When I was pregnant with my first child I knew a woman with two children. Her husband was in graduate school and though she couldn’t have been more than 26 or 27 I thought she was old. I mean old. And added to the wisdom of age her having two kids made her a child-rearing expert in my book.
One day she mentioned that her oldest child didn’t take naps anymore but that she still required him to go to his room and be quiet during that daily nap period when the younger child was sleeping. I soaked this up and years later when Grace outgrew her naps “Quiet Time” was born.
Quiet Time is that magical point in the day when the baby goes down for a nap but the older child has to spend the time playing quietly in his or her room with the door shut. It doesn’t matter what they do, they could look at books, put puzzles together, play with toys, lay on the bed, it doesn’t matter the point is that they must stay in one room and quietly entertain themselves for the duration of nap time. Or take a nap—that’s always given as an alternative, but who am I kidding? No kid chooses a nap, it’s the magical strong-arm technique because everything is more appealing to a four year-old than having to sleep, right?
Now before you blast me for being a Mean Mom (and actually, after four kids, the phrase has no meaning for me any more, I wear it as a Badge of Honor) think of what Quiet Time means.
First of all, it means you have time to recharge. Read a book, take a nap, work on a project, whatever. It’s YOUR time, reclaimed. Second, it means that your child is forced to entertain himself for an hour, two hours, (gasp) even two and a half-hours, all by himself. This is a skill that children need to be learning, how to be able to keep themselves busy without a screen, without an adult providing stimulus, without anything but their toys and their thoughts. If you start from the beginning once they abandon the afternoon nap they’ll transition into the habit of playing quietly for that set amount of time quite easily. Third, it may not be the equivalent of a nap, but having this enforced down time is just enough rest to get them through that pesky period of being too old for naps but still young enough to wreak some serious emotional damage because they need extra sleep to get them through the long day.
I’ve done this with all of my children and it’s been wonderful. It’s kept me sane, kept me productive and forced them to take responsibility for their own entertainment rather than pestering me for things to do. When I’ve had more than one child at home in the afternoons (now for example) and if I’m not on the road I still declare Quiet Time after lunch and they know that they have to pick a spot and play or read quietly. If there are more kids than bedrooms they can go out in the playhouse, they can go downstairs in the family room (sometimes separating siblings into different rooms is necessary) but they have to play quietly and if they come out early I tack on extra time in increments of five minutes (ten if I’m feeling feisty).
The earlier you start something like this the better it is. The first time I tried it on Grace she was thrilled not to have to take a nap and loved being able to just play quietly with the door closed like a Big Girl. Once the rules are established the habit is formed and it becomes the expectation—suddenly you’ve got two extra hours in your day. You’ll thank me I promise—I’m considering submitting that young mother’s name for sainthood because of her wise advise 14 years ago. If that doesn’t get her in I don’t know what would.
Congratulations to Bonnie from Bell, Florida for winning last week's Saturday Giveaway. The seersucker purse is winging its way to her as I speak. Or write, or whatever. Thanks again for all who participated, I love giving things away!
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