Teaching Kids To Rest

We all know nap time to be a struggle.  Babies like to sleep, grown ups like to sleep.  It’s those 5 year olds and 7 year olds that struggle to rest.  They’re beyond nap time age, but the grown ups aren’t ready to give it up.

I have heard people say that once their kids outgrow naps, they just have them read in their rooms during quiet time.  I’ve tried that.  It works for about 15 minutes.  Plus, if they share rooms with napping kids, it pretty much prevents the napping kid from napping.  I’ve tried all the tricks of setting up clocks, and teaching them when they can come down.  It hasn’t worked.  It’s still me going up and down hallways and stairs, threatening children to stay where I put them and for goodness sake, be quiet!

Combine that with my older kids who just have an overloaded look on their face these days.  They get to stay downstairs during quiet time, though all they seem to accomplish is getting on one another’s nerves.

I’ve been reading through The Life-giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson, as I’ve mentioned.  They talked about how everyone in the house had their own corner, whether it’s their room, a closet, a nook or cranny, where they went for 1 hour a day to just regroup and rest.  They would draw, read, listen to music, just do whatever rejuvenated them.  It was a time to quiet the mind, and let it wander.  After all, we were designed for rest, and function best living within our design.

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It dawned on me, that rest time as a family, the way I wanted it, required a sanctuary space for each child.  So I proposed the idea to my kids at breakfast one morning a couple of weeks ago.  I wanted to brainstorm how all 5 of our kids could get a sanctuary space, even though we have a 3 bedroom house.  We brainstormed various places of the house and finally decided that Silje would use the girls’ room as her space, and David would use the closet under the basement stairs.  Elias would use the boy room, and Solveig would be in my space in my room, and Ingrid would move her naps to my bed.  My room has 2 chairs, one for me, and one for Solveig.  It’s not the most restful time for me, as Solveig doesn’t stay still for long, but as long as I plan to take my rest time a different time, and don’t have any expectation of having uninterrupted time, I’m fine.  Plus, I’m only training 1 kid to be still.  The other ones actually are diving into the idea, and I’m not fighting kids from all sides.

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Step 1: The kids get to decorate their sanctuary space.  Surround their area with things that make them feel calm, rested, and imaginative.  Silje’s space is still a work in progress, because we are changing up their room a bit, moving out a crib, and moving in some bunkbeds.  That will take a little time, as the bunkbed is still in pieces in a box, and we are still short 1 twin mattress.  But we did do a deep clean of her room, and decluttered a lot of stuff to make it feel more at home.

David decorated his with some plastic cups all stacked up on a shelf in the little closet, and put up some streamers.  And for Elias, I put up a little sheet around his bottom bunk, so his bed felt cave-like, and he moved his special toys, and his favorite colored pencils and drawing pad up to the shelf by his bed.  Solveig is just tickled to be with Mommy during this time, and Ingrid just passes out on Knut and my bed, which is her favorite bed in the house anyway.

 

Step 2: Set up expectations.  So I told the reading-aged kids that they should spend at least the first few minutes in their Bible.  Silje and I are working through a Bible study together that we do just us on the weekends, so she does her work for that during her time.  David is reading through the book of Proverbs.  Elias is still such a new reader, that he just looks at his picture Bible.

We have established our quiet time to be after lunch chores.  Somedays we eat lunch at noon.  Sometimes it doesn’t get to the table until 1.  Sometimes lunch chores take 15 minutes, sometimes the kids drag their feet and it takes 45.  So whenever they are done, the hour starts.

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Before, I took the little girls upstairs for naps as the big kids finished up their chores and then headed to their independent schoolwork.  That turned out badly several times a week.  Sometimes they’d completely “forget” to do their schoolwork until I came down after nap time.  Sometimes a chore was only half done, and I had to bring them back and have them finish with sullen whining.

Now I’m down there for all the chores, and can help them learn how to finish well.  They feel more accomplished, and don’t feel so discouraged all the time.  Plus, they do their chores faster, because they know they get to head to quiet time as soon as they’re done.

