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October 12, 2010 / MrsH

Rest Hour – a Primer

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Centered, Finding Balance

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they stay centered and find balance. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I regularly hear the mothers’ “I’m so tired” song. “I can’t ever take a breather.” “How do you do it with three?” The chorus continues: “How can I possibly take time for myself?” I can definitely fall into that same mentality. As an introvert (ISFJ if you’re into that kind of stuff), To function at my best, I need a day that has at least some structure, I need some alone/quiet time, and I need to be able to putter around a bit without being asked “why” a gazillion times. Enter: Rest Hour.

My kids are 8 (in school most of the day), 4 (preschool 9:00-11:15) and 17months. Things such as structure and quiet time must be imposed, because they are NOT inclined to happen on their own! So every day after lunch is when the toddler naps, and the bigger kid(s) have rest hour if they’re home. They each choose a room and play in it. Quietly. Without destroying things. We all feel better afterwards.

If you have a need similar to this, I’ll be glad to share how we got to this point.  Too often I hear mothers say they tried having a rest hour and it turned into a nightmare for them.  I imagine it would if you simply told your child to stay in their room for an hour with no other teaching.  Remember, the goal is for the parent to get a breather, and for the child to recharge his/her batteries as well.  How they spend their time matters.  Below is the process we followed.  Your child(ren) will undoubtedly need something that’s a bit different.  Use your best judgment, and tweak it along the way.

  1. Explain what rest hour is and why it matters. Be sure to stay age-appropriate with this.  Know that a rational explanation is not going to give them the skills to actually do it.
  2. Set aside special toys. Having specific toys that are appropriate for independent use, and that can be reserved primarily for rest hour, gives the child something to do with his/her time, especially in the beginning or if s/he’s not used to playing independently.  When our son was three he had lacing cards, a magnetic puzzle, some cars, and a peg board.  We learned that anything with a lot of pieces got rolled all around the room making it hard to clean up, so we really limited that.  He did, however, have a box of dress-up clothes and shoes, and often selected a special car or truck to bring upstairs with him.
  3. Include a “tuck-in” time – before rest hour starts, we sit on the couch and read a story together.  I walk each child up to their chosen room and help them select some toys.  We review the rules.  I tell them I love them and look forward to playing with them again after rest hour is all done.  My Oldest does best when she knows what the plan is after rest hour.  My Middle One doesn’t need to know that – it just makes him want to skip the rest hour part!
  4. Do a practice-run. Have the child play in their room for five minutes.  Make sure they know your expectations.  Ours are: stay in your room except to use the potty, no throwing, no playing with the windows.  Show them their special toys, close the door, and leave them to play.  Gently redirect them back into their room if they come out, “remember? We’re practicing rest hour.  The rules are to stay in your room.  I will come get you in a few minutes when it’s over.”  As soon as your child is engaged in something (ie: is doing what s/he should be during rest hour), come get him/her.  “Rest hour is all done, you chose to play with the pegs!  Shall we clean them up now or shall we play with them some more?”   Or whatever type of acknowledgment works for you.
  5. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Soon, your child will be happily playing independently for an hour (or more, if you lose track of the time!).  Remember to not get into power struggles about this, and to not expect to be able to put your feet up (or do a million chores, or whatever else you’re hoping to spend the time doing) until your child really gets it and is happy to do it.  You’re not withdrawing your love for that hour, you are helping preserve the sanity of your family.  Use your best judgment if your child comes out.  Be consistent, kind and loving.

These days, we have pretty great rest hours.  Both the 8- and the 4-year old now choose what room they’d like to be in and what they’d like to do.  They play with trains, barbies (sigh… I know…), blocks, legos, dress-up.  They color, read books, or stare out the window for an hour.  Lately, our Middle One (4) has been a bit out of sorts and has built a fort in the living room, spending his rest hour in there while I sit nearby and read a book.  That bit of connection has proven vital for him, and he happily hangs out in his fort.  We time it so that the Little One naps while they have rest hour.  And I?  I put my feet up, read blogs, do 15 minutes of uninterrupted chores, and sometimes take a little nap.



