Quiet Time 1, 2, 3 ! Quiet time tips for parents to end the power struggles.

quiet time tip for parents

When I wrote this post for Muffin Tin Mom it got such a huge response from her readers and my own that I am doing a follow up post with ideas for what I call Quiet Time 1, 2, 3!  If you haven’t read the post where I expressed my exasperation with trying to get my son to nap when I have an infant who also needs my attention I encourage you to pop over to Muffin Tin Mom and read it. This is my post of ideas for what we do now that nap time has been put to rest. Ovee the years I have heard from countless parents how this post stopped their quiet time power struggles. I am thrilled to know these quiet time tips helped bring a little peace to your home.

Quiet Time 1, 2, 3!

Kids need predictability and some children like my son really, really need it.  For quiet time we always use his bedroom. I encourage you to use the same place every day. Also as you can probably guess I would suggest doing it at the same time every day too. At the very least always do it after the same activity, whether it’s as they come off the school bus, after lunch or after another daily activity.  Then there is no argument , everyone knows that after this it’s quiet time. Also something that I have noticed is that if I randomly say ” Hey in 5 minutes it’s quiet time.” My sons feel like it’s a punishment . That is so far from my goal . I have to remind myself to make it fun and interesting not an exile from the family. I am sure it can feel like an exile if I am not careful, which must be hard with a new sibling.

OK enough about that… you aren’t reading this to hear about my adjustment , you are here to read about ideas for your own child’s quiet time!

We have 3 small rugs in my son’s room and I usually lay the activities out on there so he sees, I also use his bed. My main prop though are cards with the numbers 1, 2, 3 on them. I lay them down with 3 activities my son must do before he can have free choice. I use MUST loosely. If he doesn’t do them I don’t worry too much, they are more like offerings . However if he opens the door and says ” Can I come out yet?”  before 45 minutes I will require him to show me he has finished all three activities. The point isn’t to force him to do anything. The magic of  1, 2, 3, is that it gets him focused on play and not on the door and trying to be “done”. So far it’s been magical for us.

Here are some of the activities I have laid out for him that have been helpful and fun for us.

quiet time 1 2 3


These are favorites. I rotate about 10 different ones and am always on the lookout for more. Make sure they are able to complete them without your help or you will hear “I need heeellllp!” before you even get down your stairs.

Toys and Books

It’s amazing how if you focus on one toy all of a sudden something forgotten is met with renewed enthusiasm. Our favorite toys are Mr. Potato head, plain old blocks, Little People and LEGO. Books are usually offered in themes or I will ask him to choose 5 , and provide his Woody doll with them asking him to “read” them to Woody.quiet time 123

Art and Writing

We have done a few art projects that have worked great. Stickers and sticky back foam have been great quiet time art tools. I have cut a container full of different color shapes from the sticky back foam and given them to him to simply create, match the shapes or colors with paper. With stickers I gave him paper with a basic scene  on paper for example- a volcano and palm tree for dino stickers, igloo and water for penguin stickers etc.. quiet time 123

Writing projects like this one have been well received too. I give him fun cards to write to people he chooses . The goal for us isn’t perfect letters, but rather simple practice with pencils, adjust the goal and expectations. Remember make it too tough and you will have a frustrated child seeking help , too simple they will be board and looking for you too.  We also use magna doodles for name writing practice, and drawing whatever he chooses. Provide a mirror and you can make a self portrait station too!

Color Wonder coloring pages have been great as well. I give him 2 pages to choose from with a stiff file folder to use as a desk

Conventional coloring pages with crayons were risky and a wall did get some extra decoration, so it’s on the shelf for now but it might work for you. Again I would give a few ripped out pages not the whole book which can be overwhelming. If they are not the type to be overwhelmed , by all means give then the book!

Pretend Play

quiet time 1,2, 3

This is last because it’s been our saving grace. He loves it. Some days I just lay out his dress up box. Often I set up scenes like this Home Depot . We use an old lap top as a cash register, a name tag and phone for most our set ups, then use his toys and books for the other props. So far we have done a post office, library, grocery store, coffee shop, home depot, a doctor’s office and veterinarians.

Not all children need so much structure, but some like my son are simply overwhelmed by the options available when told to go into their room and “play”.  If you want more details about any of these feel free to ask in comments, as well as leave your own suggestions!

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  1. Momof1 says

    Thanks for this wonderful post !! I appreciate your time and effort in writing this detailed post for all readers when you are on a time crunch. It will surely help with my son and like yours he demands structure and predictability too..Thanks again…

  2. Michie says

    Thanks for the ideas. My daughter will be six in a few months, but she still has trouble with the idea of “go play” sometimes, and I was wondering if she felt overwhelmed. I try and give her choices, but she still hates playing in her room as she hates being alone.

    We are also expecting a new baby in April, so I know I need to practice a little with her so that she can have some things to do if I need to be doing something else!

    Thanks again.

