Experts say kids need quiet time as much as they need play.
Quiet time. The words bring to mind images of a silent house, a resting child and a few minutes of solitude for parents. But what really is quiet time, and why is it so important?
Quiet time is an important part of a young child's day, and not just because it gives small bodies a rest. As a therapist in family practice, I recommend scheduling daily quiet time for kids because it helps them emotionally reset and recharge, which is necessary for helping them manage their emotions and handle frustrations. Quiet time also helps kids get through their busy days with enough strength and energy to match their intense childhood curiosity. Frequent rest is essential for growing bodies, which is why preschools always build in quiet time, even once children outgrow naps.
Building quiet time into your day can help your child better handle the stressors in their world, too. Here's how to do it, plus 5 quiet time activities for children.
While you may be fully invested in creating quiet time for your children each day, getting them on board can be a whole different issue! Transitions are hard for children, and transitioning from running around outside to quiet time can be tough. The trick to having a successful quiet time is structuring your day to build towards quiet time.
How to set up your child's daily schedule to include quiet time
Use a picture schedule. Create a schedule for each day that uses a visual representation of each major activity, including quiet time, e.g., breakfast, getting dressed, playing outside, quiet time, art time and so on. You can print pictures from the internet, take photos or use line drawings and attach it to an easel.
Kids respond well to picture schedules—which is why you've probably noticed them on the walls of every preschool and kindergarten classroom you've seen. A picture schedule shows kids what to expect each day. When kids know quiet time is coming, it helps them prepare and transition.
Make sure the activity before quiet time has a definite, clear end point. If kids are playing outside, they may be upset when you bring them in, complaining that they were just about to do something amazing. Consider having a snack or playing a game together just before quiet time. Activities that clearly end (the game ends, the snack is all gone) make for easier transition points than open-ended play-time.
Use a timer for quiet time. Once children are in quiet time, make sure it's clear to them how long they'll need to stay there. Consider using a visual timer that clearly indicates to children how long quiet time will last. You can also play music or use a standard playlist during quiet time, so your child can get a sense of how much longer they have in their quiet time. Remember, you have to be consistent in requiring them to stay in quiet time until it's over; if they can whine their way out of it, they're going to try getting out of it every day!
5 best quiet time activities for kids
When you're ready to try quiet time, keep in mind that although it feels like flipping on a movie is a great way to help kids relax, the reality is screen time isn't actually the best use of quiet time. Kids benefit far more from relaxing, engaging activities that let them recharge their bodies while completing a calming task, like the ideas below.
Books are the perfect quiet time activity, even for pre-readers. Reading and looking through books helps develop all kinds of academic and pre-academic skills. When children read the same book over and over, they learn predictability and routines. Children learn about sequencing and imagination. Have a big stack of preferred books available and let your child read through them during quiet time.
Lego, Lincoln logs, block sets and other building toys let kids have some quiet time while still being engaged in an activity. Have a bin or two of toys available in their bedroom, and encourage children to create away! Make it a rule that they can show you all their creations at the end of quiet time—otherwise they may keep sneaking out of their room to show you their masterpieces.
If your child can color appropriately (on paper, not the walls!) consider setting up a coloring station in their bedroom. If coloring gets out of hand, try some of the special water-based coloring sets that only appear on the special paper, or try a paint-with-water activity kit. These can help kids get creative and relax, while avoiding a giant mess.
Puzzles are great for a range of reasons, including the development of problem-solving, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, planning and focus skills. They're also great for use during quiet time to keep kids engaged and busy.
Calming music can help set the mood for your child, relaxing them and helping them reset themselves during their downtime. Regardless of what other quiet time activities you make available, definitely consider adding in relaxing background music. It often works well for you to control the music from another room, setting a wireless speaker in their room, so they can't play "quiet time DJ" and turn it into a dance party!
There are a lot of options for quiet time, but remember to set up the day to prepare your child for quiet time, to help your child understand how long quiet time will last and to pick quiet, relaxing activities. Try to avoid screens and build in simple, engaging tasks to help them return to their day recharged and ready to go.
Quiet time activity picks
Natural wooden building blocks
This brilliant 70-piece block set unlocks STEM concepts like math, physics, and engineering, along with higher-order planning and problem-solving. Practice spatial awareness, motor-skill development, and hand-eye coordination.
Create beautiful wooden mosaics with these free-form puzzle pieces. Part art project, part calming, meditative focus, it's the perfect quiet time activity.
This mesmerizing, gentle book helps children experience a home through the sounds all around them.
A playroom staple, easels present tons of options for quiet time activities. This one comes with six magnets, 10 pieces of chalk, 2 no-spill cups, a plastic storage bin, marker, paper roll with holder and eraser.
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