Everyone can benefit from a little daily quiet time. Finding quiet time activities for toddlers and preschoolers that are transitioning out of naps can be difficult, though.
At this age, children are not quite tired enough to fall asleep, but their bodies still need a period of rest where the nap used to happen.
What are some good activities for quiet time, though, and how do you introduce quiet time to your young child after naps have been dropped?
Is it possible to avoid screen time during quiet time?
In this article, you’re going to get some great tips, as well as some great screen-free quiet-time activities for your toddler.
Even if your child’s need for quiet time is unrelated to the transition from naps, these tips and activities will help.
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What is quiet time for kids?
While most toddlers and preschool-age children still take naps, there are still plenty of children who drop their naps earlier.
As many as 40% of children have stopped napping by the age of 4.
If you have experience with children of this age, you are likely familiar with the fact that though a nap is no longer an option, a child’s brain and body still need a period of downtime every day.
This period of downtime is often referred to as “quiet time”.
During quiet time, children engage in independent, unstructured, and low-stimulus activities.
Implementing daily quiet time has benefits for the whole family, too.
During quiet time, caregivers get the chance to decompress and/or accomplish tasks without interruption.
Siblings, as well, get the chance to play on their own, uninterrupted.
Quiet time is often desired by caregivers when a new baby enters the family. Many parents aim to implement it so they will be able to nurse the new baby in the afternoon, while they rest a bit themselves.
Many families set quiet time to be an hour, while other families enjoy having just a little more downtime.
It sounds great, right? So, how can you make quiet time happen in your home?
Tips for introducing quiet time to a toddler or preschooler
Let your child know ahead of time
Children are no different than adults when it comes to having changes imposed suddenly – it’s simply not a nice thing to have happen.
A few days before you plan to start the new quiet time routine, use a visual cue, like a calendar, to prepare your child.
Practice quiet time
Wherever you are planning your child’s quiet time to happen, spend some time in that area, engaging in the restful activities you’ve planned, along with your child.
I recommend practicing quiet time during the hour of the day when it is set to happen.
A visual cue, like an ok-to-wake clock, can be very helpful for letting a child know when quiet time is over.
Slowly remove yourself
After you’ve done your quiet time countdown and set the expectations for it, you should still expect your child to resist.
It’s important to make this time of the day as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
In order to do this, many parents choose to spend quiet time with their children, slowly removing themselves from the room.
For example, on day 1, you sit quietly near your child as they play, leaving the room occasionally to get a drink or use the potty.
On day 2, you might leave the room for a bit longer.
On day 3, you can leave the room 10 minutes before the ok-to-wake clock gives the signal that quiet time is over, letting your child know that they can come out when the clock signals it’s ok.
On day 4, leave the room 20 minutes before the hour is up, and so on, until your child understands and looks forward to the quiet hour of restful play.
So, what is your toddler supposed to do during quiet time?
6 quiet time activities for toddlers and preschoolers
The key to choosing quiet time activities for your toddler or preschooler is to make sure they are both engaging and fun and can be done independently.
Here are some of our favorite suggestions.
Invitations to play
An invitation to play is a Reggio Emilia concept that is often embraced by mainstream parents.
The idea is to set up the base for imaginative play scenarios that your child is to create.
This could be anything from setting a box on its side with animal figurines that the child will want to play “caves” with to setting out paper, paints, and brushes that will call to your child to create a picture.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Sensory bins do not have to be filled with beans, rice, and corn.
Sensory bins can house activities of purpose that will engage and challenge your child.
Doll and toy washing, excavating toys, sorting activities, ect. all involve the senses and can be set up in a sensory bin.
Quiet time activity bins
The key is to not allow the use of the items in the bin until it’s quiet time. If you let your child have them at other times, the novelty won’t be there.
It’s a great idea to rotate the toys in this bin out with other items when your toddler loses interest.
A quiet time nook
Sometimes children will resist quiet time in their bedrooms because they associate their rooms with sleep, and they simply don’t want to do that.
In this case, setting up a comfortable quiet time nook in your home may be a solution.
Children often see the nook as an activity in and of itself.
The idea is to have everything in this area be a comfortable size for them. A comfortable chair, an accessible blanket, and a basket of books are some things that can go in a quiet time nook.
Loose parts bins
Loose parts play is a creativity-building, independent, and engaging way for kids to spend their quiet time.
Essentially, you give your child a bin filled with blocks, rocks, pipe cleaners, sticks, string, tape, and whatever else you can think of, provided that it’s age-appropriate and safe.
Your child will be able to build, create, and storytell on their own through this type of play.
Toniebox or Yoto Player
It is hard to explain the magic behind these devices, but I am going to try.
Toddlers can choose, change, and control the settings on these devices via cards that are inserted (Yoto) and magnetic figurines (Tonies).
Toddlers and preschoolers appreciate the autonomy of being able to choose their own stories and songs.
They are also portable, so if you choose to not have a designated spot for quiet time, your little one can take the devices around the house with them.
There you have it – some awesome quiet time tips and activities for your toddler.
If you were writing this list, what activities would you add? Do you have any helpful suggestions that we didn’t cover?