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • The World from Within My Arms — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds balance despite her work and her husband’s commitment to art through attachment parenting. (@RachaelNevins)
  • Balancing the Teeter-Totter — Rebecca is rediscovering balance by exploring her interests and passions in several different categories. She shares in this guest post at The Connected Mom. (@theconnectedmom)
  • Balancing this Life — Danielle at is slowly learning the little tricks that make her family life more balanced. (@borninjp)
  • Uninterrupted Parenting — Amy at Innate Wholeness has learned that she does not need to interrupt parenting in order to find balance.
  • Knitting for My Family — Knitting is more than just a hobby for Kellie at Our Mindful Life, it is her creative and mental outlet, it has blessed her with friendships she might not otherwise have had, and it provides her with much-needed balance.
  • Taking the Time — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker has all the time she needs, now her girls are just a bit older.
  • Please, Teach Me How — Amy at Anktangle needs your help: please share how you find time for yourself, because she is struggling. (@anktangle)
  • A Pendulum Swings Both Ways — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment found herself snapping with too little time for herself, and then veered toward too much.
  • Finding Balance Amidst Change — It took a season of big changes and added responsibility, but Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite! now feels more balanced and organized as a mama than ever before. (@bfmom)
  • At Home with Three Young Children: The Search for Balance, Staying Sane — With three young kids, Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings knows parents sometimes have to adjust their expectations of how much downtime they can reasonably have. (@sunfrog)
  • Attachment Parenting? And finding some “Me Time” — As a mother who works full time, Momma Jorje wants “me” time that includes her daughter.
  • A Balancing Act — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes has concrete ways to help keep centered with a little one and a new baby on the way, from exercise to early bedtimes to asking for help. (@sheryljesin)
  • Aspiring Towards Libra — Are your soul-filling activities the first to be pushed aside when life gets hectic? Kelly of aspires to make time for those “non-necessities” this year. (@kellynaturally)
  • SARKisms for Sanity — Erica at ChildOrganics has found renewed inspiration to take baths and laugh often from a book she had on the shelf. (@childorganics)


Leave a Comment
  1. Deb Chitwood @ Living Montessori Now / Oct 12 2010 8:17 am

    A rest hour is a great idea! I always loved studying the Meyers-Briggs personality types as well. As an introvert, I found Montessori techniques helpful in training my children to concentrate and spend time with their own work. When I was a preschool teacher before having children of my own, Montessori methods were essential for me to have the level of calmness I was comfortable with in the classroom.

    • MrsH / Oct 12 2010 8:23 pm

      Hi Deb – do you have any resource suggestions for me to learn more about Montessori techniques that we could use in our home? It’s something that I am vaguely familiar with and seems like it’d be great, but I’ve never looked into in much detail yet. Thanks for your suggestion!

  2. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama / Oct 12 2010 9:24 am

    That sounds like heaven. And like an impossibility. I am certainly going to give it a try, but since my almost-three-year-old was a baby, he has needed someone to pay attention to him. My sister just visited with her 9 month old, and I was astonished by how much he could just sit and play by himself. (sigh) Even if I could get Kieran to play for 20-30 minutes independently at a scheduled time, that would be a success. I get stretches here and there, but they are a rarity. Thank you for the tips!

    • MrsH / Oct 12 2010 8:21 pm

      Hi Dionna, sounds like yours might be a little more intense than my kiddos. I wonder what would help? Perhaps making 20 minutes be your goal to work up to would be a great thing for now? I’ve also had great success with building a fort or something (for the child) in whatever room you’ll be in, so that there is still the closeness there but also a little bit of space for you to unwind. Good luck!

  3. Kat / Oct 12 2010 1:32 pm

    LOVE this!!! I am totally right there with you. So many of my friends have kiddos who don’t nap anymore and so their day is loooong and they end up exhausted. I just could not survive without nap/rest time. I thank my lucky stars that my 4 year old still naps regularly and that my 15 month old does too. I often use that time to take a nap myself or I also do little things here and there (by the way I love how you said putter…that is so the perfect word). I am going to share this post with above said friends 🙂

    • MrsH / Oct 12 2010 8:06 pm

      Hi Kat, I hope they find it helpful, and that your 4 year old transitions smoothly when done with naps!

  4. Sheila / Oct 12 2010 3:41 pm

    What age do you start? As soon as the kids grow out of their naps?

    • MrsH / Oct 12 2010 8:01 pm

      Hi Sheila, thanks for stopping by. Our eldest was 6 when she moved in with us, and we taught it to her as “just a thing we do in our family.” Our Middle One was 2.5 and napped at daycare but rarely for us. We started teaching him about rest hour and then would often give a choice: “nap or rest hour?” Then he’d usually fall asleep. These days he very rarely sleeps during that time and so we’ve had to do some additional teaching (“no playing with the windows” rule is a direct result of finding that that was necessary to state for him!). The Little One, at 17months, still naps daily – the key is to make their rest hour overlap with her nap!

