Everyday we have an hour of rest time. For everyone. Including the caregiver on duty. At 12pm we start getting our 22 month old ready for sleep. After he has had his stories and a song, my 3 year old moves into his bedroom where we prepare for rest time. Rest time for us is my son spending between 60 and 90 minutes alone in his room playing peacefully. He doesn't need a nap any more, so this is purely recovery from his busy morning.
I have been asked time and again about how this process works for us. Here's how we do it. My eldest son chooses two books to read, and after I ask him what he wants to play with. This is really important in our house.
I have several different types of 'rest time only' big ticket toys. These are usually procured from op shops (e.g. car park tower, car racing track, cardboard fire station, aeroplane runway and kitchen cooking set). These are stored in my bedroom, out of reach, and he can choose one or more to play with each day. Combined with the big ticket item, I keep his room stocked with a few different boxes of open play toys (e.g. magnatiles, little lego, duplo, railway track and trains and a box of cars/trucks/diggers). Finally, he has full access to his bookshelf, and stuffed animals. This is it.
It has taken us a lot of practice to get him to do rest time in his room each day. We help him whenever he needs us, are always respectful when implementing boundaries. That is we are firm and kind. The main reason he wants us to end rest time early is that he is bored. We use that opportunity to ask him open questions, like "what else could we add on to your train track" and sometimes offer him new creative ideas. As soon as his imagination is resparked we leave.
The most important part of this process, however, is that we use a Gro-Clock to signal how much time is left of rest time. We generally set it for 70-90 minutes depending on the schedule for the afternoon. I almost never need to bring him out early, although I will do that on a rare occasion where he might need more time spent 1-1 with me.
At the end of rest time/sleepy time everyone is happier. We reconnect and spend the afternoon playing relatively peacefully together. As our 1year old approaches daytime nap sleep drop offs, we will begin the same process with him. Knowing that it will take dedication each day and time and practice for him to learn how to successfully do this we will begin gently with allowing him to choose whether he wants to sleep or play.
The benefits of this have been huge. You are reading my writing because I have an hour a day. For my son, we have observed his imagination explode and his comfort with being alone grow. It truly is one of the best practices we have. You know I have talked a lot about rest and recovery and how important it is. The practice of rest time allows us to be able to recover during the day and invest in activities that bring us, as individuals, pleasure.
How do you and your family rest and recover?