Screen Free Quiet Time Ideas that Encourage Independent Play

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We made it a long time. We really did. But, my daughter Lisa, at four and a half years old, is officially done with taking a nap during the day. I am now presented with the new challenge of what to do with a preschooler for 2-3 hours while my other two children are (hopefully) taking a nap at that same time. I need to come up with some great quiet time ideas that encourage independent play. I need her to have this quiet time because nap time is usually one of the blocks of time during the day that I spend on the computer blogging and working on my business (as well as numerous other things, like napping, showering, eating lunch finally, making phone calls, and so on). And, she just needs a downtime herself, and I, a downtime from her cuteness.

We are transitioning out of nap time for my preschooler and into quiet time, so I LOVE these screen free quiet time ideas! Plus, they encourage independent play, which means quiet time can actually last longer than 15 minutes!

But, I don’t want to allow her just to watch a movie everyday, or play on the iPad (even if on a educational or quasi-educational app) the whole time either. First, it’s not really fair to her twin sister if she gets to watch a movie while she sleeps or have uninhibited access to the iPad. Plus, I don’t want her glued to a screen everyday for a few hours. My kids may watch one movie a day, and I would prefer it to be when all my children are awake, not giving special treatment to the non-napper. Also, when I have given her the iPad, she seems to think she needs it all the time, everyday, and frequently outside of quiet time hours. It’s obnoxious. And I’m having none of that.

So, I usually tell her some quiet activity she can do. I give my preschooler daughter the option of looking at some books from the library by herself, coloring/drawing, painting, doing a puzzle, or playing with Play-Doh. I also throw out the option of just playing upstairs in the playroom by herself, but she doesn’t usually pick that one for whatever reason. But, those are about the only options I have for her, well, other than sometimes when I tell her she can clean something, help me with taking out the trash, get the mail with me, or just play outside. Sometimes I’ll read books to her, or do some art with her, but pretty much everyday, she still comes over to me as I’m working and asks, “What should I do now?” It’s her polite way of saying “I’m bored.”

Which is why I asked some of my blogging friends (and Facebook fans – are you following me there? You should be!) what they recommend, or if they had written about a project or craft they set up for their kids. Here are some of the great ideas I got that don’t involve a screen.

We are transitioning out of nap time for my preschooler and into quiet time, so I LOVE these screen free quiet time ideas! Plus, they encourage independent play, which means quiet time can actually last longer than 15 minutes!

Screen Free Quiet Time Ideas

Betsy of Betsy’s Photography said that for her toddler’s quiet time, her son often goes to his room and “reads.” But, if quiet time in the bedroom won’t work, they try a corner of the living room, complete with a comfy kid chair, or floor pillows, and a basket of books. A change of scenery can often be enough of a change to engage them for longer. If he’s not in a mood to read, they also have an arts and crafts bin as he enjoys unstructured crafting time. Finally, depending on the weather, she may bring in some snow (or nature items) and let her son play with them in a sensory tray.

Over on the website Learn With Play At Home, Debs shared four great posts with me on some great quiet time activities to try! I really think the “Busy box” or “Quiet Box” would be helpful and encourage some unique crafts, I’m sure! And if my son is asleep, I won’t mind her playing with these things, because he won’t be messing with them and eating or using them inappropriately. (Click on the picture to be taken to the corresponding post.)

busy box for kids, keep kids busy, independent play for kids

I loved the suggestion I received from Danya of Danya Banya. They absolutely love long audio books in their house, borrowing them mainly from the library (aka for free!).  They do this because the quiet time activities that would normally only entertain her active 4.5 year old for about 10 minutes could then be stretched out to an hour bliss, as long as she is listening to a chapter book at the same time!  

Amy of Wildflower Ramblings does something similar, in that she gets Books on CD/tape. She wrote about how it all works in this post. In other post she explains how she put together her own quiet time box ideas.

Mom Inspired Life created an entire literacy learning station for her preschooler to get him to work during quiet times, that she explains in her post:

Literacy Learning Station for Preschoolers. A fun, hands-on way to develop literacy skills in preschoolers!

