Of all if our daily routines, the two most important are undoubtedly our evening clean up and our daily quiet time.
As a work-at-home mom since our oldest was born, daily quiet times started out as a necessity so that I could have a block of time to work (almost) uninterrupted.
Even today, though, with Sean home full time, we’ve found that the benefits go far beyond uninterrupted work-time for mom. Today, it’s a vital part of our day and a practice we will probably continue even as our girls get older.
Because we have an extended quiet time, usually at least two hours, we often get asked questions about how we get our kids to stay in their rooms, what they do, etc.
I’m going to share more about what quiet times look like for our family, but first, let’s talk about why we think it’s important.
Why We Have Daily Quiet Times
There are quiet a few reasons we do daily quiet times, and while personal sanity is one of the reasons, it’s not the only reason:
To Maintain Our Sanity
Since it is one of the most common reasons, let’s go ahead and start here. With four little girls, our home is anything but quiet for most of the day. While we love to hear them giggling and playing and laughing and singing and telling stories, there’s also a fair share of bickering and whining and yelling. And since Sean and I are both introverts, we find that having that alone time — and most of the time we use this time for alone time as well, as opposed to the evening, which is our time together — makes us better parents for the rest of the day.
We’re also able to get things done that we might not be able to do with everybody vying for our attention!
To Give the Girls Time Alone
Only time will tell which of our girls are introverts and which are extroverts (although I have a theory that both of our high-needs babies are introverts), but I think learning to be alone and having time to actually do it are important for both groups of people. They could easily go for days at a time without ever getting time to themselves since we’re home most days together, they share a bedroom and our home isn’t huge, but having a daily quiet time gives them time to practice this skill.
They Play Better Together Afterwards
One of my favorite parts about quiet time is how much the girls miss each other when they’re apart — even if they couldn’t get along before it started! Almost without fail, the afternoons run smoother and with more giggles and less bickering thanks to their time apart.
It Gives Them Time to Stretch Their Skills
Another benefit we’ve noticed is that the girls really have time to develop their individual skills and try things on their own during quiet time. For example, our four year old often asks her sisters to help her with the GeoTrax tracks during the day, but when she’s alone, she problem solves and creates her own configurations. Similarly, some of their best art comes from this alone time, when they’re not worried about what the other person is doing or how their stuff compares.
How to Make Quiet Time Work for Your Family
Quiet time has never really been a struggle for our family, mostly because it’s always been a part of our daily routine. However, there are some things we’ve learned along the way that have made it more effective for us:
Define the Space
We have a three bedroom home, so each of the big girls gets one of those rooms (rotating between them each day) while the baby sleeps in the “nursery,” aka the master closet. When we finally move her upstairs with her sisters, we’ll let the big girls take turns hanging out in the main living room so that they can each still have that alone time.
As I said, we’ve always done quiet times, so our girls have never known anything different. As our youngest is starting to outgrow her nap (she stays awake 2-3 days a week these days), I’ve been thinking about this transition again, and I think the thing that has had the biggest impact is that we start quiet times before they even give up their nap!
For example, when they’re around one years old, we let them start taking stuffed animals to bed with them. Later, they’re allowed to take board books as well. That means that each morning when our two-year-old wakes up for the day, she plays for a few minutes before calling us to come get her (or, more realistically, she calls a few times, notices the toys and starts playing and then calls again when she’s done). She also plays before falling asleep at nap time so that on the days she doesn’t sleep, she just keeps right on playing, often for 60-90 minutes.
Because this idea of playing quietly in your bed is so normal from the time they’re little, it’s not really a big deal when they stop sleeping altogether, although we do use gates when they first move out of their cribs, mostly to keep them from getting into the bathrooms and other things during that time!
Another important part of establishing a quiet time routine is just that…making it a routine. Our girls have quiet time 5-6 days a week and almost 100% of the time if we’re home, so there’s really no question or argument about whether they’re having quiet time each day.
Our quiet times are undoubtedly the easiest after birthdays or Christmas when there are new toys to play with and they’re anxious for the opportunity to have those things all to themselves. While we believe boredom plays an important role in childhood, we keep them from getting too bored is by allowing them to choose a couple activities each day to take with them. Because they’re making their own decisions, we have an easy rebuttal when they do say they’re bored, and it also allows them to pick whatever interests them most at the time.
Our two oldest daughters often choose crafts for at least one of their activities, while the four year old can usually be seen carrying a tall stack of books. They do occasionally bicker over a toy, but because quiet times are an everyday thing, we let one of them take it that day and the other has dibs the next. Similarly, whoever sleeps downstairs also gets the iPad, not to play games but so that they can listen to Pandora or a story on tape while they play. And our oldest almost always has Story of the World playing in the background upstairs.
Although our official rule is that you may not come out of your room during nap, we try to apply that rule with grace. So if someone needs help tying a string to make a bracelet or needs to fill their water, it’s not a big deal, but if they are constantly coming out of their room for silly requests, we can fall back on the rule to get it back under control.
And because this quiet time is so established, it’s pretty fun to declare an outside day on really nice days. They know that if they fight they’ll have to go to quiet time, and they’ll often spend the rest of the afternoon outside on these days. I’m actually really looking forward to spring so that we can start doing this again!
It’s Never Too Late to Start
Okay, so there’s no doubt that quiet times are easier to enforce if you’ve always done them, but does that mean it’s too late for you if you haven’t? No, definitely not!
If you’re not currently doing quiet times each day, let your children know that you’re going to start having quiet times. Then, start with a goal of 20-30 minutes, depending on the age of your children. Help them select toys/activities to take with them and explain how quiet time will work. Set a timer or use a clock to show them when quiet time will be over.
For younger children, you may have to escort them back to their room a time or two (or twenty) for the first few days. My best advice here comes from Super Nanny! I watched the show the first year it was on TV, and I loved her approach to kids who wouldn’t stay in bed…simply walk them back, silently and without emotion, as many times as it takes, reminding them to stay in their room before you leave each time. It’s much less stressful and more effective than trying to punish them into staying in their room (having tried both approaches myself), and if you simply plan on spending that time to train them each day, you won’t end up nearly as frustrated. It may even be a good time to sneak in some reading!
As they become used to the routine, extend the time to an hour or two, or whatever fits your family’s needs.
Will the first few days be tough? Yes, they will. But I think the benefits are worth it!
Do you have a daily quiet time for the non-nappers in your home?
|Mandi Ehman is the founder and publisher behind Life Your Way and the co-author of All in Good Time, as well as a wife and the homeschooling mom to four beautiful girls. She lives with her family on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia and loves coffee, chocolate, easy meals, beautiful things and minimalist spaces.|