Toddler Quiet Time: a daily routine to give everyone breathing time

toddler on the move

Written by Nell, Contributing Writer

Does your toddler go-go-go-go? I know ours does. She’s 18 months and all locomotive. Except when she crashes and burns for lack of sufficient down time. If your child is transitioning from one nap to two, or simply is ready to learn (in a gentle way) how to be alone, join my club!

The big disclaimer is, of course, that not every child needs quiet time, and not every child responds well to this method of helping them appreciate quiet time. You know your child better than any blogger, doctor, child specialist, and distantly bossy relative. Follow what you think is right for your little one.

The average trajectory for a child’s schedule is some variation of the following: naps generally shift from every-other-non-eating-minute for babies through 4-6 months, to the old 9am & 1pm, or 10am & 2pm for babies through 15-24 months, wherein the morning nap is generally dropped and the afternoon naptime is bumped back slightly to accommodate crappy mornings. And if your 3 1/2 your old is like mine, he still takes an afternoon nap (and morning quiet time has turned into play-in-your-room time).

Here comes the magic part: a morning quiet time. This is, for those who are safely containable in their cribs, a period of 45 minutes to an hour &a half wherein the child plays with books, toys, maybe has an non-mess snack & sippy. And you eventually get to go do something else. Nap. Eat candy in the closed pantry. Cruise the internet. Handcraft bread for dinner. Whatever.

6 Steps to Initiating Happy Quiet Time

1) Set the child in her crib, lights on, music on, you in the room. Ensure there are interesting books or toys in there. If she freaks out, go to step 2.

2) Sit in a chair in the room, closer or farther from the crib depending on how it’s going. Bring a book or your laptop. Do something other than engage with your child. Demonstrate to her how fun it is to self-entertain. If she’s still freaking out, PLAN B: put your book down and play with her, keeping her in the crib. Make it fun & lively! Do a puppet show over the railing. Distract her from her discomfort. Tickle her. Page through some of the books. Do crazy dances to the music until she does them too.

3) Say Plan B never happened. Read your book for a while, then tell the child you have to go potty. Leave the room. Door open. Come back in a few minutes. If she’s happy, RUN LIKE THE WIND BEFORE SHE CAN SEE YOU AND BE UNHAPPY. If she’s sad, utilize PLAN B until she’s happy again. Keep coming and going until she’s desensitized to your absence.

4) Ensure this does not feel punitive. Do not confuse quiet time with time out. Quiet time builds a safe association with her crib, being alone, and engaging with her toys and books. If you’re feeling upset by a failed PLAN B, remove her from the crib and resume normal life. Both of you may not be ready yet.

5) Only place board books in the crib. Ones you don’t care if she eats. Only place a snack in there that can’t be smeared, liquified, or emulsified. Stick to raisins? Same goes for your sippy. If it has a weakness in the engineering, she will find and exploit it. Preferably soft toys as well. Those great wooden stackers can be inadvertent weapons when left in the hands of a tot. Think of something you’d let your kid play with in their carseat while you’re driving.

6) Consider your music selection. Is it going to rile them up or calm them down? Ironically, our son’s favorite music during quiet time was Silly Songs. I hate Silly Song because no adult loves children’s voices singing Found a PEANUT or One Bottle of POP. But he loved them and learned all the words. Some children may respond better to classical or folk.

A note on screentime. We’re stricties on screentime and allow none with rare youtube exceptions for something musical or educational. Most parents probably have incorporated some screentime into their children’s lives. I would strongly discourage using quiet time as screen time. The idea is self-stimulated play and engagement in a quiet, contained space. Screentime would encourage a different kind of engagement and could be counterproductive for this end.

Good luck & happy quiet timing!

How do you handle your child’s quiet time?

About Nell

Nell lives in the great city of Saint Paul with her two little ones, SweetPea and SuperBoy, and her fellow-lawyer husband. She is passionate about natural parenting & parenting the whole child, blogging about their journey at Whole Parenting Family and selling her organic baby & mama goods onEtsy. Follow her on Facebook & Pinterest. When she's not tending the weeds in the tomato patch, she's chasing down SweetPea who's chasing the dog, or reading baseball cards to SuperBoy.


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