  3. Kristyn says

    Thank you so much for all of your posts! I love them. I was wonddering how you organize all of your toys. We try to keep almost all at a reachable level, and we rotate every month or two. But it seems like you guys have quite a few toys (which is awesome), and keeping all those reachable would mean toys everywhere at the end of playtime! How do you avoid that? Or is it just my son who comes in and dumps out every container before he can decide which one he wants to play with? 🙂 Just wondering.

  4. says

    My oldest is easing out of the nap phase now, but we still have Quiet Time after lunch. We have a Quiet Time box in her room with crayons, paper, stickers and other quiet activities. She’ll have a choice from the box or she may read or just lay in bed listening to a story on CD. (Usually she’ll end up falling asleep doing this activity).

    Your ideas were great! Especially the pretend/dress up play!

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. admin says

    We used to have all but a few of his toys in his toy room… then came baby and the toy room turned into a nursery. Now things are organized in bins – in his closet, under his train table and a few in the family room. I also have a hanging closet organizers that hold puzzles, games and big books. I also hang stuff from his closet rack with those infant links ( felt board toys, magna doodle, dr’s kit etc…

    His room is almost always messy after quiet time.

  6. Melissa says

    This is the best idea I have ever heard! Luckily, or is thankfully, my almost 3 year old daughter still takes a nap. However, I am already dreading the day she stops, and I don’t even have a second child to care for. I will certainly put this idea into my memory for the future! Thank you so much!

  7. sophie says

    I love your website!! And my 4yr old loves the activities. I also have him do ‘quiet time’ while my 2yr old naps after lunch. I usually read him a few stories first to settle him down and then put on a music cd while suggesting some activities. He likes playing with blocks and magnatiles, and driving cars around on his rug. Think I might try to work in some of these ideas to make things more interesting as he loves pretend play. One other thing that has worked for us is having a timer in his room so that he has a concept of how long quiet time is going to last. Good luck with the adjustment!!

  8. Sharon says

    Thanks for the ideas. I’m a strong believer in quiet time also for my daughter who is growing out of her nap. I need it as much as she does. 😉 So far she has been mostly happy enough to sit quietly and read books out loud to her stuffed animals. But there have been times lately where I’ve found her w/all of her dresser drawers open and she’s trying on multiple pairs of underpants over her clothes. While it’s hysterical, it’s a clue to me that just the books aren’t doing it for her anymore.

  9. Erin says

    Thank you SO much for this post! My 3 year old stopped napping a few weeks ago and quiet time has been a struggle with, “mommy can I be all done yet?” I LOVE the idea of 3 activities needing to be completed before asking this question. We are expecting baby #2 in a few weeks so this is a real life saver. My son handles about 20 min then wants to be done. I’m going to try the 1,2,3 today and hope it will help extend his time. We’ve even tried a kitchen timer but that doesn’t seem to extend it. I was wondering did you have to work up to 45 min of quiet time?
    Thanks again! 🙂

    • admin says

      We did have to work up to it and some days are still 30 minutes, especially if my baby is awake. I have also noticed he will go up and play independently more later in the day too. I like to think of these as appetizers and he usually finds the main course ( toys, self directed play) himself after they get him primed for it.

  10. says

    You are brilliant and so creative! Grace is still napping at preschool, but she won’t nap at home. She needs a nap, too, which makes it really frustrating for me. Today, I asked her to lie down on the couch for 30 minutes, and I turned on a movie. That worked pretty well, but only because she was really tired. She didn’t fall asleep, but at least she rested (sort of).

  11. says

    I have a 10 week old and an almost 3 year old. The oldest is threatening to give up the nap – and I totally get what you said when the anger just isn’t worth it when I try to get her down. She does fairly well with the clock method to keep her in her room, but I’m going with Quiet Time 1,2,3 from now on – I think she would TOTALLY go for it!

  12. Cecilia says

    Thank you so very much for this post! What a great way of structuring quiet time for success! My daughter also enjoys structure and hates being alone (which became very apparent when #2 came along), but I have also seen her occasionally taking off on her own to play quietly. The problem is that on days that she is not so well-inclined, quiet time must feel like a punishment, and she is miserable, which in turn makes me miserable. Why have I not thought of this before? How did our mothers survive without the wonderful world of blogging? The only question left for me is whether quiet time should be a joint activity for both children (5 and 2.5) or separate… on for more research 😉

    • admin says

      You are so welcome – this made the transition from nap to quiet time so much easier for us. We used it for close to a year and now since my son is in school more his quiet time is more self directed or our special time to quietly play legos while his sister naps. Often when I work out in our family room he’ll tll me stories, read his books or from time to time watch The Barefoot Contessa with me declaring recipes gross or cool. Either way I doubt he’d be as open to chill out time now at 5.5 if I never made quiet time a fun thing with this.

      I know that at my house quiet time with both kids would be anything BUT quiet !


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