  5. Kristin / Oct 12 2010 4:08 pm

    Yes yes yes! I do this too and its SO critical for us all. My oldest (4) is in the final stages of dropping her nap for good, so I am trying to figure out what her “quiet time” (though I may steal your phrase “rest hour”) will look like. I have no intention of dropping it, no matter what. I think the special toys for this time is really important. I totally spend my time the same way you do. Its NOT a time for me to be working hard, either, in my opinion!

    • MrsH / Oct 12 2010 8:30 pm

      Hope you come up with a plan that works great for both of you!

  6. Amy / Oct 13 2010 12:28 am

    I really like this idea. I will definitely keep this in mind for when my son is older (he’s four months old now). Thank you for writing this post!

    • MrsH / Oct 13 2010 8:07 am

      Hopefully you’ve got a few years of great naptimes then! Enjoy them 🙂

  7. kelly @kellynaturally / Oct 13 2010 6:05 pm

    Thank you so much for the step-by-step! I’m blessed with children who happily play independently & with each other – which I attribute primarily to their Montessori schooling – but also I realize that when they come home from school, I can’t expect them to go right into independent play (even though I’ve just gotten home from work & need down time), without a little mom time. Your “tuck in” time is the perfect idea!

    • MrsH / Oct 14 2010 5:50 pm

      It took me a long time to figure out the “tuck in” part! And you’re the second to mention Montessori, I’m excited to learn more about it. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Betsy / Oct 13 2010 6:22 pm

    Awesome. As soon as my babies starts napping at predicatable times, I’m doing this. Most people with multiple kids do it, I think, but with TV. Your way is better Way better. Thanks for the primer!

    • MrsH / Oct 14 2010 5:51 pm

      Hope it works out for you and your babies! I can’t imagine having more than one in that unpredictable stage – it was such a relief when our Little One finally became more regular with her naps!

  9. Danielle / Oct 13 2010 9:41 pm

    I still only have one, a toddler who happily naps anywhere from one to three hours (gosh, I wish it were more predictable), but I’m definitely going to file this for the future. Rest hour sounds like a great idea and I LOVE that you don’t spend the entire time doing chores. Good for you!

    • MrsH / Oct 14 2010 3:49 pm

      Sometimes I do spend most of it doing chores (shh, don’t tell!). But after many conversations with MrH I mostly spend that time as “me-time.” Now that it’s reliably happening, I just need to work on making the time a bit more intentional.

  10. Lauren @ Hobo Mama / Oct 14 2010 3:20 pm

    What a great idea! My son used to take champion, 4-hour naps and I could get sooo much done. At 2, he stopped napping entirely, sigh. He’s 3 now, and this sounds like a great way to build some independent play into his day and give my husband and me a mid-day break.

    • MrsH / Oct 14 2010 3:42 pm

      4 hours! That sounds like heaven 🙂 Hope he takes the idea as readily as you do!

  11. Cara / Oct 17 2010 10:30 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this! My 3 year old son is still napping most days, but I fear we may be close to outgrowing the napping stage (even though he gets up before 6 and goes to bed at 8:30). I fully intended to implement rest hour in place of naps when the time came, because even though I’ve only got one, he’s a handful and I just need a breather about halfway through the day! I honestly had no idea how to go about doing that until I read this. Thanks for the helpful post! (Also, I’m ISFJ just like you!)

    • MrsH / Oct 17 2010 11:08 pm

      Hi Cara, thanks so much for stopping by! I’m really glad this post was helpful to you. Wishing you many happy rest hours!


  1. Achieving Balance | Natural Parents Network
  2. (high)Centered « very, very fine
  3. Taking Time for Me | Stuff With Thing
  4. The Dance of Balance « The Practical Dilettante
  5. | Aspiring Towards Libra
  6. Apple Picks | The Picky Apple
  7. Uninterrupted Parenting
  8. Life With A Spirited Child: Parenting Tactics for the Trait of INTENSITY | The Picky Apple
  9. Reducing Screen Time « Fleeting Moments
  10. Enjoying Snow Days « Fleeting Moments
  11. The World from Within My Arms
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  13. Little breaks bring a little balance | GROW WITH GRACES
  14. Take a 30-Minute or 5-Minute Me-Break |
  15. Christmas perfection « Fleeting Moments

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