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July 26, 2019

A Look at Quiet Time - FAQs

I get a lot of questions about Montessori parenting. But, one of the most common questions I get is about quiet time. There seem to be a lot of parents out there hoping to carve out a little quiet time during they day - for themselves and for their children. So, I wanted to answer some of the most popular questions I get about using quiet time in our Montessori home. Here are 10 questions I get all the time!

What is quiet time? What is NOT quiet time? 

Quiet time is a period of time during the day for rest. In our home, this means a break from adult interaction and busy activity. Quiet time for my kids is a time for rest, for play, for decompression from the busy morning. Quiet time for me is a time for rest, working, finishing household chores/projects, or other work I'm engaged in. 

Quiet time is NOT a time to enforce silence. It is not about control, compliance, or simply getting children out of my way. In our house, it is NOT something for babies or children who are still napping. 

Quiet time is still about choices for my children - they can choose to nap (it's rare but it does happen), they can choose to be together, they can choose to be alone, and they can choose the location they want to be in.

Why and when did you start quiet time? 

Quiet time has been a part of our lives since my oldest, Henry, stopped napping just over age 2 and has been something that we have introduced with each of our children when they have dropped their nap. For each of my kids that has been around age 2 (shortly before 2 for Nora and a few months after 2 for Gus.)

Maria Montessori has some wonderful thoughts about sleep and how much we as adults often try to influence our children's sleep for our own convenience. In my experience, forcing a child or spending a lot of time trying to get a child to sleep once they are ready to be awake isn't productive. Instead, we prepare our environment in a way that allows our children to sleep if they want to, and let them follow their own rhythm. This means that the option to nap is ALWAYS available. When children are younger, this might mean taking some steps to further prepare our environment for sleep, but never forcing it. 

Anyway, with that said, my children have naturally given up their nap and subsequently slept more at night, around this age. But, in order to be the best prepared adult I can be need some time to myself during the day. I have also noticed that my children benefit from some quiet rest, even if that doesn't mean sleep. They are much happier, focused, and ready for the afternoon after quiet time. Out of those observations, quiet time was born. Instead of the 1.5-2 hour nap, we moved to quiet time.

How long is quiet time? What time of day?

The answer to this depends on the child and where they are in the quiet time process. Once children are older and very used to quiet time we aim for 1.5 to 2 hours of quiet time per day - depending on our other plans. However, we don't start at this point! 

Quiet time starts gradually. If you have had a child give up their nap, typically, they do it slowly. One day they will nap like normal, then skip for a couple days, then maybe nap again. On those days where they start to skip, we start to introduce quiet time. At first, this means quiet play in their bedroom for 10-15 minutes depending on the child's age. If you had a much older child (like 3/4 giving up their nap) then I would probably start with longer. They also start in their bedrooms because I typically still want a nap to happen if possible. 

I simply explain that it's quiet time and they can play in their room. I ask if they want their door open or shut. My kids each have a few calming materials and books in their room to play with. Every day we add a few more minutes to what I expect them to stay (depending on their readiness). 

In our house, quiet time replaces the typical, post-lunch nap time. So, generally we are talking about a couple of hours during the mid-afternoon. 

What do your kids do during quiet time? 

This answer varies day to day. Nora and Gus have the option to be together (if Nora is home from school) or choose to be alone. They can choose to play in anyone's bedroom or our playroom. Typically, they choose to be together and work quietly on different materials while in the same room. Sometimes they play together. But they play, read, lay on the floor, or listen to an audio book/music and just do nothing. It honestly varies every day. 

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Nora (at 5) tends to engage in pretend play during this time, whereas Gus (at 2.5) tends to be more interested in using his shelf materials. 

What my kids generally don't do is a ton of practical life. They may choose to clean something in their quiet time spaces, but I do set a limit on working in the kitchen or in the main areas of the house. This tends to just be too engaging and less restful. 

How do you get your kids to stay put?

I don't. I do not want to give the impression that my children NEVER come and talk to me during quiet time. They do. Gus might need help with something. Nora might have a question. They might want to know how much time they have left. Or they might simply wander out. Remember this isn't about compliance. I meet their needs in the moment, then redirect back to quiet time. 

I also make sure to respect their freedom of movement as much as possible. If they want to switch rooms, alright. I do remind them to restore their materials before switching rooms. But if they need a change of scenery, I let them. It's about the balance that works for our family and not a strict, "you stay here and don't talk to me" sort of thing. 

