Learn about quiet time boxes and how they can help if your kids have stopped wanting to nap but you still need a break in your day.
For many parents, naptime is that glorious hour or two when you get to be productive, relax, or finally drink that hot cup of coffee.
As a stay-at-home parent, I cherished naptime. When we added a third baby to our family when my twin girls were 3 years old, I knew I would eventually need a strategy to keep them occupied and quiet once they stopped napping. A quick internet search led me to the concept of quiet time boxes, which are simply a tote full of quiet activities for kids to do without supervision.
I’ll admit I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought at first, especially seeing all the elaborate and creative boxes other parents had put together. I didn’t want to necessarily buy many more toys, but I wanted enough activities to keep them engaged for at least an hour.
After some thought and a quick scour of things I had around the house, I decided to create boxes based on themes that naturally emerged from the books, toys, and puzzles we already had.
I made a trip to the dollar store to find coloring books, crayons, and a few other items, and I was able to create 6 boxes full of activities for my children to rotate through each week.
Eventually, I added two more boxes based on other things we had acquired from gifts, garage sales, thrift stores, and the dollar store.
As for what I kept in the boxes, I included activities I knew my girls would enjoy. Since they were 3.5 years old by the time I started really using the boxes, they loved puzzles, coloring, stickers, and were getting more into “pretend play” with figurines and dolls.
What's in the quiet time box?
- a handful of books
- a few puzzles
- 1-2 coloring books and crayons
- a few sheets of construction paper
- figurines based on the theme (e.g. toy cars, animals and dinosaurs, miniature trains, etc.)
Include toys you have around the house:
- Magna Doodle
- matching/memory games
- a small set of magnetic tiles
- colored pom-poms with matching colored cups
- Melissa and Doug reusable sticker pads
More Quiet Time Box Activity Ideas
- Crayola Color Wonder paper and markers
- magnetic dress-up dolls
- Play-Doh (warning, could be messy!)
- dry-erase workbooks
- hand puppets
- a tea set and play food
- magnets and an old cookie sheet
- Little People
- Mr. Potato Head
- stuffed animals
- bristle blocks
What kind of boxes to use
I used clear totes (8 gallon or 32 quart size), but these could be easily made using old diaper boxes. I chose the boxes I did for easy storage and stacking in the closet.
Quiet Time Boxes Themes
For those that like the idea of a themed box, go with what you have a lot of around the house and start a box based on that! You can always add items as you find them or the kids are gifted them, or even add new boxes with different themes as you go.
I liked the idea of using themes to get my girls excited about quiet time and choosing which box they wanted. Here's the themes I used:
- Paw Patrol/Puppies
- Mickey Mouse
More Quiet Time Boxes Themes
- zoo animals
- outer space
- ocean/sea creatures
Don’t want to use a theme? Then don’t! You can easily make quiet time boxes by adding any quiet, independent play toys and activities your child likes and is appropriate for their age.
I have been using these boxes for 8 months now and the girls still enjoy them. It was a struggle at first to help them understand how long to use their quiet time boxes, and these 60-minute sand timers really helped. Now they know when their timer is up, they pack up their boxes and can come out of their room. I can be reassured my youngest will have some quiet time for her afternoon nap, and I can have some quiet time as well! (Well, most of the time, at least.)
Whether you are nearing the end of naptime or have older kids home for the summer, assembling some quiet time boxes will give you the reprieve you need to recharge your batteries for the rest of the day and will provide your kids some quality independent playtime. It’s a win for everyone!
Kathy Schommer is currently a stay-at-home mom to her 4-year-old twin girls and a one-year-old girl. As a social worker, she is still passionate about helping others and serves as a volunteer Support Coordinator for Postpartum Support International and is a Twiniversity mentor.