I mentioned in a few of my posts about our children taking a period of quiet time every day, after which I received an email asking me about the mechanics of this time. This post is in reply to the email.
Why do we, almost without fail, do quiet time each day?
When the older three were babies and it was three babies versus one weary mummy, their nap times were my salvation! I purposed to continue them for as long as possible. The day eventually came when T was ready to be awake rather than nap. My heart sank because the reality was that those times of quiet renewed me for the afternoon ahead. They helped me regroup and turn off so that I was able to be the mummy I wanted to be. So quiet time was born. It started with T simply lying on his bed for an hour or so whilst his sisters slept. I made up a basket of goodies for him to play with and/or read. The girls napped, he had some down time and I, I maintained a little time to relax and read.
Shortly after the girls began to stop napping for so long and eventually dropped napping all together. The transition was simple, as were the rules. They were each given a basket of goodies to play with, which were only available at this time. They had to remain on their bed and remain quiet. They were not allowed to talk to each other or play with each other.
It really was very successful for two of my children. L did not enjoy being on her own (although her sister was in the bed beside her) and she did not enjoy trying to play by her self. The other two thrived and looked forward to this time. Once L was reading fluently she too enjoyed them as much as the other, so I am glad I persevered.
Start as you mean to go on
It is never too early to train a child for quiet time, nor is it ever too late. That said, transitioning a child from nap time to quiet time is probably the simplest method requiring the least amount of training.
The older children dropped naps at age 5, A dropped hers way before. It was a bit of a shock to me when an 18 month old A suddenly stopped napping during the day. However, I did exactly as I had with the older three and transitioned smoothly into quiet time. The older ones already had quiet time after lunch so A was effectively doing a grown up thing in her eyes. She was still in a cot which made keeping her in her bed simple. Each afternoon I tucked her down for a nap as usual, except this time I added a box full of toys at the bottom of her bed. Naturally as soon as she got tired of trying to get to sleep, up she popped and played with her toys quietly in her cot.
B3 has only just dropped her naps and is learning to enjoy quiet time as well.
A Time to be Alone
As the children have got older I have found that quiet time has become an important cornerstone of their day. This no longer happens because I need a break but because the children all really enjoy and look forward to this daily time of quiet. The world wants us noisy, wants us busy, wants us hurried. This down time slows us. It allows us all time away from each other which helps to encourage good relationships. The older ones in particular almost seem to need this time and will often take themselves off without me even asking. We are with each other almost 24 hours a day. It does us all good to be separated for a short time each day.
How long do we have quiet time for?
Quiet time has traditionally been about an hour, although these days it is only for half an hour due to time constraints with the older children’s school work. We always have it after lunch, when everyone’s tummy is satisfied and they are all full up and slightly soporific.
What do they do?
When the older three were little we invested in this quiet time because it was so necessary for my continued sanity! Each child had a basket full of quiet toys (think magnetic shapes, felt pictures, books and the like), as well as a child’s cd player (bought for pennies at charity shops) and a selection of cds. As they became more used to it we realised that the cd players were more trouble than they were worth and gave them back to the charity shop! In their place I played a bible storied cd in the back ground which they all really enjoyed, as well as playing with their quiet time toys. Often, during a growth spurt a child would fall asleep listening to the cd. It was wonderful, because without even trying they automatically slept more during the times they needed it.
These days it is a far more casual affair, simply because I have no need for sanity control anymore! Over the years the younger ones have used this time to do more ‘Before Five in a Row’ activities or ‘Mr Men activities:
Or even Thomas the Tank Engine activities:
The older ones have used this time to read the historical novels I buy to go along with their studies. These days we use it as an excuse to do reading we might not always have time to do otherwise. As the older ones grow up they are being exposed to lots of influences which might not always be positive, or give out the messages we as parents would like. Dr Who fits into this category for us. The children have friends who really enjoy watching the Dr Who series and have kindly lent it to my children. Instead of banning it completely we have explained to the children that we need to balance out what they are being exposed to by ensuring they are watching these films through Christ based specs. To this end, Gary and I invest in films with a Christian message as well as books by written by favourite Christian authors. Some of the books I will work through with the children, others they read during quiet time:
They find this much more palatable than a complete banishment of Dr Who, and we are able to discuss our concerns with them without a barrier of attitude to hurdle over. Until the age of about ten I would have been an incredibly protective parent, but as they’ve matured I’ve seen how important it is not to ban them from everything which may be negative but to encourage them to have a biblical perspective on all things so they are able to make their own minds up. Quiet time is one such way of achieving this.
Currently T is working his way through Jim George’s A Guide for Young men to make right decisions:
The girls are working their way through Elizabeth George’s Guide for Girls to make Right Decisions. They work through the study questions together:
I have also just recently bought the following books for them to work their way through with or without me:
The little ones are simply given a few books to read or look at. Half an hour is an easy amount of time for them to be flicking through books:
And of course it is time for me to catch up on some reading:
I think I have covered everything! Does anyone else do quiet time with their children? Do you have anything to add which may help the original emailer in her own pursuit of quiet time? Feel free to share!