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We set the timer for one hour, and everyone scurries to their sanctuary space.  The older ones start off with some devotions, and then move onto whatever they like to do by themselves without siblings messing with it.  The house is eerily quiet, but I think we are all getting used to it in a hurry.

The big kids especially look more rested.  Silje can read her books without interruption.  Elias can draw without someone bumping him.  David listens to audiobooks, and plays with his favorite Legos without anyone swiping his favorite pieces.  Afterwards, the big kids look like they have left the spa.

Ingrid is usually still sleeping, so we all sneak back to work, and return to our schoolwork while she finishes her nap.  The kids haven’t been fighting me at all for their afternoon work, and they are more focused.  This is is a brand new phenomenon.  I was thinking that forcing them to rest for an hour would just lengthen our schooldays.  Sometimes that has happened, especially in the beginning, but for the most part, they are so focused for their afternoon work that it goes faster and we end up finishing when we always did.  On the days we don’t, we often have to stop school, go to an activity scheduled on especially full days, and finish up doing “homework” at night, though it’s rarely more than 20 minutes or so.

Even at 9am today, David said, “I just can’t wait for quiet time today.  That was the best invention ever.”  Silje said, “I feel like I get my sanity back for the day during quiet time.  It’s just nice to be alone for a little bit with my own thoughts.”

Comments

  1. Laura Marlatt says

    I love hearing how you have implemented this! I want to do the same in my home but wasn’t exactly sure how to find the space. Thanks for the inspiration to find a way to make it work!

  2. says

    What a great idea! I wonder if it could be implemented in our family (we have nine kids/young adults at home, and one on the way, and only two of us are out of school).

  3. Mom says

    What a brilliant idea! I wish I would have had that growing up in a house full of younger siblings. I think regardless of our personality types (introvert vs. extrovert), we all recognize at some age that we need a block of quiet time. You rock!

  4. says

    We haven’t managed to get any sort of scheduled quiet time working yet here, although I think the 4 year old would definitely benefit if he could manage some quiet alone time with his lego. Sometimes they will both spontaneously play quietly for a while, but I haven’t worked out any way to make that happen more often.

    I would like to say that your first paragraph made me laugh – if you think babies like to sleep you obviously never met mine!

  5. Heather Krupa says

    We are blessed to have 3 bedrooms shared between 4 kids, so the littlest one goes in the pack and play downstairs. We still have 2 hours of quiet time in our house, since the younger two occasionally nap and we don’t have to do more school in the afternoon yet. My house is so loud that Momma needs this time equally as much as the kids! I have no intention of stopping it anytime soon! I like your idea of creating a special space in the house. I’ll need a new plan when the little guy doesn’t fit in the pack and play. :-)

  6. says

    Hmmm…”quiet time” isn’t always so quiet at our house either. I’ll definitely consider your ideas and see what I can come up with. Thanks for sharing what is working for your family!

  7. says

    This is a wonderful idea. Although my almost four year old only naps once or twice a week, I insist on two hours of quiet time on a daily basis. He plays in his room with the door closed, and looks at books, plays with Legos or sings to himself. It makes a world of a difference to his mood at the end of the day. Less chance of meltdowns or tantrums before bed. I hadn’t thought of using it on older children but from what you are saying, it obviously has the same effect. I hope this continues to be a blessing for your family!

  8. says

    It is true we all need to re-power and rest and your system seems wonderful thank you for sharing. We did something similar up until our third child and I suddenly realized that while my two older daughters and I need quiet downtime whereas my youngest daughter was rejuvenated (and learned more) by interacting with others. Quiet time for her was just a slow sort of murder. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

  9. Molly says

    This is so timely! I am going to homeschool my 4th grader for the first time this fall. I also have a 3 1/2 year old to contend with. :) This morning we gutted the downstairs Playroom to turn it into the Classroom. I have been thinking about spaces for my boys to have quiet time. Thanks so much for the encouraging post! So glad I found your blog a few weeks back.

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