Have you read the story Mortimer by Robert Munsch? If you have a pre-schooler in your home it’s probably sitting on a shelf alongside your other favourite books. Mortimer was a young boy who didn’t want to go to sleep. He found the best way to avoid falling asleep was to shout, “Clang, clang, rattle-bing –bang/ Gonna make my noise all day. Clang, clang, rattle-bing –bang/ Gonna make my noise all day.” His mother would yell, “MORTIMER, BE QUIET!” Sound familiar? As pre-school children transition away from a daily nap, parents often see Mortimer-like behavior.
If you’ve reached the conclusion that your little Mortimer no longer needs an afternoon nap, you likely have mixed emotions. Once our children master the skill of napping we come to view the afternoon sleep as essential. We see how the nap restores our child both mentally and physically. We also see how difficult life can be on days our child misses a nap. Nap time also gives parents a break in the day. Whether you use your child’s nap time to work from home, prepare dinner, exercise, connect with friends, care for other children or do laundry, it’s hard to give up. But, there is a way to give both you and your child a break and eliminate all that racket- it’s called quiet time.
Quiet time is a period in the afternoon when your child will play independently in his room for a pre-determined amount of time. Just as you taught your child how to nap you will also need to teach him how to do quiet time. Here are the steps to implementing quiet time with your child:
- Explain to Mortimer that everyone needs a break in their day. He needs a break so he can learn to play by himself and be a big boy. You need a break because there are jobs you need to do on your own. You used to do these things while he napped but now that he doesn’t you don’t have time to get everything done.
- Take Mortimer shopping and buy him some special quiet time toys. These are toys that will stay in his bedroom and will only be played with during quiet time. They don’t need to be expensive, just new and interesting to him.
- Just as you followed a routine before his naps, set up a routine that you will follow before quiet time. This may include a trip to the bathroom, a book or a song and hugs and kisses.
- Put a 60 or 90 minute egg timer in his bedroom, out of his reach. Start with 60 minutes and move to a longer quiet time as you feel you need to.
- Set out his new toys in stations and show him all the things he can do during his quiet time. Explain that you expect him to stay in his room and play like a big boy until the timer goes off and you come to get him. Tell him that he is not to leave his room or call for you during quiet time. If he does you will re-set the timer and he will need to start over until he does it right. This may make for a few long afternoons, but if you’re consistent he will learn what he needs to do.
- When Mortimer completes his hour of quiet time give him lots of praise for a job well done. Then have him help you put away the quiet time toys so they are ready for tomorrow.
As you implement quiet time with your pre-schooler remember that success will be determined by your consistency. By phasing out napping and teaching your little Mortimer how to do quiet time, you will retain the balance you need in your day. Quiet time is a skill that your child can learn and by doing so he will give both of you a much needed break. You don’t need to fear giving up the nap. Just teach your little Mortimer to BE QUIET!
Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. She can be contacted at [email protected].
Image courtesy of Naypong/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Munsch, Robert. (2010) Mortimer. Toronto, Ontario: Annick Press.