Everyone needs some quiet time. That may seem like a “well, no kidding” type of statement, and it is in some ways. However, quiet time seems to be a missing element in many children’s lives now. That concerns me. No matter your age, having space to simply be alone is crucial. It reduces anxiety. It promotes well being and calm. Even a few minutes of quiet time is helpful. With practice, the time can, age appropriately, be expanded.
When I promote quiet time for children, I do so because children need what I call their “brain time.” They need to have time to think with zero input from those around them. Why? Because that is when their brain can process the input they have already seen and experienced, as well as discover things for themselves. It is also a time for creativity to bloom. When a child is receiving continuous input from the people and devices around them, their brain isn’t able to focus in the same manner as when it has quiet.
Typically, daytime is where your little one is taking in tons of new information, and during sleep, the brain is making connections as well as pruning information. Quiet time is not a replacement for much needed sleep. It is simply a brain break from other people’s input and a time for your little one to actively direct their own learning.
Children crave quiet time. Without this space during the day, your little one may create the needed time during their sleep periods. That means they may wake and play in the night, or during naps.
Challenges With Getting Quiet
First, you’ll need to be comfortable with allowing quiet time for your little one. This can be challenging for some because parents are told that children must be talked to, played with, and interacted with in order for their brains to be stimulated and promote good development. The pressure is on to create amazing little beings that can succeed in life. Certainly parents and caregivers need to interact with their little ones, play with them, and teach them about the world around them. This fact is backed by research. Well, here’s another interesting fact: research shows that quiet time is extremely beneficial for little ones as well.
Another challenge for some parents and caregivers is that they themselves don’t know how to enjoy quiet time. When there is a break in the day, most jump to checking emails or looking at phones. We think and get anxious about what is not happening, or what we are not doing. These are our adult issues with quiet time, but here’s the amazing thing, little ones don’t have these issues. They can and do spend time alone. If and when we let them! You never know, you might even learn how to enjoy quiet time yourself thanks to your little one enjoying their quiet time.
Benefits of Quiet Time for Young Children
By providing quiet time, you provide your little one time to explore, relax, and enjoy their own company. You will be teaching them to be okay on their own in an “I love time to myself” way. They will grow up knowing that being quiet and being alone sometimes is healthy. Think about that concept for a minute. The quiet time you allow creates security, independence, and creativity. Quiet time reduces anxiety in both children and parents. It provides a built in break in the day for a parent and it allows the parent some time to be quiet as well.
As it relates to sleep, a habit of quiet time can help with paving the way to being quiet in the crib or bed. By allowing your little one to have time alone, you are at the very least beginning the process for setting the stage for them to be able to be in their bed alone. Many little ones who enjoy quiet time in the day also enjoy quiet time before sleep time, and they can often get themselves back to sleep easier when they wake at inappropriate times. It also allows a child transitioning from naps, or resisting naps, to have a break in the day. That can help with emotional regulation.
Create a Quiet Time Routine
Quiet time can start soon after birth and continue on even during the busy toddler years and beyond. Aim for a quiet time that lasts 5 – 20 minutes, depending on the age of your little one.
Quiet time is simply a bit of time, as tolerated, to be alone to explore, or maybe do nothing. However, be reassured, your little one’s brain is never doing nothing. It is constantly processing and growing.
Some little ones are able to spend time alone quite naturally, while others seem to need constant interaction. Know your baby or child and work with their temperament to determine how much time they will initially tolerate on their own. It is good to start quiet time at an early age, but it is never too late to start.
Quiet time for a baby might involve laying around quietly, looking at the way light passes over the ceiling, or how the sounds in the room interact with them.
Quiet time for toddlers and preschoolers might help develop language skills as they chat to themselves. They might learn about how a toy can have a “voice” of its own. They may even learn about engineering as they build a tower and explore the edges of how things work. Little ones can imagine things when they are having quiet time that they cannot begin to imagine without it.
Quiet time should be enjoyable for your little one. Depending on your little one’s age, books, stuffed animals, pictures on the walls, mirror time, puzzles, coloring, sewing cards, and sorting trays are just a few ideas for fun quiet time activities. A quick search on the internet or trip to the library for quiet activity books will help you provide a fertile opportunity for your little one to love quiet time.
Ease Into It
Don’t try to force a new quiet time routine out of the blue. Instead find a way to build up to quiet time. With a toddler or older child, you might tell them you need a minute for yourself. Ask them to sit and play for a minute. Then, come back and say thanks. Babies are often the easiest to get to enjoy quiet time. Simply find a good time in the day and allow them to enjoy their world with no input from you.
By providing a few moments of quiet time here and there, you will be building up to longer periods of quiet time. If you start early, a newborn, when given the opportunity, might happily indulge in quiet time for 3 – 5 minutes, or more. From there, the time grows as the baby grows.
A toddler or preschooler who hasn’t experienced quiet time might require that same short time approach to quiet time. In fact, you might even make a game of quiet time by suggesting laying around like a baby to see what a baby might see or think. If that is not appealing to your little one, perhaps a bunch of books or puzzles with help. Quiet time is brain time, it doesn’t mean doing nothing, it just means your little one is on their own directing their own play while exploring and processing.
Quiet time is about allowing your little one time to explore and think on their own. You’ll still need to be vigilant about knowing where they are and what they are doing, while refraining from interjecting. If your little one expresses anxiety about being alone, back up and go slower with the idea of quiet time.
Quiet time is different than a nap or a break for a parent who is stretched too thin. If you need a little space in your day, by all means, build in some quiet time. But also, find a way to get a longer break for yourself when needed. Enlist the help of your partner, friend, or sitter. Quiet time should not lead to a little one feeling ignored or neglected.
As always, if you are not sure you are clear on the concept of quiet time, feel free to send me a message and ask me to clarify. I’d love to help you create a routine that works for your family and benefits everyone.