When your toddler plays, it’s easy to see everything she’s learning as she interacts with people, toys, and her environment. Research shows, though, that quiet time has huge benefits for her developing brain.
Most childcare programs include a “quiet time” in their schedules for this reason; even if your toddler doesn’t nap, she can take advantage of the peace and calm by sitting quietly, snuggling a stuffed animal, and looking at a book. But what exactly does quiet time mean, why is this break necessary for toddlers, and what benefits does it have?
What Is Quiet Time?
Quiet time can be defined differently depending on who you ask. In its most basic form, quiet time is a part of the day where your toddler gets a break from sights, sounds, and other stimulating activity. It’s a time to put away noisemaking or light-up toys, gross motor/exercise equipment (like hula hoops and balls), and electronics. She might nap during this time, but she doesn’t have to; she can also play quietly.
You might have an area in your home where your toddler can go for quiet time, like a corner nook in the living room or her bedroom. You can put calm, soothing music on, give her some books to look at, and offer simple toys, like puzzles, blocks, and stuffed animals.
The amount of time your toddler stays in quiet time depends on a few factors, like how tired she seems and how long she’s able to keep herself engaged in quiet play or reading. Some toddlers might wind down after a 15-minute break, while others might need closer to two hours, or about the same length of time they’d usually nap. Let your toddler be your guide when deciding how much time is right for her breaks. Shorter, but more frequent, breaks might work better than long breaks for some children.
Why Is Quiet Time Necessary?
Quiet time is crucial for all toddlers, whether they still take naps or not. This period of rest calms the mind and body, giving your little one a chance to break away from constant stimulations. Quiet time offers:
Relaxation. Toddlerhood is filled with sensory overload moments. At this age, your toddler soaks up everything she sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches, and her brain works in overdrive to make sense of it all. Sensory meltdowns that mimic tantrums are common at this age, especially when toddlers don’t have time to get away, relax, and recharge before they happen.
Solitary, engaged play. When toddlers have time to themselves, they can learn what they like to do and engage in an activity with full effort. There are no distractions or other people to worry about.
Imagination. Quiet time offers a break for creative thinking. Again, fewer distractions leave more possibilities for her to reflect on her day, dive into a book, or engage in pretend play.
Focus. In a quiet area with little to no distractions, your toddler gets to focus only on what she’s doing. You might find that it’s during quiet time that your toddler is less wiggly and more able to sit and look through a full book on her own.
Absorption. Toddlers learn a lot every day. Giving yours quiet breaks, even if they’re only a few minutes long, gives her time to absorb everything that she’s learned in small chunks.
Self-contentment. Research shows that children and adolescents who spend time alone regularly have a more positive outlook on being alone. It’s during alone time that they control their feelings, reflect on their thoughts and actions, calm their anxiety, and do productive tasks. Creating a consistent quiet time schedule for your toddler can potentially help her learn to use alone time wisely as she gets older, and feel content being by herself.
Quiet time also has benefits for parents and caregivers! You need breaks through the day to unwind and reflect, too, so giving your toddler a few minutes of calmness can boost your mood and productivity.
What if My Toddler Hates to Be Alone?
If your toddler follows you around the house and cries anytime she realizes you’re not in sight, you may be wondering how this quiet time thing will ever work. If this is you, head over to our article about helping toddlers enjoy solo quiet time, where you can find step-by-step tips for easing your little one into feeling comfortable being alone.