Ready to start a quiet time for kids routine to keep them happily occupied independently while you get some work done? Here are 10 ways to get started doing quiet time!
Every time another adult sees my preschooler full of excitement inquire if it’s time for quiet time, I immediately get asked about two dozen questions. People are in shocked children can do this. Also, everyone seems particularly in awe that my busy and active little boys love it so!
After spending several weeks living in Utah for part of last summer with my brother’s family, I had several nieces and nephews interested in doing their own form of quiet time.
I’ve also had three personal friends reach out letting me know their toddler is dropping naps, and they want to hear all about quiet time. Specifically, how I got my child to be so excited about two-three hours of independent alone time each day.
Since it’s fresh on my brain explaining how we do quiet time for kids, how we got started, and what they look like in our house, I figured it was time to open up and share our family’s best tool that keeps us all sane and happy.
What is Quiet Time for Kids?
It’s just as glorious as it sounds: it’s a time kids independently engage in quiet activities. It looks a little different for every family, but the concept is the same. Kids have a quiet time alone which gives parents quiet time too.
Benefits of Quiet Time for Preschoolers and Toddlers
- Provides time for creativity
- Gives kids time to rest after naps are dropped
- Provides greater autonomy
- Enhances creativity
- Skill Building
- Greater self-esteem managing independent time
Benefits of Quiet Time for Parents
- A Break!
- Work Time
- Quiet Alone Time
- Ability to Recharge and Reset
- Rest Time for Kids and Adults
Why we Started Quiet Time
My oldest son held onto naps until he was just shy of three. I felt lucky he held out that long! But after a very hard pregnancy, I needed him to sleep and nap as much and as long as he did!
The month he started dropping naps happened to be the precise time I gave birth to his little brother. Already overwhelmed as a new mom-of-two, I felt incredibly more overwhelmed at the thought of zero breaks, zero work time, and a loud toddler who would wake up the baby.
I have several friends who do quiet time, and each shared their systems which surprised me how different every family does this! I actually hope this is encouraging, you can start a lot of different ways and still end up at the same goal!
But since I have such a busy-body boy, people seem surprised I was ever able to help him get started with quiet time. It definitely took a solid month of consistency on my part, but let me walk you through our process in hopes it helps some other families enjoy one of our favorite times of every day!
How to Start Quiet Time with a Toddler
Step one: lower your expectations.
Yes, I get a solid stretch for hours now, but it didn’t start that way. It helps a lot to lower your expectations that this will go perfectly well from the beginning.
Give them a dedicated space for quiet time.
We clearly went all out with a toddler activity table, his own chairs, and an organized caddy of back-to-school supplies and craft items. It doesn’t have to be this elaborate! But I knew when we did our toddler room design years ago with Modsy, that a dedicated table and space was a must!
I requested this and they helped us design a functional and aesthetically pleasing dedicated corner of his bedroom for independent learning. Quiet time takes place in his room, so we set up a dedicated space in there.
If you don’t have that luxury, or your kids share a space, figure out the location that’s going to work best and set up a dedicated space and container or quiet time stuff.
Stock up on quiet time activities (Particularly Quiet time Activities for Toddlers)
Hear me out, they are going to get really good at the self-dedicated creative time and play the more they do this. But as a toddler/younger child starting quiet time, sitting in your room with activities you’d normally do with parents or a nanny isn’t going to make sense to them. They’re going to think you need to be in there with them.
A few fun activities they’re excited about that feel novel to help you start everything off with a bang!
I have a whole post on paint-by-sticker books that were our saving grace! Also, when March 2020 hit and every parent needed some quiet time indoor fun, I did a full roundup of activities for kids at home, specifically that kids can enjoy independently and quietly.
Make sure you find something they’re actually interested in and that keeps little hands busy for at least 30 minutes.
For the record, we do have a budget just to keep art supplies and activity books on hand. I get so much of my mental health time and work time back, it’s been worth every penny to keep a stash on hand!
Find an audiobook
I could write a novel on audiobooks for children, and hey, I have a post all about audiobooks for kids: how to get kids addicted to audiobooks. But essentially, we found one of my son’s favorite books that happened to take about 20 minutes to read and bought the audiobook.
We use an Amazon Kid’s Tablet that I can set parental controls to only allow audiobook access on a kid account. I do just that!
He thinks he’s getting a tablet, while he’s really getting an audiobook online read aloud for kids device only! It’s worked for us for four years and he’s listened to so many audiobooks through this device.
Both my kids use these Bluetooth headphones that work with his tablet or any other wifi device.
If you don’t want to do a tablet, there are tons of ways to listen to audiobooks.
– Do you have an Alexa or Google Home? They’ll read stories!
– Check out stories from the library for free, and use an old-school CD player.
– Stream online (from Spotify, Scribd, or even Youtube) and play from a phone, computer or any other wifi enabled device. My kids don’t touch the screen, I do! We just stream it to these Bluetooth headphones.
You’ll figure out what’s best for your family. But start with a book they already know and love, and get them used to quietly listening.
Get a Book(s) They’ll Enjoy
If you have older kids, use this time for quiet reading. I promise this is how you raise kids who love to read! You let them practice and give them the downtime to enjoy it.
If you have little ones, get a stack of books they can independently look through. I love to have the book and the audiobook they’ll listen to set so they can thumb through and pretend they’re reading.
