by Jovanna Acevedo Quesada
I was pulling my hair out with my newborn and toddler, who has decided that naps are just not for her anymore. My mother suggested I teach my older child how to have a "Quiet Hour." I tried very hard not to snort.
Mom might as well have been speaking gibberish. I couldn't find a board book much less set up a system to help a curious, active toddler entertain herself. But I was desperate so I gave it a try. Within a few weeks, "quiet time" had become my oasis and a time my child looked forward to.
Getting Started with Quiet Time
These steps can help your explosive tiny bundle of energy get into the "quiet time" habit. I guess Mom had some good ideas after all.
- Start slow. Few toddlers can do anything or sit still for an hour. In the beginning, aim for 10 minutes and gradually work your way up to longer time periods.
- Set rules. Keep the guidelines simple. Is your rule, "during quiet time we are quiet?" Then ban running, shrieking, singing loudy or pounding during the quiet hour.
- Be consistent. Let "same time, same place" be your motto. Choose a time when you need a generally need a break and an area that your child associates with fun.
- Set up supplies. Interesting age-appropriate activities encourage independent play. Stickers, little toys, audio books or puzzles might keep your child busy. Reserve the items for quiet time only and rotate often.
- Coach. Some kids find play out of mom's sight difficult. Set up your quiet time station near your favorite lounging station. Call "Quiet Time," set up an activity and redirect as necessary.
- Go for the goal. Use a timer or play music. Gradually increase the time as your child gets used to playing alone.
- Smile. Do your best to keep positive. If your child simply won't play this game and you're desperate for a break, work together with your partner and schedule some time out of the house .
- Resort to Bribery. Make plans to go to the park, play a game or make dinner together after mommy has her quiet time.
Quiet Time Activities
Here's our all-time favorite activities. Once you set them into motion, you might even be able to grab a few precious minutes of "mom time" during "quiet time."
Spoon a few tablespoons of cooled pudding on a high chair tray or a plastic tablecloth. Seat your child and turn them loose to splash, "draw" pictures or sample a few bites. Quietly.
Make a Collage
Tear paper into tiny pieces or allow your child to tear it. Then spread glue on a paper and encourage the budding artist to stick those bit in a colorful pattern. If they get worked up with the tearing part, just keep reminding the wee one it's "quiet time."
Sticky, Icky, Gooey
You've watched your toddler try to remove specks of lint from stick fingers, fascinated when the lint stuck to the other hand. Create a controlled gooey situation! Place a drip of honey or syrup on the high chair. Place a couple feathers in it.
Contact Paper Projects
Cut contact paper into a two leaf, animal, heart or other simple shape. Secure one sticky side up to the high chair tray. Offer snips of ribbon or paper and other shiny but toddler-safe decó. Once the shape is decorated, use the other piece of the shape to enclose the bling. Hang and enjoy!
Busy Bin Ideas
Take quiet time one step further. Make up a different shoebox-sized bins with supplies. Change the contents around regularly so your child doesn't get bored.
Felt Board Fun
Wrap a sturdy piece of cardboard or posterboard with flannel. Secure the flannel on the back with duct tape. Then cut scraps of felt into shapes. Does your toddler have favorite characters? Cut pictures from a magazine, glue to sturdy paper and attach a few small squares of sandpaper to the back.
Lace Up Cards
Start with a colorful shoelace and a square of needlepoint canvas. Draw a simple shape in permanent marker on the canvas. Knot the shoe lace at the start point. Or you can buy a set of lacing cards. Show how pushing the lace back and forth along the line makes a picture.
Choose two or three board books and a busy book with zippers, buttons, pockets and snaps.
Print up or purchase a set of easy templates for pattern blocks. Store the blocks in a container with an easy to remove lid (cut a slot in the lid for even more fun). Your child can try to make pictures from templates, free-form creations or play dump the pattern blocks. Filling and dumping a container over and over has been known to keep a tot occupied for minutes.
We didn't forget this most important "quiet time" activity. Cuddle up together and read a good book. Who knows, maybe one or more of you will doze off.
Have you found a trick or activity that keeps your toddler busy?
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