With four kids ranging from 10 months old to 6 years old, quiet/nap time is VITAL for me. The days we don’t get it are rough for everyone. By the end we are all overstimulated and exhausted. So, unless unforeseen circumstances prevent it, I strictly enforce daily quiet time.
My oldest two know that whenever Milo (our 2 year old) is ready for his nap, that is when their quiet time is. Sometimes, though, it can take a while to get him down to sleep (please tell me it’s not just my toddler who fights nap like he’s fighting for his life). That means that sometimes the kids are downstairs for quiet time for several hours. For the longest time I have felt intensely guilty about that. I mean, aren’t I supposed to direct their whole day? Isn’t that how I can ensure that they are always learning, growing, and developing?
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Let Them Learn
I’ll let you in on a little secret that I have learned from this extended quiet time. If you give you give them space, they will learn! They will learn and do all kinds of amazing things. Some of Aidan’s best Lego constructions have come out of quiet time. He has even filmed videos of some of his creations while they are down there. Kayla has created stories and drawn pictures. They have played games, pretended to be puppies, built forts, and gone on many an imaginary adventure. They’ve learned to work the AppleTV (hey, that’s a lifeskill). They are learning how to work out some of their squabbles on their own. Aidan has even begun to draw (something he has resisted for quite some time)!
All of these things they accomplished because I gave them some space to be curious, try things out, work through boredom, and create without me looking over their shoulders. I even learned this past week that they have come up with more things than I knew about. I found papers they had used that I hadn’t seen before while tidying. up.
My kids have done all of these things (and more) while playing alone.
- Kayla wrote a ‘story’ about dogs as a pretend dog in a puppy preschool.
- Aidan, who is NOT one to practice writing his letters, surprised me by practicing the letter ‘A’.
- Kayla created plans for a ‘family festival’ at the beach including an underwater tunnel.
- Aidan created a Lego train, with tracks, and a ‘turner’ at the end so the train can change directions. This one is a video that you have GOT to watch!
Making The Most Of Quiet Time
If you want to encourage creative play during quiet time you have to do more than hope for the best. Here are my 3 tips for making the most of independent play time with your kids.
- Provide tools. You want these to be things you aren’t worried about your kids using while unsupervised during quiet time. That will vary some from family to family (we have a strict no marker or stamps rule due to a few ‘incidents’). Some generally safe options are crayons and paper, Legos, K’nex, glue sticks, popsicle sticks, puzzles, and Minecraft (played in creative mode without access to chat features).
- Introduce tools. During some free time together as a family, take time to introduce the various tools you will have out during quiet time. Do your kids know how to use them? Brainstorm creative ways to play with each thing. This will ensure that they have plenty of ideas when quiet time actually rolls around.
- Dedicate some time. Find a solid chunk of time each day for them to have quiet play time. Again, how much time will vary on your child’s age and experience with independent play. For most kids old enough to have fully unsupervised play, half an hour is a reasonable amount of time to start with. I prefer a minimum of an hour for my kids. It gives them sufficient time to get a bit ‘bored’, which then pushes them to figure out some way to entertain themselves.
Do your children have a daily quiet time? If not, now might be a good time to start! As it turns out directing their whole day isn’t the best way to ensure our kids grow and learn. They need the opportunity to have unstructured time and get a bit ‘bored’ to push their creativity and independence to grow beyond our wildest imaginations!