Transitioning to Quiet Time

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about our struggles with Ezekiel since I’ve been on modified rest.  The biggest challenge has been his nap times.  He’s historically and famously been the best napper, sometimes napping 3-4 hours at a time and really he needs these naps.  He also sleeps 12-13 hours at night which is a big sign to me that he still needs the naps.  When I was admitted to the hospital he began having trouble napping and also wasn’t sleeping as long at night waking up super early.  His behaviour suffered in his lack of sleep and my patience was wearing very thin.  I had no idea what to do.  I thought maybe I needed to start a quiet time routine but had no idea how to do that.  I learned early on in Ezekiel’s life that he was the leader in when he was going to be ready for certain transitions.  Any time I tried to get him to do something when he wasn’t ready I got frustrated and he got frustrated – things like rolling, sitting, walking, talking – you name the milestone and he was ready later than most kids but when he was ready he just started doing it and never stopped.

So a couple weeks ago I really had to evaluate if it was time to start a quiet time routine.  I was very resistant because I really really value nap time.  It’s a time that I get to recharge my batteries and when he wakes up we are both ready to take on the evening.  Part of the transition to quiet time (a big part really) was my own mindset – I had to accept that nap time is not always going to happen anymore and I had to become ok with that.  At the same time I had to come up with a compromise, something that was going to help me recharge and help Ezekiel because although he won’t always nap he is absolutely always tired in the afternoon.  Something else I’ve learned over the years is that I don’t do well at listening to the advice of books and blogs – I have to lean on my own understanding of my child and trust my momma’s instinct.  So our nap time routine is just something I came up with and has worked wonders for us.

The routine actually starts at lunch time.  We wind down and sit at the table having a quiet meal and quiet conversation.  I try to keep it as calm as possible.  At the end of lunch Ezekiel chooses which sippy cup he would like to have his quiet time milk in.  Then he heads upstairs, usually without cuing and I follow.  He goes potty and then we get him into comfy clothes (because who wants to relax in jeans and a button up??), and a diaper (he’s not night time/nap time trained because he’s still in a  crib and can’t get out to go to the bathroom on his own).  We close his curtains and then settle into the rocking chair with a blanket and his milk.  We rock until he’s done his milk and then we say our nap time quotes that we’ve been doing forever “I love you” “have a good sleep” “see you when you wake up” – we alternate words and Ezekiel LOVES this part.  Then he gets into his crib with the help of a stool (because I can’t lift him) and he cuddles up with his polar bear and ducky and his favourite blanket and I leave his room.

Typically he’s very quiet for about 20-30 minutes but if he can’t fall asleep in that time he’ll start talking and playing with his stuffed animals.  Typically he’s been falling asleep every 3rd or 4th day.  Between 45-60 minutes if he’s still awake he usually calls me because he needs to go potty so I go upstairs and help him get out and go potty.  At this point I know that it hasn’t been enough quiet time for him and so we’ve implemented another hour of independent quiet playtime in his room.  We open his curtains and I shut the door and go back downstairs.  He’s come to a good understanding of this time and he will read books, play with blocks and generally just use his imagination to no end.  He usually destroys his room and has everything off his shelves and out of his drawers.  He doesn’t have all his toys in his room just blocks, a car, and books so there’s not a tonne to destroy but somehow he seems to make a bigger mess each day – something that I’ve also had to become ok with!  To my amazement he actually stays and plays quietly for 45-60 minutes before he calls down saying he’s done.

The last rule to quiet time is that he has to clean up his room before he can come downstairs.  He definitely needs help but I encourage him to spend about 10 minutes by himself cleaning up his room.  Generally he’s pretty good about this but after about 10 minutes asks if I will help him and so I go up and help with the last things.

Something else that I’ve implemented is that if he’s very good during quiet time and doesn’t yell, scream or cry then he’s allowed a treat when he comes back downstairs.  Treats in our house are a bit different than some houses – right now he’s on a chocolate chip kick so he gets about 10 chocolate chips along with something else like a nut mix, or a little piece of baking that I’ve done.  The baking that I make as treats I try to make as healthy as possible so they always have nutritional value and very little sugar (no refined sugar).

The changes I’ve seen in him since implementing this new routine has been amazing.  I think a big part of our success has been the fact that I kept our original routine in the beginning and then accepted that I cannot force him to do something that he can’t do.  I know that he does try to nap but I think he’s in such a big transition in life that he’s finding it hard to shut off his brain – I totally get that!  In the beginning we had long talks daily about the importance of quiet time, the reasons we need quiet time and how being quiet is a big part of quiet time.  Ezekiel is incredibly rational for a 3 year old and processes well through words and conversation so this worked for us and after about 4 days we didn’t need to have the conversation he just picked it up and ran with it.  His outbursts and inability to process and calm his emotions has left and he’s back to his very sweet, calm rational self and I am feeling so grateful!  He’s still incredibly tired on the days he doesn’t nap and will space out frequently but he doesn’t become a little three year old monster and that is worth it! Something else that has been amazing about the new routine is that he’s learning how to play by himself and be a bit more independent with play.  He hasn’t been independent in the past, he always wants to be beside someone and play and would prefer if you joined in with his play.  He always wants help with whatever he’s doing  and usually only plays alone for short amounts of time.  If I’m preoccupied with something else and can’t play he’ll just try and join me in what I’m doing instead of playing.  Implementing the last hour of quiet play alone and has really helped him to be able to use his imagination alone and find ways to play independently.  He’s also learning how important it is to have some downtime in the afternoon, we have conversations about how his behaviour is so much better and he understands the change.  All in all this has been such a good transition for us, one that I’ve been dreading for months but that I’m pleasantly surprised with.

Do you have any quiet time transition stories?  I’m thinking of getting him some more quiet time activities in his room that would enhance his learning and independence – any suggestions??

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