Establishing a daily quiet rest time is my #1 self-care tip for stay-at-home moms of preschoolers.
Parenting is hard. It’s hard for moms and dads, working parents and stay-at-home parents. It’s hard for extroverts and introverts, and it’s hard if you work from home or have a side hustle or homeschool or send your kids to public school. Parenting is just hard.
But, because I’ve been a stay-at-home and part-time working from home mom for the past decade, I can relate especially to the unique kind of hard that is being a stay-at-home mom. This one’s for you.
When you’re a stay-at-home mom, there’s very little reprieve. Your kids are just…always there. And I know you love them dearly, but I also know this—you need a break. Enter: Quiet Rest Time.
What Is Quiet Rest Time?
Most children give up their naps sometime between three and five years old. If you’re extremely lucky, you might have a child that continues to take a short nap until they enter kindergarten. If you’ve got a, shall we say, spicy child, you might be waving goodbye to naps long before you (or she) are ready.
Once your child is starting to drop his or her afternoon nap, it’s time to begin establishing a daily quiet rest time. You might also call it “quiet play time.” Whatever you call it, it is a set time every day when your child plays quietly in his or her bed or bedroom, and you are blessedly alone.
How Do I Establish a Daily Quiet Time?
When your child starts fighting an afternoon nap, you can begin to introduce the idea of a daily quiet time. Depending on her age, you can say something like this, “You might not be tired for a nap. That’s okay. You don’t have to sleep, but it’s good to have quiet rest time every day. You can look at these books and play with these quiet toys in your bed.”
How well your child takes to quiet time is strongly dependent on his personality. Some children are obvious introverts from early on, and they don’t mind being alone. They are naturally good at entertaining themselves. Other children hate being alone and thrive off their interactions with others—especially you, Mom! 😊 It will be much more challenging to institute a daily quiet time for those children, but it is possible. (I’ve had some of both personalities in my three children, but I can tell you today that, at 10, 8, and 5, they all accept daily quiet time as a part of our routine.)
Step-by-Step Tips for Daily Quiet Time
- Leave the lights on. I always wanted to avoid a child still transitioning away from naps falling asleep at the end of quiet time, making bedtime more difficult later. So, I left the lights on and the curtains open.
- Decide if you want your child to be in his bed or simply in his bedroom for quiet time. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time enforcing the bed rule, opt to be more lenient and let him play in his bedroom.
- Structure your space for quiet time. If there are loud toys that you don’t want out, put them out of sight and out of reach prior to quiet time. Make sure the room is completely safe for your little one to be alone.
- If your child struggles to stay in her room during quiet rest time, consider using a baby gate to enforce the rule.
- If your child cries when you leave her alone, stay in the room with her. Tell her, “I’m going to have quiet time now, too. You can play and I’ll sit over here.” Work on your computer or read a book to model what quiet rest time looks like. If they talk to you, remind them, “I can’t talk right now, because it’s quiet rest time. You look at your book quietly, and I’ll look at mine.” After a while, you might say, “I’m going to the bathroom. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” If your child isn’t crying, you don’t have to return.
- Expect a transition period. Some children will take to quiet rest time within a few days; others may take weeks or even months to really get the hang of it.
- Be realistic in your expectations of time, and slowly build up. Start with ten or fifteen minutes and work your way up to an hour or more. Your patience will pay off!
- Be consistent. As much as possible, make quiet rest time a part of every day, even the weekends. This consistency will help your child, especially as you are establishing a new routine.
- Consider a reward system. Set a timer and tell your child that if he can stay in his room until the timer goes off, he can watch a show, play on the tablet, or have a lollipop afterwards.
Morning Quiet Rest Time
All the above tips can be adapted when your child drops her morning nap (usually around 9-15 months). You can establish a morning quiet time during what used to be morning nap time.
How to Make the Most of Quiet Rest Time
Once your child has gotten the hang of quiet rest time, you can use that time to care for yourself. What are you going to do?
Every day might be different. You might need to take a nap, sit outside with an iced coffee, do a quick HIIT workout, prep dinner for that evening, fold laundry, or scrub a toilet. There’s no wrong answer.
When my kids were little, I spent quiet rest time working, because I worked ten hours a week from home. In other seasons of life, I’ve worked on this blog, managed our family business, or folded laundry and cleaned house.
If you are a stay-at-home mom with no work responsibilities, you have a lot of flexibility. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is get caught up on the laundry. Other days, it’s to read a book or take a nap. Remember that you are better able to serve your family when you are happy, healthy, and rested.
If you’re trying to figure out what activity will feel the best, just ask yourself: What action can I take now to set me up for success for the rest of the day? That answer will vary from day to day: Take a shower, work out, make dinner, fold laundry, call my mom, read a book.
The Benefits of Quiet Rest Time for Kids
My daughters are 10 and 8 and attend public school, but we still institute quiet rest time in the summers and on the weekends. My 5-year-old preschooler is home with me every afternoon, and he plays by himself for an hour to an hour and half, then gets about an hour of screen time. (I almost never allow screens during quiet rest time.)
My kids are bright, creative, and full of imagination. They are, to varying degrees, satisfied to be alone and play by themselves. They enjoy screens, but also invent car games and play outside in nice weather. I think they’ve all benefited from quiet rest time because they know how to entertain themselves and retreat when they need to be alone.
I help stay-at-home moms of littles prioritize self-care in a sustainable way.
Sign up below to have my monthly newsletter delivered to your digital doorstep.
It’s full of tips for how you can take care of yourself so that you can serve your people.