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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