audiobooks for Kids: Tips for Starting + Titles to Try
Photos by Christie Knight Photography
Megan Rotondo says
I love quiet time and I credit you with giving me the idea! It’s the best with my 7 year old. She’s one of those kids that had to give up naps at kindergarten, so when that did happen, I was all ready to go with quiet time parameters. We’ve only been able to do 1 hour, but it’s priceless! Thanks so much!
Sarah Brown says
We do this with our kiddos too….since our 6 year old gave up his nap when he was 3. My son plays so well by himself now, is so imaginative, and doesn’t really ask for “screens” very often as is so used to self-entertaining. It’s also provided a great disciplining “tool” for us as he doesn’t want to lose certain toys during quiet time (or have to sit on his bed and do nothing the whole time – ha!). Couldn’t agree more with this post!
Rebecca Lately says
I love quiet time. We’ve done quite time for what seems like forever (our oldest is 10). It is a great time for everyone to recharge.
I have two boys that are very stereotypically “boy”. The little one is only two and still takes glorious three hr naps. The older one stopped napping well before two. I tried quiet time (because I too need a break from the constant interaction), but I basically needed an almost empty, windowless room to make it safe to leave him. Basically, I’m amazed there are children that will stay in their room while not getting into mischief like climbing closet shelves or tall dressers, drawing on carpets or walls. Holes the walls? We’ve had that too. I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate school time now!
I have four boys and relate to your comment SO MUCH! I was wondering why quiet time wasn’t an easier transition for us and realized that safety was the reason.
Rachel Rosen says
We started quiet time the same way- when my son turned 4 (my children need naps until they are much older than 3!) I tucked him in and then told him he could get up if he wanted to. Surprisingly, he chose to nap quite often at first. Now that he’s 5, he hardly ever does. I set up “centers” each day which staves off the whining for the most part. Centers are a puzzle, a book on CD, play doh bin, magnatiles bin, a sticker activity book, etc etc. I try to mix it up as much as possible. I absolutely need that time every day (I am an introvert) and it is a life saver. I do not understand why every parent doesn’t do it. We use the Onaroo ok to wake clock so he knows when his time is up. It’s so nice that i can easily sync the time with his little brother’s nap so I’m guaranteed 2 hours of kid free time every day!
Paige Flamm says
Quiet time is such a lifesaver. Jay is super easily self entertained, so we’ve never even had to really call it a formal “quiet time”, he just knows after lunch he plays by himself while Em naps and I work, or nap too, and it’s the best.
Beth @ Turn2theSimple says
Quiet Time…always! We have done quiet time ever since the youngest started giving up naps. Now the kids are 9, 7 & 5 and we still need and do quiet time pretty much every day!
Next to my morning routine, it is the most important part of my day!
This is always my #1 tip for new moms- such a life saver! We’ve always only done 1 hour. 2 hours seems awesome! I’m just afraid that since we’ve done 1 hour for so many years, the transition would be brutal. I’ll have to think on it 🙂
I was just googling how to transition fro my nap time to quiet time! Thanks for the tips!!
The way you describe how much you love quiet time reminds me of how much we love the kids’ early bedtime. We have them asleep and the house cleaned every night by a decent hour and we are always saying to each other how much it has saved us. I have tried and failed with quiet time, I’ll be honest I’m afraid to even try again! But it sounds so amazing and something I’ve always imagined us doing. My daughter just turned three and is really good about playing independently and using her imagination when she wants to, but she gets so worked up and emotional about being left alone sometimes and then it makes me start to feel frustrated and I haven’t been consistent with it. I’m going to implement some of your ideas!
I have a one year old and almost 4 year old. I’ve always done quiet time and made the oldest stay in her room. But sure enough she started coming out and asking me a million questions, not letting me have quiet time and was unable to entertain herself no matter how many activities I suggested she could do. After maybe 3 months of this (also first three months of my third pregnancy) I finally gave up and made this time of day her screen time so I could nap. I hate that she doesn’t spend quiet time playing and imagining, but I feel like I can’t go back now. She loves books but wants me to read them to her so she spends the entire time asking me to read to her. Any ideas would be helpful!! New baby comes in March and I really need the afternoon break.
Brit Murdock says
We did it for about a year and then fizzled out. I have a couple questions.
-There are times my kids get lost in play before the start of quiet time time and I don’t want to interrupt them to tell them it has formally started… or that they’ve played without me a lot already on a Saturday and then sending them to quiet time seems neglectful… as I type this I’m realizing these are good problems to have but there are more…
-How much do you step in if they argue or fight?
-Is the biggest cardinal rule for ‘quiet time’ that they need to let you do your own thing? Not necessarily stay in one area?
Thanks Janssen! I think that reinstituting this would be wonderfully refreshing for all of us.
These are my exact questions. My kids regularly play really well together for long stretches but at unpredictable times. Any time I’ve tried to formalize a quiet time, they fall all apart. So I’ve just learned to make the most of their happy play time whenever it happens…
How do you do the audio books? Do they use headphones and what kind of device are they using to listen? Do you have to set it up or do they know how to work it? Do you have a list of audio books you reccomend for kids? I have ages 4 and 6 not napping. Thanks!
