If your child has started to refuse naps in the afternoon you may be panicking..."when can I clean the house...or nap or just sit down on the couch and watch some TV!" Fear not, you can still get that "you time" even if your child has decided to quit their nap.
Not only is it important for you, as a parent to get quiet time, it is also great for your child developmentally. The Montgomery Child Care Association (1) lists the benefits of quiet, independent play time for a child: It "brings forth imagination and creativity, builds socially-independent children, restores peace and tranquility in a child's world, boosts problem solving skills, and makes kids more persistant.
Now if you're thinking "that's all good and well but how do I actually implement quiet time?" here are some tips to get started and some screen free quiet time activities for your preschooler!
Tips for implementing Quiet Time:
Make sure the space is safe: This one probably sounds obvious but make sure there isn't anything in your child's space that they could potentially hurt themselves on.
Start Small: If your child isn't used to having independent quiet time and/or left their nap in the dust a long time ago don't expect them to be able to play in their room for an hour by themselves right away! Start small, go for ten minutes to start (and if it lasts longer, great)!
Set a timer: Discuss with your child how much time they will spend doing quiet time. Either set a timer or write the time down that they can finish quiet time. (The second option only works if they have a clock in their room they are used to looking at).
Make it something exciting: Offer different toys or activities to do than what they always have access too so that they look forward to it.
Keep it loose: Let them know that if they need you they can OF COURSE ask, if they need to use the bathroom it's okay, etc.
Follow up: After quiet time is over, ask your child to tell you what they did Not only is this great for recall and oral language but it shows them that you want to engage with them.
Okay so ready to get started? Below we list a mix of toys that are great for independent play along with simple activities with materials you probably already have that will encourage it as well.
1. Coloring: One of the easiest activities for a child to do during quiet time is to color. Coloring books, coloring pages, plain pieces of paper - regardless of what your child colors on (as long as it is meant to be colored on) it is a great quiet activity. Not to mention it is great for creativity and fine motor skills.
2. Water Doodle Mat: A water doodle mat is an excellent choice for quiet time because it encourages creativity while being (relatively) mess free! It is a fun and different way for children to color. The mat below even comes with stencils!
3. Dot Stampers: Dot stampers are another fun way to combine art and fine motor skills. Children can use the stampers to create on their own or press the dot into dot stamper pages (a quick google search will give you lots of different free pages!). Please note that dot stampers, while amazing are also quiet wet. We recommend your child only uses this on something like a splat mat or other surface that can get ink on it!
4. Box decoration/building: Save up your boxes for this is a super easy activity that is sure to peak your child's interest. Choose a box (the bigger the better!) and let your child decorate it. Perhaps it will become a castle or airplane or fort, let their imagination go wild as they create! Even better, once it's complete play in it with them!
5. Beads: Beads are fantastic, not only do they encourage fine motor skills but they let your child create! Depending on your child's ability, there are sets of large beads that are easier to string or smaller beads (for more permanent creations). Either way they are a fun and interesting quiet time activity!
6. Play Doh: Another wonderful quiet time activity is of course, Play Doh! Play Doh is a great, inexpensive item but is even cheaper if you make it yourself (a great acitivity to include your child in too)!
We highly recommend your child uses this on a splat mat or in a bin of some sort because it really likes to get stuck to socks and carpet and the dog and ...well everything. To keep your child engaged, try some cookie cutters or rolling pins or (if you really want to get wild) some sets!
7. Legos: Legos are truly the ultimate quiet time activity for children who enjoy building. Whether it's a lego set or just a bin of legos, they are a great way for children to use their imaginiation! Legos do need to be contained though...as everyone knows they are one of the worst things imaginable to step on. A Lego Table is a great way to not only contain legos but allow your child to continuously display their creation...without risk of gut wrenching pain. If you are looking for a constant stream of legos, check out Brick Loot - a lego subscription!
8. Magent Tiles: From towers to castles to cars, Magnet Tiles come in all shapes and sizes and have endless possibilities for fun and are a great way for children to express their architectural prowess! If your children are already building pros, you can print off some pictures of large buildings and challenge your children to build them!
9. Bristle Blocks: Bristle blocks are another fun and "frustration free" way for kids to build. This fifty piece set of blocks comes with a large variety of shapes and sizes that can all be easily pressed into one another to create whatever pops into your child's imagination. Any toy that encourages that is wonderful for quiet time!
