When my girls first started skipping naps, I almost panicked. I had come to count on nap time each day as the only quiet hour or two when I could focus on myself and my own daily tasks without running interference with two children, and so when it was time for nap time to end, I faced a period of mourning. I knew that I still needed that hour or two each day to reset and be alone — and that it was important for my children to have time to do that as well. So we transitioned from nap time to quiet time — and now with a 6.5- and 4.5-year-old at home, I still get my 2 hours of quiet time at each day!
Of course, it wasn’t as easy as that paragraph made it sound! Any transition takes time, practice, and perseverance. But all that energy expended during the transition was totally worth it to now have two children who can independently and quietly entertain themselves for a couple of hours in the middle of the day.
First, how do you know it’s time to transition from nap time to quiet time? Well that one’s easy — your child will simply stop napping. It won’t be abrupt, but you’ll start to notice that one or two days out of the week, your child just doesn’t fall asleep at nap time. Then it will be 3 or 4 days out of the week. And eventually she will rarely be napping during that time. There’s no set age when this happens — Lila stopped right around age 2.5 or 3, while Nora kept napping until much closer to 4.
How do you help your child make that transition from napping during that time to quietly entertaining herself? Just keep up the routine. Head to her room during her old nap time, and tell her that she may rest or play quietly by herself. If she’s used to putting herself to sleep for nap, you can probably leave her there. If she usually needs your help getting settled, you may need to stay to read a story or help her get set up with some paper and crayons, then leave once she’s engaged.
In the beginning, she’ll probably come out of her room a couple times to see what’s going on. Gently remind her that it’s still “quiet time,” “rest time,” or “Mommy’s work time,” and send her back. You might need to start with a shorter amount of time for quiet time, but as she gets used to it you can extend it to a couple hours or more. My own girls are experts at it now, and sometimes they’re not ready to be finished after even 3 hours! When quiet time is over, reconnect with some quality time together.
What can your child do by herself during quiet time? That’s up to you and the interests of your child! My girls are older, so they have lots of small toys, building materials, books, and art materials in their rooms to use during that time. My 6.5-year-old will often spend the entire time reading and emerge as if from a dream when quiet time is over! My 4.5-year-old likes to listen to audio books on her Alexa, play with small princess figurines, or color. She even occasionally climbs into bed and takes a nap. Since I work from home, I use quiet time to hop on my computer and get as much done as I can!
We spent a couple of busy weekends skipping quiet time in favor of more family time, but we noticed that the girls would be quicker to have meltdowns when they didn’t have that quiet alone time in the afternoon. So while we do tend to have more time together on the weekends, we still keep at least an hour of quiet time on those days so we all have a chance to take a break from one another and rest.
And that’s it!