I used to cherish naptime. Anyone out there who is a parent can understand. Naptime is the one break you get in a day that feels like a 12-hour sprint to bedtime. When J&A were 27 months, they both went cold-turkey on naps within weeks of each other. Suddenly, the 1-2 hours that I had to recharge myself every day were gone. In order to preserve my sanity, I had to think fast about how I was going keep my kids engaged in a daily quiet time activity that didn't involve my daughter smearing 13-ounces of Vaseline into her hair, clothes, and carpet. (True story. Have you ever tried to get Vaseline out of your child's hair? Let's just say it was a several day process that included corn meal, baby oil, Dawn dish soap, hard alcohol -- for the hair, not for me; although, trust me, I could have used some! -- and lots and lots of shampoo.)
In a moment of desperation one day (the day after the Vaseline incident, no surprise), I came up with a quiet time system for my kids that has been saving my sanity -- and my carpet -- ever since!
I started by walking around the house, looking for activities that J&A could play with on their own (read: no mess, no choking hazards). I was actually able to find lots of toys that fit this bill: Legos (Duplos), magnadoodles, finger puppets, Mr. Potato Head, puzzles, blocks, baby feeding set, toy cars, magnets, pom-pom stuff it (the best make-your-own toddler activity EVER!), and music (we use the Sweet Pea mp3 for Kids).
I packaged up each of these activities in a -- you guessed it! -- Sterilite bin! (If you are new to this blog, you should know that I am obsessed with these containers). I had some shoe-box sized bins hanging around the house and was able to pick up a few more at Target in a bundled package that was five bins for five dollars. Score!
I created labels for each bin by searching for pictures on Google Images. I wanted the labels to be something that J&A could understand and thought pictures would be the best way to do that.
I also made each kid a Quiet Time Choices chart. The options of "Sleep" and "Books" are permanently on the chart. The other four boxes are left blank so that they can choose which activities they want to do.
When I printed out my labels, I made two copies: one copy for the bins and one copy to use on the Quiet Time Choices chart. I laminated all the labels and the chart since I knew if I didn't, they would get destroyed pretty quickly. (If you happen to live near a Lakeshore Learning store, they have the cheapest laminating prices around...I think it is $0.29 for an area that is 1 foot by 3 foot.)
I used clear packing tape to adhere the labels to the bins. I also used these little Velcro dots on both the chart and the other set of labels so that we could easily take them on and off.
I store all the quiet time activity boxes at the top of my son's closet. At the start of each week, J&A take turns choosing which four activities they want to add to their charts.
Once the choices are made, they get the corresponding boxes. (Note: with the box full of magnets, they also get a cookie sheet --it's magnetic!-- to use with it. And please be very careful that the magnets do not present a choking hazard for your child.)
As long as J&A stay in their rooms and are (relatively) quiet, they get to keep all their activities. If they are coming out of their rooms or refuse to clean up their toys after quiet time, I take away one box and they don't get it back for the rest of the week.
I am so proud of how well J&A have adapted to our new system. They love picking their "choices", as my daughter calls them, and will play happily in their room for 1-2 hours! Say what!?! Yep, you read that correctly! BOOYA!!! (Oops! shhh...booya!)
What tricks do you have for quiet time in your house? Any suggestions for other toys or activities that might work in the quiet time boxes? And when was the last time you heard someone use the word "BOOYA!"?