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Monday, April 11, 2011

Quiet Time: A Welcome Daily Ritual

I have a confession to make. I am not just a parent. I am also a human being, separate from my child, with needs of my own. One of those needs is the need for space inside my own head - silence, if I so choose - the absence of chatter. Freedom from such brain clutter as, "Mom, which train do you want to be?", "Mom, what do strawberries sound like when they're being eaten?", and "Mom, can you knit me something today? Tomorrow? Then when?" I can only respond to so many of these questions and demands before tuning out and then accidentally saying yes to something I didn't hear and wouldn't have said yes to if I had. "Mom, I'm going to kick the cat, ok?" "Un-hun.... Wait! What?"

The point is, sometimes I need a break to recharge. I used to do this while my son was napping. Jack rarely naps anymore, but we both continue to spend some time alone each day. We call it "quiet time" even though it frequently isn't... quiet, I mean. Once a day, I allow myself one hour of total freedom to do whatever I choose. You stay-at-home moms know how important this is. We love our kids, and we have opted to be home with them believing it to be the best choice for our families. But, we also recognize that a mom without time for herself is an unhappy mom. Our families want and need us to be happy. Around here - and around the world, I'll bet - there is a saying: When mama's happy, everybody's happy.

Well, quiet time makes me immensely happy. One glorious hour to read AND absorb what I am reading! Time for a shower! Time to answer nature's call without an audience! I can eat the last doughnut if I want to, and no one will ask me to share it with them. It's pure 'me-time'.

There are benefits for Jack too. Allowing Jack time to himself is good training for the future. He's not going to have someone around to entertain him at all times. Particularly as an only child, he'll need to be self-sufficient. Besides, Jack has now come to rely on that hour too, and looks forward to quiet time every day. Sometimes he still naps - the choice is his - and if he isn't tired, he plays. Jack chooses a few toys to take with him to his room and lets his imagination run wild. Admittedly, the name "quiet-time" may no longer be appropriate - some of Jack's toys can be very noisy.

If you're looking for some ways to encourage your child to play independently and to exercise her imagination, try these ideas from Jennifer Wolf:
  • Turn off the TV.
    Think about how hard it is to avoid looking at a TV screen when you're sitting in a restaurant. It's the same way for your kids. They can't not watch it when it's on, so turn it off to encourage more self-directed, independent play.
  • Limit your kids' extra-curricular activities.
    Plan on scheduling no more than one or two extra-curricular activities per season. An over-scheduled life leaves few opportunities for self-directed play.
  • Model how to play.
    Get down on the floor and play with your kids! Try to do this for at least twenty minutes every day.
  • Praise your kids for playing independently.
    Compliment your kids when they demonstrate creativity and imagination in their play. Your words of encouragement will help them take pride in their "work."
  • Store toys within your kids' reach.
    Provide easy access to a variety of age-appropriate toys, including a selection of simple, "old-fashioned" toys that require some imagination.
  • Rotate your kids toys.
    Occasionally store certain toys away in a closet or in plastic bins. You'll be amazed at how "new" the toys feel to your kids when they see them again!
  • Ask questions.
    Ask your kids questions about what they're playing. Let them know that you find their "work" interesting and worthy of your attention.
  • Deal with boredom appropriately.
    Avoid the temptation to "solve" your kids' boredom by providing something to do each time they say "I'm bored." Instead, allow the boredom itself to lead your children to initiate new and creative ways of playing.

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