With nap time a thing of the past I don’t get the chance to just sit in silence for any period of time these days. I spend my entire day talking, sometimes holding a few conversations at once, and sometimes even with the same child. Who knew that children could talk quite so much? And who knew that talking could be quite so exhausting? I imagine it would help if I didn’t have to repeat everything 30 times, but still! I am sure I didn’t talk like my two do…
A few weeks ago while I was completely frazzled, I decided I needed to introduce a few minutes of “quiet time” (read that as “silence”) into every day. Time for me to stare blankly at the wall, preferably with a cup of tea in my hand, and not have to find another answer to “why?” – just for five minutes.
Obviously I could just give them some paint or play dough and they’d be sorted for hours. But I wouldn’t be able to sit in peace while worrying about the mess that would definitely result. I needed some new activities! Activities that wouldn’t descend into arguments after 30s, activities that wouldn’t end a minute in, activities that required little to no supervision from me (and absolutely no intervention), and activities that didn’t require me to actually buy anything! A lot to ask? Maybe! But here are some of the things that have worked so far:
Threading – literally anything that we have available, e.g. pasta onto string, bits of plastic straw that I picked up from Hobbycraft on a whim and then realised I had no idea what to do with onto string, beads onto pipe cleaners, cheerios onto uncooked spaghetti (stuck to the floor with a lump of play dough) – I found that the more bizarre the items, the more interested they were, and the longer they remained engaged (i.e. silent).
Sorting – again, literally anything (buttons, beads, pompoms, bits of random straw as above, into sizes, colours, shapes etc – I let them choose how they want to sort). Sometimes I add tweezers (great for practising coordination and fine motor skills, and for strengthening hand muscles), or a spoon – this makes it harder and, therefore, last longer.
Stickers – stickers are always a hit, but those with individual backing are a pain as they take forever to clean up afterwards. The best are those that come on a single sheet. We have loads of sheets of colourful circles hanging around from a craft that they just didn’t enjoy earlier in the summer. I just hung a couple of large sheets of paper up and let them stick…
Bubble wrap – I gave them some, and then I left – I challenged them to pop every bubble on their sheet, and it kept them entertained for, well, minutes. But it was a few silent minutes (bar the sound of bubble popping) and that is all that matters. Disclaimer – my children are now old enough not to suffocate themselves (or each other) with a sheet of bubble wrap, but if you are worried, you could cut really small strips, or avoid this one altogether for now.
Chores – because my children love to “help”. I am very aware that many chores are unsuitable for young children, and most are unsuitable for quiet (silent) time as they require an element of supervision. I sometimes leave A “washing up” for a few minutes while I go off and do something else, and there is always considerably more to clean up on my return than before she started. However, there are some things that they can do that are mildly helpful. I am not saying that the chores actually get done (unless I am very very lucky), but they are a good introduction, and they don’t leave any real mess:
Matching socks game – we have a lot of socks between the four of us. They need matching. I can’t be bothered. We call it the “matching socks game”, and anything with the word game in it must be fun. Right?! They love it.
Hanging washing on the clothes horse – If I am really desperate I also ask them to hang the washing on the clothes horse. Sometimes I even get them to add pegs too (again, this is great for those fine motor skills). Granted, I normally end up doing it all again, but I’d have had to do it anyway!
Alternatively, I just give them an empty cardboard box:
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