Valerie from Occasionally Crafty says her five year old builds with LEGO Duplos or even regular LEGOs, colors in his Color Wonder books (so she doesn’t have to worry about any mess), or plays with toys. She has them sorted by type, so on different days she pulls out a different bucket. They feel newer that way. She also has a box of easy puzzles and a few single player “games” like Castle Logix he can do on his own. Valerie spent time teaching her kids when they were younger that during quiet time, they must stay in their rooms and play quietly with the door closed. She says it’s been a huge help. {Affiliate Links}

 If your child likes to play with LEGOs, then you will probably enjoy this post from Epic Fun For Kids, on how she both scores some cheaper LEGOs, and taught her son some basic building skills over a month’s time, so he could then build and play independently more efficiently, especially by using “interesting” blocks and pieces.
LEGO Suprise Box -- a fun way to inspire your child's creativity with Lego building!

Jamie of Hands On As We Grow has a great post with even more quiet time ideas for preschoolers like setting up weaving stations, photo block building and others!

Another great idea is to just let your preschooler play outside during quiet time, assuming it is safe to do so, and weather permits. Outside they can play in your outdoor water table, or sand box, or trampoline, swing set, go for a bike ride, or whatever. Being outside gives a lot of options, even without lots of equipment!: collecting acorns, making leaf piles, playing in the snow, mud, or puddles. These simple outdoor activities can be very delightful and engaging for quiet, independent play for preschoolers.

A few other quiet time ides for preschooler would be playing with dolls and tea sets. But, honestly, having them do a chore or two is a pretty great idea too.

What are your screen free solutions for quiet time? How do you encourage independent play so that quiet time last longer than 15 minutes?


  1. says


    You’re a better mom than me, haha =) my kids definitely watch way too much TV. Oh well… a girl can dream of beautifully organized literacy stations… with three boys, that thing would be destroyed in about five minutes. But it’s a lovely idea!


    • says

      Ha ha ha. Yeah, I just have the one boy, but my girls have been known to destroy a few things. I don’t know if I have enough space for a literacy station in my house. I feel like it would be awesome if it could magically appear just at quiet time. My girls would probably actually like it.

  2. says

    I love setting up the environment to empower children to independently play! There’s definitely a lot of “hands on” at first, with reminding them and showing them how to put everything back if they are used to something different, but it’s SO worth the time investment. (Of course, that means having the time to invest in the first place…)
    I LOVE these ideas – pinning.

    • says

      Thanks so much Jennifer! I am glad you said that these things will take a little time upfront, as i forgot to mention that in the post. Yes, you may have to show your kid what to do with certain materials, or how they are manipulated, but after a little while they should be good on there own.

  3. says

    My kids do pretty well with quiet time (sometimes TOO well). He has a station in our kitchen filled with art supplies, so that keeps him busy for an hour or so. He also likes legos and other connecting and building toys that keeps him occupied and he does a lot of pretend play, like he’ll make pirates out of them.

    • says

      Love it! Very cute. We have MegaBlocks that my kids like to play with too, although, not usually for long periods just by themselves. I am really tempted to make the leap to LEGOs, but I just fear all the tiny bits and pieces everywhere…. especially since we will have another little baby by the year end crawling around.

  4. says

    My twins are now 8, and only in the last year or so have they shown any interest in playing alone. J’s preference is to go outside and run around in the backyard or jump on the trampoline. M prefers to avail herself of the crafting supplies that are freely available to them.

    I had a similar challenge when I was working from home and had two hours to put in every day between the children’s return home from school and the end of my workday. That was definitely one of those times that I took full advantage of that tired twin truism: They always have each other to play with!

  5. says

    Great post. Every year we give up the television for Lent. Even though we watch little television, I’m always amazed at the creativity sparked in my children by No television.

  6. Rebekah says

    So my issue is getting my 3.5-year-old son to play or create without my attention. He loves to play play play but hardly ever alone. Even sitting at my side doing projects he is SO distracting. Forget being on the phone. Is it kosher to just lock him in the backyard for a while?

    • says

      Ha. Yeah, that is the question, isn’t it? If your backyard is fenced and safe, I would say go for it. Or have him play in the playroom or somewhere with the door closed. I know some kids are just social, but they should also learn how to play independently at least for some period of time. Good luck!

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