This week on the podcast we’re discussing the importance of alone time for kids, so we thought we’d revisit the blog post below, filled with great ideas for beginning a quiet time routine with preschoolers. Enjoy!
Life is busy these days— we’re juggling full schedules with kids activities, chores, work, school, errands, appointments, birthday parties and playdates. But there’s something glorious that happens every day in the early afternoon for about two hours when the hustle and bustle dies down; I work on writing in my room with a cup of tea while my daughter, immersed in her imagination, works on a self-directed craft project building her stuffed owl a swing from construction paper: this is the magic of quiet time.
I introduced quiet time as soon as my daughter dropped her daily nap and even though it took work to implement and still takes intentionality to maintain, having routine alone time has really helped all of us thrive; there is no doubt that I am a happier, more calm and patient mom when I’ve had time to myself— whether that’s to rest, read, paint, work, or get things done around the house (quietly)— and the same goes for my children. We are all a better version of ourselves when we set aside time to hit pause on all the stimulation and demands of the day, and simply recharge.
Quiet time or rest time for some kids may mean quiet reading time or independent play time, while for others it could be zoning out to music or an audio book; basically, your little one is in charge of their own fun (or boredom) with some set parameters. Even when children no longer physically need a daily nap, they still need downtime and there are so many valuable skills that kids learn through unstructured, independent play— making decisions about how to spend their time, exercising autonomy and creativity, problem-solving, and growing in confidence that they can accomplish things on their own.
I could sing the praises of quiet time all day long, but I also know that it can be tricky to transition a toddler or preschooler from nap time to quiet time. A child’s ability to entertain themselves and be comfortable with alone time develops with practice, so establishing a new quiet time routine does take some work and patience.
Here are our essential tips for creating a successful quiet time routine:
Spend a little one-on-one time before starting quiet time
Sometimes you’ve got to put time in to get time out. I’ve found that spending at least 10 minutes of intentional one-on-one time with my daughter right before rest time really helps to fill her bucket for independent play later on. We stick to activities that are calming and have a clear end point like reading a book, coloring, or doing a small puzzle together. It makes such a big difference when your child goes into quiet time feeling connected and secure rather than yearning for attention!
Start small and work your way up
My four-year-old has about 2 hours of quiet time each day that lines up with the baby’s afternoon nap. It’s glorious but we definitely had to work up to this. Start with a shorter amount of time that is attainable for your child then gradually work your way up as their independence grows. Consider your little one’s age and ability to entertain themselves during the day— a child that plays well on their own might begin with 30 minutes of quiet time while the starting point for a toddler might be as little as 10 minutes.
Initially, it might also help to break up quiet time into smaller chunks by offering a new activity at the halfway point; for example, a 30 minute quiet time might look like 15 minutes of reading followed by a check-in to let them know they are doing great and offering a bin of blocks to build for another 15 minutes. Try to keep the interaction short, praise the progress your child has already made, and slowly increase the interval between check-ins.
Use a visual timer
An ok-to-wake clock has been a game changer for us in establishing our bedtime and rest routines. Little kids struggle with the concept of time and not knowing when quiet time will end can make them feel anxious. An alarm clock that lights up in different colors to cue when quiet time begins and ends helps put to rest the inevitable question, When is quiet time done?
Using a visual timer or alarm clock also relieves you from being the sole enforcer of how long the quiet time will last (it’s the clock that says when it’s ok to come out!) and avoid power struggles. For kids who like knowing how much time is left, a timer like this one that shows a visual countdown can provide that extra reassurance that time is progressing.
Let them know what to expect and be consistent
When you start transitioning your toddler or preschooler from nap time to quiet time, set some ground rules so they know what to expect. Keep it simple— let them know where they will spend quiet time and give a few specific do’s and don’ts. The 3 basic rules for quiet time in our family are:
- Stay in your room until the ok-to-wake clock is green (except to go to the bathroom or if there is an emergency)
- Choose something quiet to do on your own (when she was younger I would provide a few options)
- No jumping, stomping, or yelling (this became a rule for us after a certain quiet time when my daughter decided to pretend the rug in her room was a pool and she was jumping off her bed onto it yelling, “THREE TWO ONE SPLASH!!!” at the top of her lungs)
I’ve also found it helpful to model quiet time behavior for my daughter by letting her know how I will be spending my alone time: “Mommy will be having quiet time too. I will be resting in my room” or “Mommy will be spending quiet work time in front of the computer.”
Of course kids will test these boundaries, but having a rhythm of rest is a priority in our family so we are firm on our rules and consistent about enforcing them. We do quiet time at around the same time everyday, including weekends, even when we are traveling with very few exceptions; now my kids know it’s just a natural part of our daily routine.
Set up a video monitor
When things seem a little too quiet it can either mean rest time is actually going great or…trouble. My daughter has quiet time in her room with the door closed so having a way to supervise her safety without my physical presence has been key to our quiet time success.
