Trying to set up quiet time at your house? I’ve lived the struggle. Here are my tips.
What happens when your kids outgrow naps but you still need a break in the afternoon? You make a guilt-free move to quiet time. Quiet time can be a great, relaxing, simple break in the day for all involved… but it does take a little planning.
This wasn’t something I hit a home run on right out of the gate, but after a few trials, errors, fine tuning, and retooling – I’ve got this afternoon ritual down pat.
Curious how my day looks now that we are stuck at home and homeschooling? CHECK OUT MY “STAY HOME” SCHEDULE.
What exactly is quiet time?
Quiet time is a period in the afternoon where a child (or children) play with low-key toys or activities and take a little break from asking their parents 47 “…but why” questions.
It’s a great bridge for both parents and kids coming off of nap time or for those used to a quieter afternoon schedule at school or day care. Quiet time is where it’s at.
But how do you set up quiet time? How do you keep your kids quiet? How do you get a break and NOT feel guilty about it?
I’ve got answers, help, ideas, everything. It’s coming.
You don’t need to feel guilty about quiet time.
There is nothing wrong with quiet time and you are not wrong to be a parent who needs / expects it.
In a world that is constantly telling parents to “take care of you” and find some self care time – that’s exactly what quiet time is. We need and deserve even the smallest break during the day to reset and recharge.
This isn’t a bad time for kids or a mean thing to set up. This is a way to let your child know that you value their need to relax, rest, and have space AND you value your own need to rest, relax and have space.
You are not a bad parent for doing quiet time.
You’re a great parent offering a variety of options to your child of varying degrees of stimulation. This exists for a very necessary reason.
RELATED: Looking for quick and easy activity ideas? Check out my go-to list of favorites!
How do you set up and manage quiet time?
I will be very honest: this part didn’t come easily to my family and it was a bit of a hot mess until we were forced to stay home and I knew I had to get this going right.
I had to set up some firm, clear, and consistent boundaries on what quiet time would look like in our house (I have one napping child, two awake children, a husband working from home, and I run this during afternoon naps).
Here’s what I came up with for our quiet time system:
- 1:00 – 2:00 pm PLAY TIME alone in bedrooms (quietly playing)
- 2:00 – 2:30 pm QUIET TIME downstairs with our bin of activities and supplies (they are “together” for this part but still on the quieter side)
- 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm SCREEN TIME (yup, I use screens as a tool and this is a time in the day when they help us)
What this looks like:
My kids are 5 and 7 now but have been doing “afternoon in their room” alone play since they were about 3.5 – 4 years old. Of course use best judgment with your kids, safety proof their rooms, and make sure you are still supervising as needed. We do not have a play room or basement so all my kids’ toys are in their bedrooms.
After their hour of alone play (which is so needed – they need this break from the world to be still and quiet and alone), they head downstairs to a specially made bin (see this post) I’ve prepared them with so many fun options. They have clocks in their rooms and can both identify “2:00.”
Finally, at 2:30 pm, they’re allowed to turn on a parent approved show.
TV time is dependent on quiet time behavior. If my kids are not following the quiet time rules, they lose screen time. This happened ONCE. They got the memo. I find this very necessary to setting up the system – broken rules mean consequences.
RELATED: Wondering about my screen time policy? Check out this post.
Why this system works…and why it didn’t before
In the past, a two-hour quiet time was a pie in the sky dream for me. But nobody could make it that long.
So I took a proactive approach and separated the two-hour block into three manageable chunks of time.
Gone are the days of trying to stretch quiet time. Instead, I transitioned us to the three block system where quiet time follows a routine, predictable, and easy-to-live with pattern. The key for me was going from 1 large 2-hour block down to 3 smaller blocks of time (but still for 2 hours).
It changed everything for us.
When can you start this system?
For my kids, we started a version of this system when they dropped that PM nap – around age 4 to 4.5. It didn’t become this full model until recently.
Instead of making a big deal about it or a big to do, I maintained the routine and system they were used to: we still went to their room each day at the same nap time (now quiet time).
I never let on that there was another option than to spend the afternoons apart for a bit (wink) and I’m fine with this. I need this time to take a break, rest (and run my business). I’m a better parent when I get a chance to sit.
As we phased into quiet time, I used the same verbiage with each kid: “This is your time. You can choose to nap, rest, or play quietly. This is YOUR time. Have fun. I’ll be back to get you when quiet time is over.”
My older kids can read time and come downstairs on their own to begin the activity bin. For younger kids, you will need to get them at the one hour mark (or at the time that’s right for you). Again, I maintain my distance here and “rest”. It’s a hard job parenting.
What do you do during their quiet time?
You rest. You sit. You take your Union Break.
Think of a workplace and all the breaks / alone time a person gets at work: the alone commute, bathroom breaks without an audience, walking around the cubicles to stretch legs, water cooler talk, lunch in peace, and an afternoon commute alone.
You don’t get those moments when you’re at home full-time with young children. It’s hard.
That’s why I encourage parents to use this afternoon time as their break time. Take this time for you. Don’t clean, don’t do dishes, don’t do the laundry. Focus on you and recharging / refilling your tank.
**BUT WHAT ABOUT HOUSEWORK? I do that in front of the kids and with the kids. I want them to know how much work goes into making a house run smoothly and teach them to do that work too. No nap time fairy comes and magically cleans at this house. We all work together.
Quiet time can work at your house…but you need to set it up right.
Firm. Clear. Consistent boundaries. Let your kids know the expectation. Have a flow and order of events (remember – mine system goes room time, quiet time activities, screen time).
Get into a rhythm and make it known to your kids just how important this time is and that it’s not budging. Firm, clear, consistent boundaries.
Quiet time is really important to my well-being each day – so I know first hand just how much we all need this break.