Janssen Bradshaw says
Yes! Here’s a post about the headphones and devices we like: https://everyday-reading.com/audiobooks-for-children-devices/
And here are some recommendations for audiobooks:
My son is only 5 months old so we have a while until this could be implemented. I work full time so he’s splits his time between daycare and grandparents. Do you think quiet time could still work only being able to do it 3-4 days a week? I love the idea of teaching kids to play independently.
Janssen Bradshaw says
Absolutely! As long as it’s consistent when you’re at home or he’s at his grandparents, I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work!
I was JUST about to ask about the audio books! Thank yoU!!
allison knab says
I don’t know how people can be sane/happy parents without quiet time!!! I LOVE it! Thanks for teaching me how to do it years ago!
Quiet time is wonderful indeed–but now that my four year old is alone (the last of 6) he is struggling. He has grown up with PLENTY of interaction, even during quiet time! Him and I are trying to figure this out right now. 🙂
Or, he and I. Sorry.
So many good tips!! I seriously think I’m gonna go crazy most days from 1-3 for your very exact reasons and when the crazies start waking up babies on top of it all then I real lose it! Our house is too small to separate he troublemakers but I just locked everyone out in the backyard after reading this so I’m committed! 😉 wish me luck!
I SO need to implement a quiet time like this,
I’m such an introvert that it’s difficult for me not to feel completely drained because I have no down time, so these seem like great tips! I’m curious though, how do you ensure they don’t just make one giant mess? (I’m thinking art supplies/getting one toy or game out right after another) Have you just trained them over time? Or are you nearby, so you can regulate and help if they need something?
Janssen Bradshaw says
They do sometimes make a giant mess. But they get better at it over time, especially as they learn that the bigger mess they make, the more they have to clean up afterward. And frankly, for me it’s a worthwhile trade off to spend 15 minutes cleaning up for 2 hours of quiet time.
After reading your post today I tried quiet time for the first time today! My daughter is approaching 3 and ready to give up naps – we did half an hour today and she really enjoyed it. I’m hoping over time she will last longer and be more independent. I have lots of questions!! Do you use any kind of monitors to listen/see what your kids are up to? Are you worried sleeping if they’re playing alone? That’s not meant to sound judgemental, I absolutely love the idea of it and am just trying to get my head around the ins and outs!
Janssen Bradshaw says
I’ve use a monitor in the past, but now I don’t really bother because they’ve been doing it so long and I can hear them fairly well.
Thank you for this post. I did quiet time with my oldest, but it was an easy transition because she couldn’t open the door knob to her room. My second now is kind of struggling. I really appreciated these tips of trying to make it fun for her with toys. I was struggling to find the balance myself, since she really could still use a nap sometimes. But it is getting better and will save my life in a couple months when baby #3 arrives.
How do you handle quiet time when you’re doing potty training? We have done shorter quiet times here and there, even though my both my boys still nap. But it has been completely thrown off because he pees in his room if I don’t take him to the toilet every 30-40 minutes. He can hold it for longer, but when he’s in quiet time he doesn’t!
Janssen Bradshaw says
When they’re potty-training, they can come out and ask for help if they need to go to the bathroom. Right now, my third daughter isn’t potty-trained, and I won’t lie – it definitely makes it easier!
Hannah B says
Yes!! My kids are 6, 4, 2 & 1 month. We call it rest time. My 2 year old needs a nap, but the olders don’t often fall asleep any more. They can take books with them to a room and maybe a toy. usually I try to keep everyone separate and I think everyone benefits from the alone time. I know I do! 🙂
We’ve been attempting quiet time with my daughter since she gave up napping (she’s 4) but definitely struggle sometimes on the “no parent” part of it. I’m going to hoard some art supplies and use the clock method for sure!
So, you emailed when I asked you about suggestions for quiet time and suggested that my child stay in the living room and I go in my bedroom during quiet time (because her sister is napping in their bedroom) and can I say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I have done it three times now and it’s worked great! It’s given her a chance to entertain herself and have some independent time and the same for me! The only problem is she’s falling asleep rather than continuing to play—like she gets a pillow and blanket and curls up on the couch! Then she’s up at night. So I’m going to try to entice her with some toys that she hasn’t played with in a few months. Thank you! I feel like I have some sanity back.
Marcie Parson says
How do you teach your child to stay in their room during quiet time? I have a 2.5 year old who is about 50/50 on naps, so I’m trying to implement quiet time. However he’s an only child right now who is so used to constant attention that he will not stay in one place and constantly comes out asking for me. I love this idea but it just hasn’t been working for me yet!
Marie C says
Do you still do quiet time when on vacation? How do you instill this if you are at someone else’s (family member or friend) house for the weekend where they do not do quiet time?
Janssen Bradshaw says
If we’re on vacation by ourselves, we still do it, and if we’re at my sister’s houses (they both do quiet time) or my in-laws or my parents, we still do it there too.
If we’re with a bunch of other families and no one else does it, we generally skip it.
Do you have a resource or list sharing some activities to do during quiet time? I feel like I’m always having to present something new for my daughter. If she gets board, she naps and then doesn’t sleep at bedtime until after 9pm.
How do you do quiet time if they share a bedroom? We have a 4 year old and almost 3 year old.
Janssen Bradshaw says
I have one of them do it in the living room or in my room.