The beauty of quiet time

19 March 2020

It honestly never occurred to me to write this post until I was chatting with some of June’s friends’ parents at a birthday party a few months ago, and the conversation turned to the topic of naps. As in, did our children still take them, and how did we feel about it. At the time, June occasionally took an afternoon nap, but on the days she didn’t, she still had an afternoon quiet time. I said this casually, not thinking much of it, but the reactions were astonishing: none of the other kids there did this, and the parents seemed to have never heard of such a thing.

Having grown up with regular afternoon quiet time myself, I have to think that this is an aberration and that many more parents than John and I are enjoying daily quiet time at their homes, but in case they are not, let’s talk: about quiet time, why it’s so wonderful, and how it works in our family!

MagnaTiles are a downstairs activity, but this picture felt appropriate!

A little chronology: at around age 2 3/4, June moved to a big girl bed, and she would reliably nap for 2-3 hours like clockwork in it (her bed is pretty high off the ground, so she never attempted to get out of it solo).

Around 3 1/4, she started resisting going down for a nap, so we pivoted and did a quick rebrand: nap time was now “Big Girl Quiet Hour,” and she could have a book in bed with her. This satisfied her: about half the time she’d fall asleep, and the other half she’d flip through her book, sing and talk to herself, and play with her stuffed animals.

Originally, the three rules of Big Girl Quiet Hour were that she needed to 1) use a quiet voice, 2) stay in her bed, and 3) not touch the things on the walls. Around age 3 3/4, we relaxed the rule about staying in her bed, and she’s now allowed to move freely about her room and do whatever she’d like, as long as she’s quiet (the singing does sometimes get kind of loud toward the end!).

Though it’s called Big Girl Quiet Hour, it typically lasts 2ish hours, sometimes even more – and she’s happy as a clam the whole time. (In fact, she’ll sometimes ask if it’s time yet to go up for BGQH yet – possibly because it’s a stretch when she doesn’t have to worry about her brother messing with her stuff ;))

What does she do? She plays with her stuffed animals (they are often laid out in elaborate schemes on the floor when I come to get her, adorned with things like pipe cleaners and construction paper bracelets), draws/colors/cuts paper, plays with her doll house, looks through and organizes her treasure box, sings, dances, and flips through books. Occasionally (about 20% of the time) she’ll get in bed and actually sleep.

June is the first child we’ve transitioned to quiet hour, so I can’t say how well it works with any of my other children, but you can bet I’ll be transitioning Shep to a Big Boy Quiet Hour just as soon as he’s done with an afternoon nap :) In addition to encouraging her imagination and growing her ability to entertain herself, I think a mid-day reset is helpful for attitudes all around, and helps us to come back to each other refreshed and ready to re-engage. Particularly for two introvert parents, this is important!

Note: my kids are generally at preschool during the day, but this is our pattern on weekends, vacations, and days off! And in the past few days of school closure, it’s worked beautifully, too. Actually, knowing I can lean on this well-oiled routine has been a lifesaver amidst the new work-from-home-with-kids normal, so if you find yourself in the same boat, I hope this might be a particularly helpful thing to try right now.

Janssen has some great tips here from her experience with four girls if you’re just starting out. My best tip is simple: start as soon as they begin giving up naps! (If that ship has sailed, she suggests starting small and working up from 30 minutes.) I know I have lots of younger readers, so be sure to tuck this nugget away in your proverbial pocket for when the time comes!!

I’d love to hear: does quiet hour happen at your house? What are the parameters? If you still have all nappers, have I convinced you to try it in the future — or were you already like, duh, of course I’m going to have quiet hour? :)

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March 19, 2020 6:10 am

We have quiet time every day from 1-3, at least. I’m a firm believer that boredom is an important skill and should be practiced regularly. I also feel that teaching rest is as important as teaching healthy eating. When my kids (2,4,6) resist I tell them that mom needs time for thoughts in the afternoon so that we can have a fun afternoon (which may sound selfish, but truly makes the rest of the day happier and run smoother.

