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How to Institute Toddler Quiet Time (and Save Your Sanity)

From the moment my oldest daughter was born, I lived in fear of the day she'd give up naps. How would I function without a couple of hours in the afternoon to myself?

Her third birthday came along, and she did indeed start giving up naps. So as the days of naps dwindled away, we started instituting quiet time. Now, about two years later, it's still going strong, with her doing two hours of quiet time every afternoon.

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Here are a few tips for making it work:

1. If possible, start as soon as they start giving up naps

When my daughter started taking shorter and shorter naps (or taking longer to fall asleep), I'd give her a big pile of books in her crib either until she fell asleep or when she woke up after just an hour or so. She got used to entertaining herself and spending the full two hours in her room long before she actually had to be in there awake for two hours. If your child has already given up naps, start with 30-60 minutes of quiet time and work your way up to two hours.

I'm always amazed at the creative things she comes up with, whether it's wrapping books for the whole family or making complicated necklaces with yarn and beads.

2. Buy a big digital clock

We bought a big, cheap clock and set it to 1 p.m. every day (regardless of what time it really is, although it's usually within 30 minutes of 1:00 p.m. when we start) and then she knows quiet time runs until 3 p.m. No negotiating.

3. Be consistent

I get asked a lot if we do it every day. We do, even on weekends, holidays and during vacation. We almost never skip a day. In the last two years, the only time I can remember missing a day is when we were on the road all day long. The more you skip, the harder it'll be to keep the complaining and resistance to a minimum.

4. Don't feel like you have to provide entertainment for them

One reason I like quiet time is that it helps my daughter learn to entertain herself (which I think is a super valuable life skill). So although I occasionally purchase a new coloring book or puzzle, mostly her job is to figure out things to do for those two hours. I'm always amazed at the creative things she comes up with, whether it's wrapping books for the whole family or making complicated necklaces with yarn and beads. She also loves listening to audiobooks on her little CD player.

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5. Don't give up

The first few weeks will probably be rough. They'll whine or beg to come out early or ask if they can skip JUST TODAY. Stay strong and eventually they'll get the hang of it. Two years later, my daughter routinely asks if it's time for quiet time (she'll get excited about some project and can't wait to get started) or spend longer than two hours shut in her room if she gets caught up in her audiobook or working on a puzzle or an art project.

And when they get up from quiet time, you'll be a more pleasant, happier mom because you've had a little bit of quiet time, too.

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