Let me drop a magic mom bomb right in your lap. There’s this magical parenting tool called ‘Rest Time’ (or ‘Quiet Time’ if your littles don’t like the idea of ‘resting’) that can literally change your life. It sounds really simple – it’s 60 to 90 minutes, every single day, where you get quiet time and your kids get to recharge with a nap or quiet activities. But you’re probably thinking “YEAH RIGHT. My kids will never give me 90 minutes of uninterrupted time in the middle of the day.” But it totally is possible! Let me give you the formula for implementing a successful, routine ‘Rest Time’ in your house.
First, let’s talk about timing. We’ve tried to do rest time right before lunch, right after lunch and mid-afternoon. I’ve found that right after lunch is the perfect time for my littles (currently ages 3 and 5). When we attempted Rest Time before lunch, my kids just begged for snacks the whole time and were HANGRY when it was time to get lunch. When we waited until mid-afternoon (between 1 and 2), I found that it impacted the kid’s bedtimes. So we stick with right after lunchtime. For us that’s at about 12:00.
You don’t need much to make this work for you. Here’s a list of what I suggest, and a few links to the items we use.
- Quiet activities for kids in their own space (books, puzzels, coloring book, dolls, trucks, blocks, etc.)
- Timer or other indicator to signal the end of rest time. We love lights that turn color on schedule (we’ve used a Hatch Baby Rest, but now we love the Amazon Echo Glow that works with Alexa)
- Door latch, lock, or baby gate to help train kids to stay in their room (we have a Door Monkey, but almost never need it)
Introduce Rest Time
One of the keys to making this work is to help kids understand the benefits of Rest Time. It’s not a punishment, and should never be used as a consequence. Instead, help kids understand that rest is beneficial. Kids need rest for their bodies and brains to grow. It also helps them develop skills to quiet themselves down. Explain that mom also needs quiet time, where you can recharge for an exciting afternoon and evening of activities. You’ll want to explain the rules surrounding rest time and the consequences of not following the rules. Your introduction to Rest Time should also include a walk-through of the routine, including the tools you’ll be using. For young kids, role playing the Rest Time routine can be beneficial (don’t forget to switch roles so your kids can direct you to go to Rest Time)!
Of course you can design your own rules and routines around Rest Time. I’ll share the details of our routine, but one very important word of caution. Your routine must be consistent, every single day. No variance, especially in the beginning. Only when the routine becomes predictable will the kids settle into the routine.
Here’s our routine:
After lunch, the kids move to their rooms to play quietly. We say “Alexa, Rest Time”, which starts a 90 minute timer for the Echo Glow. At the end of 90 minutes, the Echo Glow turns green, which is the signal for the girls that Rest Time is over. Usually they run out of their rooms saying “IT’S GREEN! IT’S GREEN!”.
Our rules are pretty simple: You can do any quiet activity in your room. No snacks allowed, but if you want water you need to take it with you at the beginning of rest time. You can leave your room for one bathroom break. Otherwise, if you leave your room, the Door Monkey gets placed on the door and will be removed when the light turns green. You can try again tomorrow without the Door Monkey (Note, the Door Monkey keeps the door in a slightly open position).
Implement Rest Time
I’ll be totally transparent. When I first started this Rest Time journey, I was discouraged ALL THE TIME. So know before that you’re probably going to get frustrated and discouraged. But, as someone on the other side of the learning curve, I’m telling you it’s absolutely worth all the trouble.
If you have kids that still nap, you’ll just gradually move from Nap Time to Rest Time. There will come a point where your little one will fight the nap. I’ve found that saying “You don’t have to sleep, but you do have to rest” gives them a sense of power and control. Usually knowing they have a choice (sleep or just rest) makes them less resistant, and Rest Time will turn into Nap Time each day until they are truly ready to give up the nap. For a while, our youngest would fall asleep during Rest Time about every other day.
For those non-nappers, your first step is going to be doing just 5 minutes of rest time. This will feel like a long time to them at first. That’s ok. Encourage them to find something to occupy the five minutes in their room. Remind them of the rules if needed, and absolutely follow through on the consequences you set. Offer praise when they do well. It may take a few days or maybe even a few weeks before the 5 minute Rest Time routine just becomes a part of your daily life. This can be the discouraging part. You could have a couple of really good days, and then encounter a day where they just wont cooperate. Stick with it.
Once you feel that Rest Time is fully integrated into your routine, it’s time to extend the duration of Rest Time. Only add 5 minutes at first, for several days. If the extra time is unnoticed, add a little more. I recommend going in 5 minute increments until you reach 30 minutes. Then add about 15 minutes each time you bump it up.
Continue to use your consequences as promised. If you give in, you’re only making it harder for them to adopt the process.
After a while, you’ll probably notice your kids look forward to rest time. It’s a chance for them to unwind, relax, do an independent activity they enjoy, and learn to keep themselves entertained. My 3 year old regularly asks to start rest time early because she needs a break. This is also an opportunity for them to practice being alone. My youngest is rarely without me and had separation anxiety a year ago. This routine has helped her tremendously.
The kids aren’t the only ones to benefit. You need a break too! This gives you the opportunity to focus on a task that requires your attention, or to indulge in some much needed ‘me time’.
What Happens After Rest Time?
Have you implemented your own version of ‘Rest Time’? Do you have any tips or tricks to making it a success? Share in the comments below!