March 19, 2020 7:23 am

Although I am not yet in this stage of life – I love this! I grew up with quiet time as well! To my memory, in middle school we still had reading time in our rooms each afternoon, and in high school we all still chouse to read each afternoon – my mom, who was home with us, also used this afternoon chunk to read. I have every intention of doing this with my kiddos too!

March 19, 2020 7:39 am

We do this too :) my son is 3 1/2 and still mostly naps- but if not, he sits in his crib for an hour or so and reads books!! He’s used to napping still at his daycare, so that definitely helps that transition at home into afternoon nap/quiet time and he usually doesn’t put up too much of a fight! It’s a lifesaver for these work at home days!

March 19, 2020 10:41 am

Love quiet time and it never even occurred to me to give up that couple hours of quiet when they stopped actually napping. T, at 6, sometimes says “do I HAVE to?” but mostly acquiesces without complaint – Although I do wonder if our experience might have been different if she hadn’t started functionally reading so early.

March 19, 2020 1:10 pm

Lover of quiet time here too! My 4.5yo napped until almost 4 and we then shifted him to quiet time. My youngest just turned 3 but no longer naps. She is SO proud to be able to have quiet time instead of naptime so she can be just like her big brother. They can pick out a toy from the playroom on their way in but once they’re in their rooms, they must make do with whatever they have. It is a hugely helpful break for our whole family and I love that they have that time to be 100% independent. Ours usually lasts from 12:30-2:30 here and I have no intention of giving it up!

March 19, 2020 9:57 pm

I have high hopes for a future quiet time! Charlie has gone back to solid afternoon naps…after a delightful period of time when he *strongly* protested his naps, so we experimented with a week of independent playtime in their place. We were all miserable at the end of it because he was so over-tired! Back to naps we went for now, and he hasn’t even argued about them since!

March 20, 2020 11:47 am

I don’t have any kids yet, but I had quiet time growing up! Every Sunday afternoon, my parents would take a nap, and my siblings and I had to have quiet time while they slept. We could play quietly in the basement or in our rooms. Eventually, we became teenagers and wanted to nap too ;)

March 20, 2020 2:53 pm

No kids here yet…but when the time comes, we will definitely fall into the ‘two introvert parents’ category :) Glad to know there is a glimmer of hope in creating some quiet space, even with loud, delightful little humans milling around. Filing this away for future reference!

March 20, 2020 4:23 pm

Yes and yes! My tree year old naps and my five year old does quiet time. We’re working on the quiet part of it, but it works out well for him to play upstairs in his room while his sister rests. The schedule varies but I would say it’s normally right after lunch time .

March 21, 2020 10:26 pm

Love this! Our soon to be 2 year old still takes an afternoon nap, but I love the idea of transitioning to quiet time when he gives it up. He’s often happy to flip through books in his crib before or after he falls asleep, so I’m hoping he’ll still enjoy that down time when he’s not actually sleeping anymore. Down time is so important and this is a helpful model to follow when that time comes!

March 24, 2020 1:19 pm

Lachlan (who as you know is just a week younger than June!) is in a similar boat. He will nap in the afternoon if we can convince him to get into his bed and rest or he will fall asleep if we are driving around during the time of nap hour, but the fight back against an actual nap is getting more consistent so we’ve been trying to really enforce (and hype up!) the idea of quiet time. Lachlan LOVES to be side by side with us while he plays (he’s very vocal and like to show us his process with his creations) so quiet time is a certain type of play he’s not always comfortable with but I’m here for this idea! And love it.

Also, Lachlan just looked at the photo of June and told me he misses her hahaha :)

March 26, 2020 4:13 am

This is such a wonderful idea Em, thank you for sharing. We are currently on full lockdown here in South Africa – and this quiet time idea really helps us have productive afternoons whilst our toddler naps and the older two girls have quiet time x