10. Puzzles: Puzzles are an amazing quiet time activity because they encourage children to concentrate on a task for an extended period of time. Determine your child's ability and start there, maybe they can do 20 or 50 or 100 piece puzzles. Let them do ones within their ability first and then up the challenge!
If you are thinking "okay that's great and all but I don't want to keep buying brand new puzzles all the time," try these ideas out:
Check and see if your local library has any you can loan out
Do a puzzle swap with friends
Check garage sales or second- hand stores (just be prepared for pieces to be missing)!
11. Brain Teaser Puzzle: If your child has grown bored of the typical "one-answer puzzle," why not try out a "stacking puzzle game" like this one by HABA. Though it is meant to be played with 2-4 players, children can easily challenge themselves by simply trying to stack the animals on top of each other, maybe practice up for a match against you!
12. Kullerbu Rainbow Run Bundle: This toy has a higher price point than the other toys listed on here but it is sure to provide plenty of entertainment for your child. According to Haba it "Promotes hand-eye coordination, spatial skills, problem-solving and lateral thinking, and introduces the basics of engineering." Once your child is done building they can play and when quiet time is complete - show you! Another great aspect of this toy is that it can be rebuilt over and over again in different ways!
13. Library Activity Packs: Many libraries offer activity packs or various educational toys to loan out. This really is an incredible (and inexpensive way) to keep your child interested in quiet time activities without you having to constantly buy more items! Just go over the rules of using library items first!
**Hint: if you like the looks of the Haba toys but don't want to pay that brand new price point, many of the library activity packs we have seen contain toys by Haba!
14. Books: Another great way for kids to spend quiet time is reading! Here is another fantatic way to use your local library, let your child find books that look interesting to them and read them during quiet time. If you want to engage them more in reading comprehension, follow up by asking them what they think it happening on each picture (assuming they can not yet read), and then read the books to them!
15. I Spy Books: Another (but differentish) suggestion is using I Spy books. These are fantastic because you don't really need to be able to read in order to understand them. They present a great way for children to find things and help work on concentration. Again check your library to see if they have any available for check out! If you would like some of your own, click here.
**If your child likes seek and find books, you can also find some printable versions online!
16. Spot the Difference: If your children like I Spy or seek and find activities, they may also enjoy spot the difference pictures! These are another fantastic way to work on concentration skills while having fun. This website has many free printable spot the difference options.
**Hint: if you want to be able to reuse the pages, laminate them first and let your child use dry erase markers. If you don't have a laminator but would like a persinal one, this one gets great reviews. If you don't wish to laminate but still want to preserce printed pages, you can also use sheet protectors!
17. Audio Books: If your child is into listening to stories, try out a Tonie Box! These amazing Audio Players allow your child to choose stories on their own! It can also be "background noise" for children while they play with something else.
*Another option for Audio Books, especially if you want to have more control over what your child listens to are audio books on Audible by Amazon (there is a free trial available)!
If you want to support local bookstores but still enjoy Audio Books, try out Libro!
*Use with a bluetooth enabled speaker!
Our final quiet time activities focus on movement. Some of these are truly quiet while others do not. So if your preschooler is doing quiet time while a younger sibling naps, some of them might not be right for you!
18. Yoga: Yoga is a fantastic quiet time (truly quiet) activity that is a great way for children to move their bodies! If your child has not done yoga movements before you may want to do them with your child before having them try on their own. This Teachers Pay Teachers seller offers some wonderful ones for free!
19. Movement Cards: Similar to yoga cards, these (free!) movement cards are a great way to encourage your child to be active during quiet time. The cards in the link above will even help with alphabet recognition! Again we encourage you to do the cards with your child prior to having them try them on their own.
20. Tossing Game: This game only works as a quiet time game if there is nothiing breakable in the "quiet time room!" That being said, these balls are lightweight so they are unlikely to actually break anything but could be noisy.
This tossing game is a great way for your child to work on their hand-eye-coordination! If they like to keep track of their "score" they could even copy their "points" down on a whiteboard or piece of paper!
We hope these activities help you achieve some well-deserved quiet time! Are there any other quiet time activities your child enjoys? Let us know in the comments! Now sit back and relax!
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1 Reference: Association, M. C. (2023). The Importance of Independent Play: Why independent play is critical for young children. Retrieved from Blog: https://mccaedu.org/blog/the-importance-of-independent-play-why-independent-play-is-critical-for-young-children/