During the holiday season, gift-giving is a big focus for parents. Like you, I search for gifts that communicate my love. Ultimately, one of the gifts I am most proud to have given my children is actually a consistent experience: ninety minutes of daily free time.
Without exception, whether weekday, weekend or holiday, this is part of our family routine. Each child has ninety minutes to themselves, in a room alone, completely free of my expectations. The only restrictions are that the activity is quiet enough so as not to disturb others, and that the activity is analog, not digital. We call it quiet time.
This is one of the most defining parts of our family lifestyle, and one I wholeheartedly recommend. Quiet time offers refreshment. Quiet time offers ownership. Quiet time is the chance to reset.
A Gift of Ownership
I do not keep track of what my children accomplish during quiet time. There is no measurement or evaluation. They get the chance to plan and execute their experience, exactly as they would like it to be. By giving my children the chance to be a steward, they are receiving the best gift I can give them. They have a chance to develop responsibility. No one makes choices for them. No one forces them. They are the creator. The time is personally their own. Through this, my children see how much I trust them.
A Gift of Refreshment.
Our quiet time is a calming, deep breath during the day. The time reminds us that there is abundant opportunity to comfort, strengthen, and restore. Being offline and doing something tangible gives us a chance to reconnect the physical body and the mind.
What do we do during this time? Frequently, we spend the time reading. Or, it might involve independent imaginative play. At times, my children enjoy a one-player board game or a creative project that doesn’t need adult supervision.
A Chance to Start Again
I homeschool my six children, which means we spend a lot of time together. Quiet time is a chance for us to step away from each other and have our own space. Both parents and children are happier afterwards. We can self-regulate and take a break after any arguments or challenges in the morning.
At times, this time is the gift of boredom.
There are challenges to implementing quiet time, especially early on. Depending on their level of maturity, or their level of preparation, boredom is sometimes the result. “I had nothing to do!” the children might moan, lamenting the loss. This is not something I try to fix. Next time they will have more ideas. Or, they won’t, and they will have another boring experience. That’s ok. Not every moment needs to be exciting and dynamic. If the child wants to sit and think and stare out the window, they are welcome to do so. The child owns the experience.
As my children come to know themselves, they plan ahead, reserving their preferred activities for quiet time. They cheerfully anticipate this time.
Quiet Time is Found Time Not Lost Time
The benefits of this time are enormous. In addition to settling our mental state, the quiet time gives a predictability to the rhythm of our day. It’s not always at the exact same clock time each day, but we aim for mid-afternoon.
As with any routine activity, the question is, what am I trading in for prioritizing this activity? What other things could we be doing, and would they have greater benefit? I am confident that quiet time offers what we need. I don’t need to be more efficient; I don’t need to be more structured; I don’t need to demand more from the day. I need the time to rest.
Not only a Gift for My Children
What would you do with 90 minutes to yourself? How would you spend your time? For me, I don’t use that time to wash dishes or complete household tasks. I intentionally choose activities that uplift me, something that gives me good energy. It could be sewing, or writing, or reading. Sometimes I choose to take a walk or call a friend.
Quiet time makes our entire daily routine more sustainable. Even when we have visitors, they appreciate the down time. We all need to unplug and pause. If you try it, I think you will also find this habit of quiet time will be a stabilizing force in your family.