Now, that's not to say it can't be frustrating for them to come out every two minutes - and we have days like that. When we start crossing that line, I do set some simple limits. For a younger child I will shut a door to help enforce that limit. "I see that you are having a hard time resting during quiet time, I'm going to shut the door to help remind you to play here." For an older child, we have a discussion and try to come up with a solution together. If that isn't possible, I might set a limit about where they need to stay and place a physical limit (like a shut door.) 

It's also a sign to me that the environment might need a change. For a new quiet-timer, I might rotate toys more frequently or take out something new (to them) just for quiet time. But for an older child that was fine, it's a sign that the materials are no longer meeting their needs. And, it's my job to make sure they have what they need, so I make some changes. 

What if my child refuses? How do you enforce?

For our family, we don't get a lot of outright refusal because it's simply an expectation that has always been in place. But, that, again, doesn't mean it never happens. Here are some of my strategies: 
  • Keep my own expectations in check - am I expecting too much at this point in the child's ability to meet the expectations
  • Set reasonable expectations for your child - what works for me, might not work for your child
  • Calmly redirect - when the expectation and limit is clear, I think it is much easier for everyone to understand. Redirection is key to creating this new habit. 
  • Acknowledge feelings - "You're upset that you need to spend some time resting. I hear you and we can play together again soon." Sometimes just giving your children some validation can make the process a lot easier
  • Offer choices - door open or closed (I have often found toddlers get much more upset with the door closed, but can handle an expectation to stay in their room with a choice), bedroom or playroom, this toy or that, etc. Give your child as much control over the process as possible. 
  • Explain and work together - talk to an older child (preschoolers) about resting and why it's important for everyone to get some time to themselves. Come up with something that will work for them.
  • Set a limit - Montessori is at its core about freedom within limits. The limits come from the environment as much as possible, but the prepared adult also can set limits when necessary. So if your child isn't ready to choose where to be or to have a door open, then set that limit respectfully and gently - while keeping these other tips in mind. 
Again, introducing quiet time gradually has made a big difference for my kids. For a newer toddler, offering a special quiet time toy (doesn't have to be new or flashy, just something new from your stash or rotation) can help. 

During the non-quiet time parts of your day, you can also help to set yourself and your child up for quiet time success. Practice making a gradual exit when your children are playing - so you might play directly with them for awhile then leave to do something for a few minutes by yourself, then return again. Make sure you are getting lots of active time together during the periods of time when you are together. Involve your kids in what you are doing - practical life especially. Prepare your environment for success, remove toys that interrupt concentration, and reduce or eliminate screen time - all of which can help your child more deeply concentrate and need you less. 

How do you keep your kids happy?

Frustration, anger, sadness, and confusion seem to be taboo emotions to many of us today, but the reality is that they are part of the human experience. They are not bad emotions to be avoided at all costs. Happiness is not the only state in which we as human beings can be expected to achieve. I've had to learn to let go this need to only have happy children that seems to be so prevalent in society. 

It's alright if my kids aren't happy all the time. It's not my job to make them happy continuously. It's my job to support them through the emotion they are feeling and to acknowledge they are feeling it. If my kids aren't happy about quiet time, I recognize that. I take steps to help them feel supported and work through those feelings. 

That's not to say I let my child scream at a door for hours on end in the name of quiet time, or something like that. It's about finding the balance between support and setting an expectation. And, that will look differently in every home and with every child. 

Is quiet time really quiet?

No. It's not silent. My children still laugh, talk, play, sing, and act like children. There is no expectation for silence or only quiet non-active play. Rest looks different to all of us, and I let them follow their own pattern when it comes to what they need. It's quiet in the sense that we don't leave the house, and that I'm not actively a part of their rest. 

What if you really just want your kid to nap?

I've been there too! It's always hard to accept that our children's needs are growing and changing, but I don't force it. As a Montessori parent, I'm dedicated to allowing my children the freedom to make those choices on their own. I extend that trust and respect to them. It's sort of just too bad for me. Yes, quiet time is more work and less "restful" for me, but that's part of being a parent. That rest will come again as they move past these busy years. 

When do you stop quiet time?

For my children, this is an expectation until they are in school. Once my kids are in school all day, quiet time is over. Typically, by 5/6 they don't always need a rest period during the day (or it's built into their school day.) But, once my kids are home, I want them to be with me! That's the time we get to be together and share about our days. So enforcing quiet time just doesn't make sense. In the summers, I've left it up to Henry when to take quiet time. He's more independent now at 8 and might choose to rest, play, or something in between. 

I hope this has answered some of your questions about how and why we do quiet time in our home. If you have other questions, let me know and maybe I'll write a follow up post!

Frequently asked questions about quiet time in our Montessori home

Do you do quiet time in your home? 

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