Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why My Big Kids Still Have Afternoon Rest Time

Every afternoon of every day this family has rest time.  The baby, the toddler, the "bigger kids," and the mom.  It has always been this way, and I suspect it always will be.  It's my intention that there will always be a family-wide afternoon rest time. (Though I admit,  I can't really speak to the future.)

Afternoon rest time here is not optional.  You don't grow out of it.  You don't get out of it. (Except maybe on Christmas.  Maybe.)  

Rest time for the "littles" is a no-brainer - babies need sleep.  Kids in this family take two naps a day for as long as I can possibly finagle it ('till somewhere between 12 - 18 mos.) and one afternoon nap until they need to drop it (typically around 5 years old).  When a child begins to eschew afternoon sleep, not much changes.  He (or she! because we do not discriminate and no one is exempt...) quiets down in a room with a closed door, is not permitted to come out for any reason (other than toilet use or an episode of low blood sugar), and must stay there quietly until the kitchen timer goes off.  (The kitchen timer is regularly set to 99:99 minutes because that's the highest it can go :)  )

Several people have asked me why my "bigger" kids still have a daily rest time.  I humbly submit my reasons...


Because Sanity.

I need to know that every day there will be at least an hour and a half that I will have to myself.  This is essential for me to be the best mom that I can be during every other part of the day.  I am a bona fide introvert, and if I don't have alone time to recharge, I will be as useful as Stanley Tucci's  Patrick Stewart's  Bruce Willis' Samuel L. Jackson's hairbrush.

I typically start my afternoon quiet time with a Seven Minute Cleanup, and divide the rest of the time between some combination of the following: "business" (phone calls, emails, etc...), prayer, blog writing and reading, book reading, crocheting, sipping (instead of guzzling) coffee, and all the other things that re-energize me for the rest of the day... or at least until 6 pm when my mind typically turns to this...


Because It's Important to Learn How To Rest

We think it's important to spend time in relative peace and quiet every day.  But it's  fairly counter-cultural.   "Siesta" is not a concept generally embraced by Americans.  Kids, like adults, have increasingly busy schedules: busy school day, after-school activities, athletics in the evenings, music lessons, and club meetings to attend.  And weekends, during which we're theoretically supposed to take a break from it all, fill up with more enrichment programs and scheduled events.  
Kids can spend so much of the day go-go-going.  Who will encourage them to slow down?  Who will teach them to rest?
We obviously encourage activity in learning, exercise, and recreation.  It's good for them.   But there is intrinsic value in restfulness as well.  We live in a culture of going and doing.  Without an imposed quiet time at home, there may be very few moments in a day when a child is afforded the pleasure of being awake but not busy.  Teach him early the art of resting and he will have a valuable personal skill that will benefit him the rest of his life (or at least a couple hours every day :) )   


Because Restfulness Can Be Fruitful

Rest time helps kids appreciate the fact that even though there is no jam-packed schedule or super-fun agenda, this time is still valuable.   Often when we "take it down a notch" with our bodies, our minds have the chance to settle, and then to wander and to ponder.  Quiet rest time allows kids to leave behind the frenzied activity that is "being a kid," and offers them opportunity without distraction - the opportunity to be reflective, thoughtful, contemplative.  Or to at least deeply consider the next crazy activity they'll get into as soon as rest time is over :)


Because There is Value in Being Alone

It's ok to be alone.  It's even ok to be bored.
It's time for yourself.  Make the most of it.
Rest time is best done alone.  These days, though, our "big" boys have their rest time together because there aren't enough rooms in our house for everyone to have their own space.  It's really not the best scenario though.  Some of my children have occasionally asked me for "alone time."  Rest time is one way I can help meet this individual emotional need in a 7 person/3 bedroom home.  I just have to get creative and we play "musical rooms."
There are some rules for rest time, the big ones being Stay Put and Stay Quiet.  But other than that, the kids know that there are no expectations placed on them during that time.  They do not have to do lessons.  They will not be called on to do chores.  I will not interrupt their time.  However, I will not be readily available to them either (barring illness or emergency.)  I will not entertain them, and I will not answer questions like, "how do you spell hippopotamus?" and I will not dignify, "I'm bored" with a response.
The time is theirs.  They may choose to do nothing.  Typically, though, they find quiet things to do like, Legos, drawing, crafts (that under no circumstances involve glitter), and puzzles.  Often, Creativity wins when the kids are alone and Mom reinforces the fact that she's not the cruise director.

Dominic doing a rest time puzzle (taken about 1 year ago)


Because It's Just What We Do in Our Family

Since afternoon rest time is a non-negotiable activity for everyone in the household, there is rarely any resistance or whining or crying or negotiating at rest time.  The younger ones, who are expected to sleep in the afternoon aren't jealous of older siblings who get to stay up, because... they don't.   Everyone does rest time.   Your age and the level of trust you've earned from Mom and Dad may affect what you get to do during that time, but no one is exempt, and that makes it easy to enforce.  Everyone's doing it.  There's no need to look longingly at the others as you're toted off to bed.  They're all headed there soon too.


Because Audio Books

Afternoon rest time means listening to something.  Sometimes it's music, but it's usually audio books.  We are unashamed book readers listeners.  (And now with the iPads, woah!  There's no stopping us!)  There's an awful lot I'd love for my kids to be exposed to, but I can't do it all; there are dinners to make, and babies to nurse, and mittens to crochet!  Even if I could read to them for an hour and half every day, they wouldn't sit and listen for an hour and half; there are bike obstacle courses to be built, and science experiments to try, and scooters to scoot.  But, if it's quiet time and they have to stay put anyway, they'll listen to almost anything.  Score!  

