It is hard to be a kid these days. Constantly on the go to the next activity. Always surrounded by people, whether its classmates or siblings. Someone always expecting something.

Oh, wait, its also hard to be a mom, too…for the same reasons.

In today’s culture, slowing down and being alone seems to be a rare occurrence. And whether you and your children are introverts or extroverts, whether they get drained or energized from being around others, we need down time.

Brain science shows that memories are actually stored when we rest. Things are committed to memory when we have time to reflect. Adrenaline actually keeps us from learning well. Pace matters.

I know you’ve seen it as a mother when your child gets tired: they are more emotional, more distractible, and struggle to make good decisions.

Being on the go all day long is actually bad for both their emotional development and brain development.

One of the best things that I implemented (honestly it was for my own sanity at the time!) was what we called “Quiet Rest Time.” It started when my toddler gave up his last nap and I was pregnant with number two. But what I saw come out of having this regular rhythm and practice in my home over the years made me hold on to this practice for years past the toddler stage. And even though my oldest is way past the toddler years now, we still pull it out regularly when I can tell everyone needs a break.

So, first, what is it?

“Quiet rest time” was simple and the parameters are inside the name itself – quiet rest time in their room. It is not a punishment, and your children must understand that this isn’t meant to be a discipline for poor choices or behavior. It is a reset time. And truly is a blessing for your family dynamics and culture.

You see, all day long, whether kids are doing school or just playing with friends or siblings, they are “on.” Their brains are taking in information, figuring out how to interact with others, working on being kind and sharing, and dare I say, growing new brain connections called dendrites. And just like when your muscles get tired when you exercise, their brains get tired. Older kids might find “brain breaks” are a quick and easy way to rest their brain. But for younger kids, actually stepping out of the group and going to recharge in the quiet of their room really helps set up everyone for a better second half of the day.

During “quiet rest time,” young children have time and space to play with something they want to without having to consider another person’s wishes or feelings. They don’t have to figure out sharing. They don’t have to verbally communicate their wishes. They can do whatever they want in their rooms as long as its quiet.

Even older children can step away from being “on” and recharge without having to think about what task is next on their schedule. They can relax and be a kid again, simply playing or reading whatever is on their heart and mind.

Resting their body if they need.

Resting their minds so they came come back ready to learn and grow.

What benefits could you see in your home when implemented regularly?

  • After “quiet rest time,” siblings will come back together ready to share and play nicely, no longer squabbling over small things.
  • After, children are ready to come back and try something again, whether it is learning something new or going out somewhere fun.
  • After, both parents and children are refreshed and ready to engage with each other again with new energy and delight.

So how would I go about implementing “Quiet Rest Time?”

If you have nappers still, the ideal time for “quiet rest time,” would be while your littler one naps. Tell your older kids that we are all going to have some down or alone time to take a break, you can even tell them that it’s for you, mama (cause it is!). I usually assign or do a rotation for what room (or space!) each child goes to if siblings share bedrooms. Set a timer if that helps. I remind them of the rules – quiet and in the room and that this isn’t a punishment. I would encourage younger kids to take a rest/nap if they are amiable to it. For readers, this is a good time to read. Encourage them to play with a special toy they don’t want to share or build with legos without having a crawling baby to be careful of. But this time does not include any sort of screen. Research shows us that screens actually fire up the brain in a different way than face-to-face interactions so having your “Quiet Rest Time / Room Time” include screentime will not meet the intended purpose.

If you have a child that is giving up naps but still sometimes needs them, have some method to have them lie down in bed for 30min for the “rest time” before the “room time” part. That way, if they need a nap, they’ll take one and if they don’t, they are learning to rest their bodies, which if anyone has raised toddlers, you know they need a little practice doing. Around the time my children turned five years old we dropped the “rest time” part, but that will depend on the child.  Just be careful not to give it up at their first fight against it.

If your children are having a hard time implementing this or staying in their room, start with small increments of time. Five minutes. Then 10 minutes. Work your way up to the desired amount of time. During different seasons, our “quiet rest time” was different lengths based on what I could tell we all needed but it typically ranged from 1-2 hours.

And you may find that certain of your children dislike it – they are probably your extroverts! But even those extroverts need down time and I found that they, too, played better with their siblings after having some alone time each day. They might just need a little more coaching and training to get started and learn why these times are important for everyone.

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