Monday, 2 May 2016

On Routine and Rest... Establishing a Family "Quiet Hour"

Establishing routine and pockets of rest has always been high on our parental priority list... The desire for the children to have space within the routine of the day, the need that they have for "down time" and the belief that teaching them to amuse themselves and to have a plan for tackling boredom from a very young age will only benefit them, were the main factors, but how central this daily ritual has become to our family life!

In many ways, our "quiet time hour" naturally evolved from the midday nap, but it is the thing within our (flawed!) style of parenting upon which I get the most comments, questions and requests for information.

We do a lot of things wrong in our parenting... But this is one habit that we have established as a family that I would do a hundred times over. When people asked me initially how I survived with three children three and under, I would give three answers...

1. God
2. My husband
3. The Quiet Time Hour

It truly has been one of the best things we have done as a family...

Every day, I put Jonas up for his nap around 1pm. As I'm getting him into his sleeping bag, Heidi will take herself off into her bedroom and begin the all-familiar routine of her "quiet time hour". Once Jonas is settled, I will head into her room, set her Gro-Clock for one hour, and, if she asks for it, turn her CD player on with a music CD or a story. Her choice. At that point I'll leave the room and, excepting help needed with the toilet, will (for the most part) not see her for the next hour.

Most people don't need convincing of the merits of a bit of space for parent and child during the day... mainly for the reason that anyone with toddlers will know it can get pretty intense! But here are some of the reasons we've gone down this route...

Space and a Break for the Parent
Sometimes you do just need a bit of head space... just like people are entitled to a lunch break at work, a bit of quiet during the day does wonders for my patience, my energy and my enthusiasm as a Mama. Yes, I could cope without it.... but I notice a difference in my ability to remain calm, my handle on the housework and my own well-being when I have it. I use the time to get housework done while listening to a podcast, or sit down and enjoy a hot cup of tea and catch up on some reading, or blog away to my hearts content without worrying about the impact of my own "screen time" on the children. It's a little haven of rest in the middle of the day when I know, for one hour, I will be able to get something done!

Much needed recharge time for the little ones
Switching from napping to not napping is a massive adjustment for our little ones. Suddenly they go from being awake for no more than 7 hours at a time, to having to keep with it for 12 hours. In our home, that initial adjustment can result in pretty grotty children by the late afternoon... and it can be pretty rough on everyone involved. We have found that when the children have their "down time", even though they are not sleeping, the quiet and rest of that hour does still somehow seem to have some kind of recuperative power. A little recharging of the batteries seems to push them through to 7pm with a lot less grief for everyone!

Training in obedience
My years in teaching taught me that routine is paramount in training in obedience! So many people have asked me how we get the children to stay put in their room for an hour, the answer is simply routine and consistency. They know they are not allowed out until the sun shines on their gro clock... they come out? The instruction is repeated and they are led back to their rooms (Heidi will often pop downstairs "to tell me something" at some point during her hour). We've honestly genuinely found very little resistance to this and have rarely actually had to do the above more than once per session. The quiet time is so much a part of their routine that they don't really question it, and its also helpful training for using the Gro-clock if you're seeking to implement it in the early morning too (when there's a lot more at stake!)

Training in independent play
We live in a culture of face-paced activity and constant entertainment. Our children move from screen to screen, are driven from one after school activity to another, and we wonder why they complain about being "bored"... Over the years I've become convinced that boredom exists more for children who are over-stimulated. They have no idea what to do with silence, or space, or freedom of imagination. Giving your children the blank canvas of an hour every day with no screens, and no art materials (I learnt that lesson the hard way - ouch!) means they have to come up with something on their own. Sometimes I've found the girls will "read" books for the entire hour, other times they will become immersed in some imaginative play entirely on their own. Whatever they do, they are learning how to be alone, how to rest, how to amuse themselves... all skills which will serve them well in the future!

Development of an appreciation of quiet
So much noise... the constant hum of background sound. I know when I have been out walking somewhere, my temptation has always been to listen to music or call a friend. The times I've left my phone at home are the times I've actually had time to reflect on life, or to pray, or just to be thankful... I never regret those walks. I want our children to learn to appreciate silence, and to use it wisely. Not to be afraid of quiet, but to learn to love it.

There are so, so many reasons I am so very glad we discovered this little gem. I honestly can see that on the days our children have it they are calmer, more contented, and generally more fun to be around. There's a definite up in the tantrum department when its lacking! It has been a worthwhile cost. And it is a cost... for the last four years, I've pretty much been at home every day between 1 and 3pm for naps, quiet times or a combination of both... on the rare occasion we are out and about between those times, I won't insist on the quiet time (though I will insist on a nap for the nappers!), but if we're at home then it happens without exception.

The transition to quiet time was simplest with Heidi (Ava was our guinea pig and therefore we didn't quite have the whole system nailed when she transitioned!)... she was still napping in her cot, but it was starting to impact on her bedtime... she was messing around, taking ages to fall asleep... and so one day, I simply put a huge pile of books in her cot with her. She looked up at me thrilled... not quite able to believe that she didn't have to sleep, but was allowed to read! I did that for a few weeks, gradually adding a few toys to the books. After a few weeks, I went upstairs at the end of her quiet time to find her out of her cot and sitting on the floor "reading" more books. She had climbed out of her own cot (in typical stealth Heidi-style) and made her own entertainment. She was around 2 and a half and I realised then she was ready to be let lose in the (child-proofed!) room. She was already familiar with the Gro-clock and understood the concept... I started her at 40 minutes and gradually built up to an hour. She now has completely free roam of her bedroom and pretty much every day I'll find her doing something different.

I'm not for a moment claiming this is something for everyone... its just I'd had so many questions about it recently, that I thought it might be worth putting down in a post in case its helpful to someone somewhere. I am far from being a parenting guru... just a normal Mama learning by trial and error! But us Mama's are here to help each other out, right? And if this can help someone have a little more of the trial and less of the error, then its worth it, don't you think?

So what are your daytime routines? How do you transition from naps? Do you get space from the children during the day? I'd love to hear from you all in the comments below!


  1. I think it's a great idea and there are definitely days I wish we had something similar! I totally agree about the merits of a little down time and time to get bored, you can always tell when you've had too busy a day!

    1. Oh yes, they are SO grumpy by the evening if we have a super-busy day... Either that, or hyperactive! Thanks for stopping by Carie! X

  2. Lyndsey Riddle2 May 2016 at 09:52

    Oh my goodness ! Emma and I were just talking about this yesterday as I want to try it with Jess when she is older! Thanks for sharing!

    1. You so should Lyndsey... It's a life saver! Especially when you have multiple children in the mix!

  3. I love this blog, thank you! My almost 2 and a half year old still takes a nap but is beginning to take ages to settle and chats away to her toys now. I'm dreading her dropping her nap as my 1 year old goes down at the same time and it's the only time I get my head showered all day! This sounds like something that might keep everyone happy and sane 😄

    1. That was exactly the situation I was in with my two eldest too as there's only 18 months between them... Honestly, it kept me sane having older one in quiet time and younger one napping at the same time!

  4. I think this is also helpful when you're at the in-between stage of not needing a nap everyday. If my daughter is settled but not asleep, I pop in and give my daughter some books, but she knows she's not allowed out of bed until the gro-clock says so. And I can still get dinner sorted. Victoria

    1. It's an absolute gem during that stage... You are so right!


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