Aaron listening to "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" (I think) during rest time.
(taken about 1 year ago)


Because It's Fuel for the Afternoon

Typically by lunch time, we've all had a good dose of each other.  I think we all appreciate a little daily guaranteed "break' from one another.  After rest time, the kids are recharged and ready to be back together again with an enthusiasm that usually lasts long enough to get us to dinner time!  Their bodies have been refueled with rest.  Their spirits have been refueled with quiet.  We're all better equipped to take on those last few hours of the day which can prove to be such a challenge. 

And that is why even my big kids still have afternoon rest time.  

Question for you: Until what age did your big kids rest?  Maybe they still do...



  1. Yes, yes, yes! I get grief that my four and a half year old still does "rest time". But I find it invaluable - for all of the reasons that you outline here. I love that even your older ones have rest time. I find it crucial for me not to be a fire breathing dragon by the time my husband gets home. Rest time = BIG YES! I hadn't thought about audio books. That is an awesome idea.

    1. Ann-Marie, I too, try to avoid letting my husband see the fire-breathing dragon side of me! Tricky, though!
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Can I get an AMEN! Haven't even gotten to your list of reasons but I wholeheartedly agree! I don't know how I would survive without nap time! And I REALLY, REALLY love the idea of quiet time for the big kids. I usually try and do their more time consuming subjects when the nappers go down, but man, I would love 99.99 minutes of quiet! How do the boys do with sharing a room? I have Sophia (who naps) and the big girls sharing a room. Any ideas on how to make that work for quiet time?

    1. Amen! Naps definitely equal survival!
      It really is sort of crazy making rest time work. It's always changing as there are more kids or different needs. For a long time, Aaron rested in my room. Then until recently, it was Ruth. The way we have it now is: Clare is in the girls room, Ruth is in the boys room, James is in my room, and the boys are in the basement. We'll see how long we can go on this way...
      Re: your comment below - Isn't it funny when kids find those things that they can do to stay up later?? For Aaron, it's "talk about Jesus" or practice his reading. Verrrrry sneaky :)
      When your older kids sleep in the afternoons, does it spoil their bedtime or nighttime sleep?? I'm so compulsive about early bedtimes too that sometimes afternoon sleeping is the enemy!

    2. If the naps are done early enough, either 1pm or before, no problem with bedtime. But, on the weekends we might let them stay up a tad later then during the week. Usually bedtime for big kids is 7:30ish but on the weekends we might let it slid til 8/8:30 depending on their behavior.

  3. And...if it makes you feel better, we can still get all of the kids to nap on the weekends....unless they want to stay up and help with chores (tho Catherine will do almost any chore at night if she can go to bed later than her siblings...score!). But even the 8, 7 and almost 6 year old will sleep for up to 2 hours or more on the weekends. Ugh, its heavenly!

  4. So I've been lurking on your blog for a while now but I had to comment on how *awesome* this post is. I'm not a mom, just a 20-something, but I babysit/nanny a lot and have a handful of nieces and nephews and I cannot tell you how often I say, "I don't care how old you are, we need quiet time to rest!" I really love your other points about it being okay to be bored and learning to be alone. I think it also fosters their independence, the idea that they can figure things out for themselves for a little while without someone directing every single moment of their day. Love this post SO much.

    1. Thanks so much! You're right on about "independence." It's such a worthwhile quality to form in kids. (Why don't more people see this?!?)
      Thanks for commenting! Feel free to lurk any time :)

  5. Big quiet time fans over here! Occasionally, I let them out of it if they are outside playing so peacefully that I forget it is supposed to be quiet time :)...love,love,love audiobooks! Because of all your comments and ideas of the ipads I am considering it for them...we are pretty anti-electronics but you are convincing me of many of the benefits :).

    1. maybe we can have some ipad chat some time :)

  6. I love naptime; even for my almost 6 year old. Even on many of his school days he has to nap after he gets home. I like well rested children (or adults) much better than overtired children (or adults). When the kids are overtired, I feel like a bad mom because I have a very strong desire to do anything to escape from them. When they are well rested, I enjoy them. Last Summer, with my oldest we did do every other day nap vs rest time with rest time being looking at books on the couch or matching socks. We have the same rules you have about how they must not ask me fore anything during that time.

    1. yes, now that you mention it, I can be pretty awful when I'm not well rested. Sounds like a new household motto: Rest time. It's not just for kids. :)

  7. It's my intention to maintain a daily "nap"time for as long as possible, with all the kids! My oldest only actually sleeps once in a blue moon, but he knows he still has to stay in his room each day, regardless. I love your oven timer idea. We let him play music in his room, but I definitely need to look into some books on "tape". We're kind of behind in technology, though, so no iPad or anything...I'm hoping the local library has some cds. There are so many stories I'd love my kids to be familiar with, but as you say, there's just not enough time to read them all to them.

    1. Hi, Christine! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Hope you're able to find some great books on CD. They make all the difference in the world around here!

  8. Brilliant!! I need/want to make this happen in our family. The ideas you shared about how to spend that quiet time are great...now to make it it happen in our house, where our kids haven't had rest time since they stopped napping...2, 3, 5, and 7 years ago. Ha!

  9. ps- I loved this so much, I highlighted it in my latest post. :) http://www.somedaysaints.com/?p=443


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