When my daughter started to show signs of dropping her nap, I went into full-on panic mode. If you’re anything like me, nap time is the only time during the day that you can actually think and get anything productive done. I really think they should make nap time productivity an Olympic sport because I would win gold every year. So when my kid decided to grow out of her nap, I may or may not have hyperventilated a little.
I decided quickly that I would have none of it, and I immediately began to implement a quiet time in place of nap time. I wasn’t sure if my plan to keep her in her room for a couple of hours every day would actually work, but I was desperate and had to give it a shot. Lucky for me, my daughter took to it rather well, and we have been happily having quiet time in place of nap time for over a year now. Here are some of my best tips for starting this practice in your own home.
1. Set a schedule and stick to it.
This should be implemented when you have a napper on your hands, but if you haven’t already done it, start now. For me, nap/quiet time is directly after lunch, so it usually starts around 12:30. My kids know that we have our rest time after lunch, and there are no negotiations or arguing about it. Sure, I’ll still get some push back some days, but for the most part, my kids are used to (and thrive on) our routine, so nap/quiet time happens relatively easily.
2. Set expectations ahead of time.
When you first start implementing quiet time instead of nap time, make sure your toddler knows what you expect. For instance, I would tell my daughter, “It is time for rest. You don’t have to go to sleep, but you have to stay in your room and play quietly.” I would then set her up with her activities (see below) and set her special clock to change colors when her quiet time was over (see below) so she knew what she was allowed to play with and when she was allowed to come out her room.
3. Set up quiet time activities.
For my daughter, she has a dollhouse and books in her room. These are her go-to activities for quiet time. She also has an “art cart” where I have organized her coloring books and colored pencils and crayons. I also bought her a small boombox (yeah, they still make them!) and gave her a handful of children’s CDs and she loves to listen to her music (quietly) and dance. She rotates through these activities during her rest time and stays happy as a clam.
4. Be flexible.
There will be days when quiet time doesn’t go as planned or it gets interrupted. This is life and you have to just roll with the punches sometimes. There have been plenty of days in my house when my daughter just will not settle into her quiet time. Those days, I lower my own expectations a bit and either give her the iPad or let her watch a bit of a movie in the playroom. It’s probably not the best parenting, but mama needs to get stuff done!
5. Get a special clock.
One of the best purchases I ever made was the Tot Clock. I have one for each of my children. This is a special digital clock that you can set up to turn blue when it’s nap or bedtime and turn yellow when it’s time to wake up. Not only does this little clock make my life easier during quiet time, but it’s also changed my life in the mornings.
My kids know that even if they wake up when their clock is blue (like at 5:45 a.m.), they cannot get out of bed until it turns yellow (at 7:00 a.m.). More often than not, my early riser son will wake up and see his clock is blue, so he will lie back down and FALL BACK ASLEEP until the clock is yellow. I kid you not, the Tot Clock has saved my sanity more than I can tell you. It is worth every single penny.
6. Don’t skip weekends.
I know it’s tempting to skip quiet time during weekends because, if your weekends are anything like mine, there are things to do and places to go. It’s easy to think that since your toddler doesn’t really nap anyway, they’ll be fine staying out all day. And on some days, that might be true, but try not to make a habit of it. Even though your toddler may not need a nap, they still need that rest time every day. If they are constantly going and overstimulated by activity on the weekends, it will be much harder for you to keep a consistent quiet time schedule during the week.
7. Offer lots of praise after each quiet time.
After each successfully completed quiet time, offer your toddler a lot of praise for being such a big boy/girl and playing quietly in his/her room. This is important, especially in the beginning when quiet time is a new concept. If your toddler needs to see evidence of his successes, set up a sticker chart and let them choose and place a sticker on the chart after every good quiet time. When the chart is filled up, perhaps take them to the store to choose a new quiet time toy or activity.
While it can be scary for moms to transition from nap time to quiet time, implementing these tips will help smooth out the process and make it easier for moms and toddlers alike. Be patient and consistent with your toddler, set them up with fun, quiet play activities, and give lots of praise for a job well done.
Good luck, mama!