It may take buying a random book they’re excited about. Perhaps you need a library run. But help them get something they’ll enjoy and don’t push other books on them in the early phases of quiet time for kids training.
Explain Exactly What This Is Looks Like
Change and/or new routines take some time for kids to learn. When they know what to expect, they always seem to do worlds better! Tell them they’re going to sit in their chair. Walk them through their setup. Show them activities or toys they’re allowed to play with. Show them the timer/clock and what they expect.
Be sure they know they’re staying put in their room, at the table, or at a desk space. Communicate your expectations and the routine so they understand before they get to practice it.
Also, give them a why!
I still have times I need to reset my 6-year-old and remind him why we need to stay quiet. For us, it was easy to start with “The baby needs to sleep and you have to have some quiet time so he can do that!” That worked so well as we transitioned!
But now, I level with him and remind him mommy works, and buys all the food in our house. If we want to keep eating and supporting our family, we gotta support mom too! That honestly clicks for him every time and he cheers me on working and wants us all to be successful.
Even if you need to get jobs done, you can kindly explain mommy needs a break to clean up and prepare dinner without distraction. You go have fun, I’ll be doing some not-as-fun chores.
Kids are smart, and also want to help. Give them the credit and the opportunity to feel like they’re doing their job helping keep the family afloat. It also gives them self-esteem and pride that they can complete tasks that truly help!
They will get to the point they love this time and give you 2-3 hours a day, I promise! But when they’re first starting, even if they’re older, only require 20-30 minutes the week you get started.
If they’re little, put a timer on or get them a clock to know when they can come out. It may take a week of complaining but stick to it and be patient. They slowly get a hang of it, and you can add another 10-15 minutes on as they do.
Do It Every Day
We do quiet time on the weekends, most holidays, and almost always when we travel. Our entire family needs that downtime. We still have a kid who naps, although I’m writing this post for selfish reasons to refresh my own memory of how to do quiet time for kids as I see my toddler transitioning out of naps any day now.
Be consistent so they get their own break and quiet time. Your introverted kids will thank you! Your extroverted kids will cherish their time with others even more. But make sure it happens every day at roughly the same time so it’s a routine the whole family gets used to.
Quiet Time Snacks
This step is optional, but I found with my high metabolism kid, it was crucial!
At first, I thought I’d never trust my kid to take a snack into his room. But he kept coming out hungry. I soon learned if I gave him one snack, he’d give me another 20-30 minutes. I also realized a special snack he only gets to have during quiet time was the perfect bribe.
When he was little, I’d tell him if he stayed in for 45 minutes, I’d bring a snack for his last 15 minutes. Wow did that work! Our family doesn’t buy a lot of fruit snacks, and my son adores them. I started giving one pouch and was like I’d given him some magic key to joy and happiness in his own space and time.
I know not everyone does this, but to this day a few snacks that won’t make a huge mess and are only allowed on the quiet time table keep my son happy listening, and playing independently.
Be Present and Balance Out Activities When It Isn’t Quiet Time
I use quiet time as a tool to get work done. But the true reason I think it’s been such a success in our home is the balance of what we do when it isn’t quiet time.
I take my boys on lots of adventures when they don’t have school. That may mean the park or looking for bugs in our backyard. But I try hard to let them get their wiggles out and be extra active at some point in the day prior to quiet time.
Also, I try to be so present with them when quiet time ends.
Sometimes I need 15 more minutes to wrap something up at work, but I clearly communicate that. And then, I shut down my computer and phone and ask them to show me all their drawings/Lego creations/projects. I try to ask about their audiobooks to help with listening comprehension. And also, so they know I care about what they did.
Try so hard to find a balance between active play, social time, parental attention, the time they can be loud and noisy, and everything opposite of quiet time. And that is truly the secret to them learning active time and downtime are both important and valid in our lives.
How to have a quiet time for kids FAQ’s
How long should quiet time be?
This is going to depend on the age of your kids and your family’s needs. I am to match nap time for babies. That’s about 1-2 hours. If kids want to go longer FANTASTIC! But an hour and a half seem to be what many families find the sweet spot.
How do I know my kid is ready?
I’d say the moment you hit the nap time power struggle it’s time. I wish I’d leaned in earlier with my oldest son when the nap time power struggle became an almost daily thing. It was his sign he was ready!
What time is quiet time?
Our family loves to do it to break up the afternoon. I like to start early enough that if someone uses this downtime as a nap time they’re still up in time to sleep at night. But generally speaking, mid-afternoon is a great option!
What are some good quiet time activities for kids?
I have a huge list of items in a separate post! Be sure to check out Activities for Kids At-Home: Excellent quiet time activities for kids.
What is quiet time for toddlers? How would you tweak it for younger kids?
It’s a time to be quiet and rest, typically used in place of nap time when kids start to drop naps.
I’d start small. Give them 15-20 minutes of quiet time and gradually add a few more minutes to your routine.
Plan a few novel toys and toddler-safe items. Also, be sure their room or quiet time area is very toddler safe since it’s going to be a free exploration and playtime. AKA, we only use VERY washable crayons during quiet time for toddlers.
This is a small novel, but I know it’s a curious thing for so many parents looking to start quiet time with kids. I promise it’s one of the best things you’ll do as a parent! And it’s never too late to get kids started on some independent quiet time!
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