A video monitor is a great way to make sure your little one isn’t getting into something dangerous without interrupting their focus on solo play. It’s also been particularly useful in helping us expand the range of activities my daughter has access to as she’s gotten older; for example, when my daughter wanted to start using markers, scissors, and glue in her room during quiet time, I was pretty nervous about the possible havoc that could lead to…but the video monitor gave me peace of mind knowing that I could step in at any time if she started applying her creativity to the furniture or her clothes, so we gave it a try. Now, arts and crafts are one of her favorite things to do during quiet time and we love being surprised by all the amazing things she creates!
Provide incentives for a successful quiet time
Having something to look forward to can provide that extra bit of motivation your child may need to exercise patience and entertain themselves during quiet time. We use screen time as an incentive for following quiet time rules and it’s worked out great so far. You could also offer a special snack, treat, or fun activity like going to the park to encourage good quiet time behavior.
As with any reward system, an incentive works best when you have clear and consistent rules for what “good” quiet time behavior looks like and you must be prepared to follow-through and enforce those boundaries.
Calm music or audio books
A playlist of soft music or an audio book can be a great tool to help your child to pass the time and relax. Setting up an audiobook or music to play for the same duration as quiet time can also give your child an audio cue for how long quiet time will last. The Toniebox is especially great for this!
Special toys and activities reserved for quiet time
When you first begin building a rest time routine, a few new toys and activities can really help get your kids excited about quiet time and keep them occupied for longer. I often wait until quiet time to present my daughter with new books.
At first, you might start with simply designating that it’s “reading time” or “building time” to help ease your child into the role of being in charge of their own play. As their autonomy grows and they get into the habit of entertaining themselves, go with your child’s interests, offer more choices, and create a rotation of quiet time activities to keep things fresh.
Here are some of our favorite open-ended quiet time toys and activities:
- Building toys like PicassoTiles, Duplos, Legos, or train tracks
- If your child can be trusted with art and craft supplies, I absolutely LOVE the creativity that quiet time brings out! Crayons, a coloring book, and some stickers are a great start. For younger kids, Color Wonder books, Water Wow books, and a magnetic drawing board are great mess-free options.
- Doll houses, action figures, and animal figurines
- Beads to string together (pony beads with pipe cleaners are an easy one to start with for preschoolers) or larger lacing beads for younger children.
- Puzzles like this one or this big floor puzzle. There are also lots of great, cheap options at dollar stores.
- Interactive books. We love The Ultimate Book series that cover a variety of topics like the earth space, city, and airports— they are so well made with lots of moving and 3D components, beautifully detailed illustrations (the reading level is for older grade school children but the pictures are great even for preschoolers), and are just so engaging and fun! These finger maze books are also great for toddlers and younger kids.
Quiet time gives children a chance to process, organize, and synthesize new information. This helps deepen their learning. Time resting, but awake, helps kids solidify the things they've learned throughout the day. Quiet time provides an opportunity for this solidification to occur.How would you encourage the preschoolers independent skill? ›
- Set predictable routines. ...
- Let your child choose. ...
- Let your child help. ...
- Give your child chores. ...
- Let your child solve problems. ...
- Encourage projects. ...
- Nurture free play. ...
- What to say while they work and play.
Quiet time gives children a chance to process, organize, and synthesize new information. This helps deepen their learning. Time resting, but awake, helps kids solidify the things they've learned throughout the day. Quiet time provides an opportunity for this solidification to occur.What is quiet time for preschoolers? ›
What is quiet time for toddlers and preschoolers? Quiet time is simply a period of unstructured, calm time for your child. This usually takes place in your child's room. And is an opportunity for their bodies and brains to rest and slow down once their afternoon nap has gone away.How do you establish quiet time for kids? ›
To avoid resistance, start quiet time out slowly, perhaps in 15-20 minute increments. Allow your child to play quietly, and do a timed check. Pop your head into the room, acknowledge what a great job he is doing of playing quietly, and if you feel it is called for, suggest alternative items that he may play with.What is independent learning in preschool? ›
Independent learning is a practice through which kids can develop an inquisitive mind. This is an effortless exercise that parents and teachers can encourage kids to get involved in from a young age. It's imperative for kids to develop independent learning skills in preschool to increase brain stimulation.What is the importance of quiet time? ›
A quiet time (or devotions) is an expression of this truth. It's a regular appointment that we keep with God that allows us to block out other distractions and focus on our connection with Jesus through practices like prayer and Bible reading.Why is it important to schedule a balance of quiet and active play? ›
Balance active times with quiet times.
Children are full of energy and don't know how to slow down and rest. Planning your daily schedule so there are active play times and quiet play and rest will help children learn how to pace themselves.
Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead.What are quiet time examples? ›
- Take God out for coffee. Find a quiet corner in a café and meet with God. ...
- Add a spiritual classic to your devotional diet. ...
- Put feet to your faith. ...
