Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

Teaching kids to appreciate stillness March 27, 2009

Filed under: Culture,Routine — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 5:17 pm

337019When our son was about 18 months old, my mom (who’s wise and not at all overbearing) made a helpful suggestion.  She recommended we consider implementing a short “room time” for him into our regular routine so he could begin learning how to play contentedly by himself.  She’d followed this practice with her own firstborn, in whom she’d observed some similarities to our son, and found it to be a boon to both his life and her own.

So I tried it out, gating him in his room in the morning with ample toys, for about 8 – 10 minutes during which I’d shower and/or dress for the day.  He disliked it at first and protested for some or all of the time he was in there.  Before long he grew accustomed to the time and seemed even to enjoy it, and I gradually lengthened the duration to 12, then 16, and eventually 20 – 30 minutes per day.  It became quiet alone time we both could count on.  I’ve continued the practice since then and recently implemented it with my daughter too (hers is in a playpen) when she gave up her morning nap.

Such a practice, implemented consistently and routinely, can help a young child learn to “be okay” alone and entertain himself.  It creates a quiet space into a child’s repertoire. In a sense, it’s preliminary training in stillness and independence.

In our culture today, it seems that kids need this more than ever.  Most American tots under age 3 watch 1 – 3 hours of TV per day, while the average school-age child watches nearly 4 hours (27 per week).  Age 8 is standard for kids to get their first cell phone.  And the busyness of today’s children and the over-scheduling of their lives are common observances – 41% of them report “feeling stressed out most of the time because they have too much to do” by age 10.  Our busy, harried world just keeps getting busier, and kids aren’t exempt.  They won’t need to be taught to be entertained, to become absorbed in a technology-laden life, or to be exposed to overly active, hustle-and-bustle lives.

How will all this reconcile with our kids’ capacity to “be still and know that” He is God?  A stillness that makes space to connect with God begins, in part, with the ability to feel secure in the absence of busyness and bustle.  Sure it can only help our kids if we begin laying these foundations now.  I also love David’s testimony of God’s bringing him “into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”  To me this ‘spacious place’ God provides often equates to brain and soul space away from the craziness of our modern world, prompting me to seek to lay such a foundation in my kids’ lives too.

Room time is certainly not the only way to begin building quietness and the capacity for self-entertainment into our kids’ lives. (Nor is it a new notion or one unique to my family; one of my ‘blogging mom mentors’ advocates the same basic concept here.)  It may not be logistically feasible or the right choice for many families.  Minimizing activities and stimulation, setting time limits on TV viewing, and teaching our children to entertain themselves in other settings can all work toward this end too.


3 Responses to “Teaching kids to appreciate stillness”

  1. Cindy Says:

    I love the concept of designated “room time” and all the benefits it could bring. However, I don’t have the luxury of a consistent schedule. My mother in law is not responsive to structured environments (nor my suggestion that she adopt one while watching my 16 month old son three times a week). Any ideas on how to encourage the ability to create, play, and self-entertain in a less regular routine? I can see the need for this time to help my son develop both spiritually and intellectually.

  2. heartpondering Says:

    I’d say that even an irregular schedule can permit a play-alone time for kids if parents are intentional about it. It could be 10 – 15 minutes after breakfast or before dinner, let’s say, several days a week (3?). A kid can grasp over time that it’s a repeatable event and become accustomed to it, even if it doesn’t happen daily, though I do think picking a basic time of day is helpful to cultivate consistency on the days that it does happen, especially for pre-verbal kids.

    Different levels of stimulation become ‘normal’ for different kids depending on their environments and situations. Just a watchful eye from a parent to see if kids are developing a basic capacity to entertain themselves and play independently is a great place to start. Then you can tinker as you see fit.

  3. Amanda Says:

    Great post! I’m also a big believer in independent playtime. We started with playpen time at 4 months and now my son is 17 months old and does 30-40 minutes of playpen time every day. We’re about to move to roomtime soon to expand his boundaries just a little bit. We do ours in the morning as well and it’s nice to get a chance to shower and get ready for the day or clean up from breakfast without little hands trying to “help” 🙂

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