Sunday, February 3, 2013

Nap & Quiet Time - The Real Reasons

Of all if our daily routines that we have, the two most important are undoubtedly how we start our morning and our daily quiet time.
As a working mom for the first 4 years with kids, daily nap/quiet times started out as an extension of what was happening at day care.  More recently though, as a stay-at-home-mom, nap/quiet time continues to be a daily routine so that I could have a block of time to work (almost) uninterrupted on my M.Ed and have a chance to do some house chores in peace and quiet.
Even today, though, we’ve found that the benefits go far beyond uninterrupted work-time for mom. Today, it’s a vital part of our day and a practice we will probably continue even as our kids get older.
{Thomas, 3 years old}
Why We Have Daily Quiet Times
There are quite a few reasons we do daily nap/quiet times, and while personal sanity is one of the reasons, it’s not the only reason:
  • Young Kids need enough rest - Sleep is a vital need, essential to a child’s health and growth. Sleep promotes alertness, memory and performance. Children who get enough sleep are more likely to function better and are less prone to behavioral problems and moodiness. That is why it is important for parents to start early and help their children develop good sleep habits - which includes daily naps.
  • To Maintain Our Sanity - Since it is one of the most common reasons, let’s go ahead and start here. With three young kiddos, our home is anything but quiet for most of the day. While we love to hear them giggling and playing and laughing and singing and telling stories, there’s also a fair share of bickering and whining and yelling.  I find that having that alone time — and most of the time we use this time for alone time as well, as opposed to the evening, which is our time together — makes us better parents for the rest of the day.  We’re also able to get things done that we might not be able to do with everybody vying for our attention!
  • To Give the Kids Time Alone - Only time will tell which of the kids are introverts and which are extroverts, but I think learning to be alone and having time to actually do it are important for both groups of people. They could easily go for days at a time without ever getting time to themselves but having a daily quiet time gives them time to practice this skill.
  • They Play Better Together Afterwards - One of my favorite parts about quiet time is how much the kids miss each other when they’re apart — even if they couldn’t get along before it started! Almost without fail, the early morning and the afternoons run smoother and with more giggles and less bickering thanks to their time apart.
  • It Gives Them Time to Stretch Their Skills - Another benefit we’ve noticed is that the kids really have time to develop their individual skills and try things on their own during quiet time. For example, Abby often asks her brother to help her with reading a book during the day, but when she’s alone, she "reads" to her baby dolls and tells them her own stories. Similarly, some of Thomas' best art comes from this alone time, when they’re not worried about what the other person is doing or how their stuff compares.
{Abbigail, 11 months}

How to Make Quiet Time Work
Quiet time has never really been a struggle for our family, mostly because it’s always been a part of our daily routine. However, there are some things we’ve learned along the way that have made it more effective for us:
  • Define the Space - We've been lucky enough to live in two different homes that have allowed the kids to each have their own bedroom.  That makes it pretty ideal when it comes to nap/quiet time and everyone having their own space.  However, if a family didn't have that set up, there's no reason why a routine couldn't be established where the kids rotate spaces (ie: Mommy & Daddy's room, family room, kids bedroom, etc).  Whatever will work for a particular family is what is important.
  • Start Early - As I said, we’ve always done quiet times, so our kids have never known anything different. About a year ago, at the age of 4.5 years old, Thomas made it very clear that he no longer needed a daily nap.  Although I knew I still needed some type of quiet time for the girls who obviously still needed naps, I also knew I wanted Thomas to have some much needed alone time from his sisters and this Mama needed and wanted some peace & quiet during the middle of the day for myself. 
{Marilyn, 4 months old)

  • Consistency - Another important part of establishing a quiet time routine is just that…making it a routine. Our kids have nap/quiet time every. single. day.  The exception might be if we are on vacation (and even then we try to work some type of quiet time in) or if there is some type of special event going on.
  • Rotate Activities - Our quiet times are undoubtedly the easiest after birthdays or Christmas when there are new toys to play with and they’re anxious for the opportunity to have those things all to themselves. While we believe boredom plays an important role in childhood, we keep them from getting too bored is by allowing them to choose a couple activities each day to take with them. Because they’re making their own decisions, we have an easy rebuttal when they do say they’re bored, and it also allows them to pick whatever interests them most at the time.  To give you an example, Thomas almost always has his art supplies out  and some of his Tag Books that he can read along with during quiet time (on the weekends when he isn't in school).  Of course, he has access to his puzzles, his superheros, and his building blocks to help keep him busy.  Abby, on the other hand, for quite some time now has insisted that she start her nap time with "reading" a few books.  This usually lasts for about 15 minutes and then she turns her light off and goes to sleep for about an hour and a half.
  • Be Flexible - Although our official rule is that you may not come out of your room during nap, we try to apply that rule with grace. So if someone needs help tying a string to make a bracelet or needs to fill their water, it’s not a big deal, but if they are constantly coming out of their room for silly requests, we can fall back on the rule to get it back under control.

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