The Importance of a Daily Quiet Time for Kids
I first implemented a daily quiet time with my children when my oldest was around 3 years old and had begun to give up naps. It’s tough work keeping a little one entertained all day. Although I don’t believe that it’s a parent’s job to entertain his or her children that doesn’t change the fact that the children may not know how to entertain themselves.
Having a daily quiet time for kids can help them learn how to entertain themselves better and how to be comfortable without outside stimulation. A daily quiet time starts children on the right path toward mindfulness. It gives them the time and the space to hear themselves think and to calm their minds and bodies.
It sounds wonderful, right? Yeah, my children were all about mindfulness and spiritual awareness at age three! Right.
So, maybe having a daily quiet time for kids is not as easy as telling them to go to their rooms and read a book. But, it doesn’t have to be a difficult process either.
How to Have a Daily Quiet Time for Kids
1. Keep it consistent.
Decide when quiet time will be each day and then stick to it. When I was a stay at home mom of young children, I created a consistent daily routine. Quiet time was right after lunch each day. At that time of day all of the errands were finished, so we were settled in at home. It was right after lunch and before snack time. It also helped me to get ready for the afternoon and evening ahead.
You may find that a morning quiet time works better in your home. Just be sure to keep it at the same place in your routine each day. You’ll find that the children fight it less if they know it’s coming. Children thrive when there is a consistent rhythm to their day and they more easily accept the next step of the routine when they expect it.
2. Make quiet time for older children coincide with nap time for younger children. As I mentioned already, I chose to have quiet time in the afternoons right after lunch. When my oldest was three, my middle son would often nap around 1 pm. I wanted quiet time to coincide with any naps so that I could also have some quiet time for myself!
Scheduling quiet time during nap time also allowed me to have interrupted time to nurse the baby and it kept the house quiet while the baby slept.
3. Find a separate space for everyone.
If your children each have their own bedrooms it is easy to give each child a separate space for quiet time. If your children share a room, you may have to get creative. Allow one child to have the shared bedroom for quiet time while the other has quiet time in the living room. I’ve allowed my boys to occasionally have quiet time in my bedroom for a change of pace.
When my oldest was closer to 8 or 9, if the weather was nice, sometimes he wanted to have his quiet time outside. He liked being able to play without his little brothers around. The rule was that if he decided to come back inside during quiet time, he had to do it quietly and couldn’t stop to check out what I was doing. (Because what I was doing might involve sneaking a piece of chocolate that I didn’t want to share.)
5. Keep the length of quiet time reasonable.
A full hour-long quiet time is a wonderful thing. However, it is not always a practical thing. Unless your three year old, for example, is an uncommonly introverted children, he or she is not going to want to be alone for an hour. Boredom will take over and quiet time will become a painful experience.
I suggest the following time limits on quiet time for the following ages:
Under 3 years old — Nap time or quiet time with mommy. A child under the age of three won’t understand quiet time and will likely cry if he or she has a healthy attachment to you.
3 years old — 20-30 minutes. This will depend on the maturity and introversion/extraversion of your child. Gradually bump the time up a minute or two each week until you reach a full 30 minute quiet time.
4-6 years old — 30-40 minutes. If you’ve never had a quiet time before, I suggest starting with 20 minutes and working up to 30 or 40 minutes.
7 and older — 45 minutes – 1 hour. Again, start slowly and add a few minutes each week until you reach the full amount of time desired.
4. Teach them how to see quiet time on the clock.
Teaching my boys to look to the clock to answer the question of “When is quiet time over?” was imperative. Otherwise, they’d pop their heads out every 5 minutes asking if it was time to come out yet. Thirty minutes feels like an eternity to a child unless he or she can relax enough to engage in reading or thinking or drawing or playing. Constantly asking when quiet time will be over isn’t relaxing for anyone!
4. Don’t force it.
Don’t make quiet time a battlefield. At first, your children probably won’t understand the concept of quiet time. Tell them about it the day before you plan to implement it. Tell them that it is a time where everyone plays alone and plays quietly.
Explain the rules about not bothering others during quiet time and only talking to mommy if there is an emergency. (Be sure to define what an emergency consists of based on their age and maturity level.)
Decide if you will allow electronics during quiet time. I did allow television or movies for my children. If you won’t allow electronics, be sure to provide books, art supplies (like crayons, not paint, of course!) and other things that they can do without help.
Start slowly. If your young child emerges from his or her room after only five minutes, praise them for making it that far and send them back for five more minutes. Don’t get upset just because your child won’t stay put in his or her quiet place. Give more attention to the fact that they made it for as long as they did. This is a new concept and being away from their main source of entertainment — YOU– is difficult at first. Show compassion and let them know you understand how they feel, but remain firm that quiet time is something that will continue to happen in the future.
After you and your children settle into a routine daily quiet time you will all benefit from the break you’ll get from each other and the time you’ll have to regroup before tackling the rest of your day.
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