- Journal your journey. ...
- Come before Him with singing. ...
- Let faith come by hearing. ...
- Dig a little deeper. ...
- All the King's versions.
Quiet time and time-out are strategies to guide children away from challenging behaviour. They involve not giving children attention for a short period of time and removing children from interesting activities. When you use quiet time and time-out, stay calm, focus on family rules and be consistent.How do I enforce my 3 year old quiet time? ›
Start slow. Introduce quiet time in 15-minute increments and gradually increase it until quiet time is at least 45 minutes. If your child won't stay in their room without you, you can introduce quiet time by staying in their room with them.How long should quiet time be for a 4 year old? ›
3-5 years old: 20 to 30-minutes of quiet time (you can start with a 10-minute quiet time and build up to 20 to 30-minutes) 6-7 years old: 30 to 40-minutes of quiet time (you can start with a 15-minute quiet time and build up to 30 to 40-minutes)What do kids do during quiet time? ›
Quiet time is a short period of the day that your child (and you!) spend doing independent and quiet activities. Your child can spend this in their room or play area, wherever they have books and quiet toys.What is an example of independent activity? ›
Independent activities include practising a mathematical skill, working on an interesting problem, using manipulatives to make sense of a concept, playing a game, or doing an online activity.What are three ways of gaining independence? ›
- Make decisions alone. So often we crowd source decisions that we could easily make on our own. ...
- Get to know yourself better. ...
- Focus on things you admire about yourself. ...
- Learn to give yourself emotional support.
Being independent has many benefits; the core of which is that it builds self-confidence and self-esteem. Empowering children to be independent starts as early as Nursery and Pre-school. It also avoids over-reliance on adults, parents or even their more confident peers.What is independence and self help skills in preschool? ›
What are self-help skills for toddlers? Self-help skills are abilities that children gradually attain to give them more independence. It includes getting dressed, having a shower and brushing teeth. It's about learning life skills so they can look after themselves without depending on others.How do you promote independence in the classroom? ›
- Develop An Open Environment. ...
- Introduce A Reward Initiative. ...
- Independent Work Scrutiny. ...
- Encourage Research. ...
- Let Them Teach the Class About Their Research. ...
- Roleplaying. ...
- Encourage Discussions and Debates. ...
- Boost Brainstorming Culture.
To become independent, your child needs to be confident in their own abilities. If they are not confident in their own skills, they will remain reliant on the support of parents, carers or other adults, or their more confident friends or siblings.
Just like adults, children feel more confident and secure when their daily activities are predictable and familiar. A consistent daily schedule and step-by-step routines give children a predictable day. Schedules and routines in the group care setting and at home help children: Feel in control of their environment.Why is a schedule and routine important in a preschool setting? ›
Schedules and routines are important because:
They help children feel secure and comfortable. They help children understand the expectations of the environment. They help reduce the frequency of behavior problems (e.g., tantrums). They can result in higher rates of child engagement.
Billy Graham suggested that quiet time consists of three main elements: prayer, Bible reading, and meditation. He also mentioned that many Christians accompany these three elements with journaling.What is quiet time in classroom? ›
What is Quiet Time? Quiet Time is a built-in downtime each day in the classroom that is 100% student directed. Many teachers already do this under various names – whether a “cool-down time” after a busy recess or “educational recess” after a difficult math lesson.What are quiet time activities for responsive classroom? ›
Just 10 to 15 minutes of time to read, write, draw, work on a puzzle, or do some other quiet work can help children take a physical, mental, and emotional breather so they are more ready to engage in learning in the afternoon.What is silence activity in Montessori? ›
The Montessori Silence Game
In order to prepare for this game you need to take time each day to speak with the children quietly. You need to bring the idea of 'quiet' to their consciousness and then give them an opportunity to become quiet. If they respond in a loud voice, simply make your voice quieter.
- #1 Have confidence in your child.
- #2 Encourage intellectual curiosity.
- #3 Have a "learning corner"
- #4 Reward their efforts.
- #5 Listen to them.
- #6 Take a step back.
- Being independent sets your child up for future success.
Ways to foster independent thinking is to encourage children to ask questions and then find the solutions on their own. Encourage a child to experiment, then explain their results and defend their conclusions. Allow your child to play alone and support imaginative play.What are the strategies for independent learning? ›
- Establish independently driven routines.
- Create an open environment.
- Encourage students to ask open-ended questions.
- Negotiate activity choices.
- Equip students with self-regulation strategies.
Examples of independent learning skills
Proactivity rather than passivity – students attempt to seek answers from a variety of sources when they get stuck, rather than defaulting to asking the teacher (or just not doing the task);
- Help your child learn to do things. At every age, there are new things for kids to learn. ...
- When teaching kids how to do things, show and help them at first. ...
- Praise your child, but do it wisely. ...
- Be a good role model. ...
- Ban harsh criticism. ...
- Focus on strengths. ...
- Let kids help and give.