How to have afternoon rest time with non-napping kids.

Why have afternoon rest time?

When you’re a homeschooling family, everyone spends a LOT of time together. Even for an extrovert, being surrounded by the same people all day and night can start to wear down the best of friendships.

Having afternoon rest time gives everyone a break from each other. It’s also super helpful for younger big kids who have stopped napping, but still need some physical rest during their long day.

I have a much easier time staying patient with my kids when I have a quiet time with no hypothetical dinosaur questions each day.

Since I am a blogger, I usually use afternoon rest time to work, but the chance to sit down for a while and have a break from the constant noise is very refreshing. I’m a better mom when we have afternoon rest time, and I bet you’d love a break, too!


What age should you start afternoon rest time?

As soon as your child stops napping! Around age 3.5 is common, although, so far, all mine have been over 5 years old when they stop napping (hallelujah!).

There can be quite a range in the age of when kids stop napping completely, but moving right to rest time can actually help keep your child napping longer, if you want that to happen (or they need the sleep!).

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When are kids too old for afternoon rest time?

Never! Well, that’s not entirely true. Eventually kids do stop needing the physical rest midday, but the mental rest is beneficial for all ages. My almost 10 year old still has two hours of rest time each day, but he listens to audiobooks or reads during that time.

My plan is to cut that time in half this fall, when his school work load is heavier, and he will be doing school for the first hour of afternoon rest time in our home.

How long should afternoon rest time be?

This really depends on what works best for your family!

1-2 hours is most common. Some families with teenage children just have 30 minutes each afternoon where everyone goes to their own spot to read quietly. Families with younger children typically have longer rest time, to line up with younger sibling’s naps, and to give mom a longer physical break when she’s in the season of pregnancy and nursing.

There’s not right or wrong time, so think through your family’s situation (ages of children, naps, transitions, activities you might need to leave for), and then decide what works best for you.

Where should everyone be for afternoon rest time?

Ideally, alone!

If you have a child just transitioning away from napping, you’ll probably want to keep that child in his or her own bed for rest time – that way, he can fall asleep more easily on days he needs more sleep.

I don’t have enough spots to separate all my kids right now, so my three oldest lay in their beds and quietly listen to an audiobook (This is their all-time favorite!)  in the afternoons. I would prefer they were all in separate rooms, but this works fine, too.

When we had three younger kids, and lived in a small 2-bedroom house, the 4 year old had rest time on the couch, the 2 year old slept in his bed, and the baby napped in my bedroom in the pack n play.

This worked great except then the only place for me was the kitchen! So I sat at the table and drank coffee. But it was quiet, so I didn’t mind too much. But ideally, mom would have a nice, comfortable place to relax for a while, too.

What should kids do during afternoon rest time?

I have always done either a few books they can read, a sketch pad and pencil, or an audiobook to listen to.

Some families have success letting their children play quietly with legos in their rooms for rest time – my kids have gotten very noisy when I tried that, so I nixed the quiet toys and have them stay IN their beds for rest time.

Some like to have their kids stay in bed half the time, then do quiet screen time for the second half. This can work really well if you have a child who struggles with rest time, because the screen time is a reward they have to look forward to at the end!

How to start having afternoon rest time if you’ve never done it before

1. Set expectations

Explain what you’re doing and why, and what the consequence will be if they get up. Even very young children benefit from a simple explanation – after all, if you’re suddenly changing your normal routine, it only makes sense to explain the change to your child!

Something like, “We’re going to start having a rest time in the afternoon each day. This will help our bodies to get the rest they need to be healthy and keep playing!
I want you to stay in your bed, and be VERY, VERY quiet until I come to get you. You can listen to an audiobook while you’re in bed.
After rest time, we can watch a movie together! But you need to obey mom and stay in bed. If you get out of bed, you will not get to watch a movie. Stay in your bed until I come to get you. I know you can do it!”

If your child isn’t used to staying in his bed when you tell him to, start by teaching your child to stay in bed!

2. Start with a shorter period of time

Especially if you’re just starting rest time, it’s going to take a few weeks for your child to adjust to the new expectations. Starting with a shorter time will help him be successful, and then you can gradually lengthen the time.

30-45 minutes is a good length to start with, and slowly build to 1.5-2 hours.

3. Have a reward planned for afterward

It doesn’t have to be screen time, although that’s a pretty simple reward you can give (or take away) consistently.

I don’t like to use outside or park time as a reward, because I usually take away the reward if there are problems during rest time – and I don’t want to take away them playing outside!

But the reward can be whatever makes sense to you in your family.

4. Follow through on your consequence

Expect pushback and be consistent in your consequence. When you start something new in your daily routine, especially when it involves new freedoms (like laying in bed for rest time versus being in a crib they can’t get out of), it’s going to take some training for your child to get used to the new routine.

It can be tempting to skip the consequence, because you want your child to have fun! But don’t skip the consequence. Backing up your word will help your child learn, and will lead to more peace in your home long term.

5. Give it time

Work on this daily for at least two weeks before you make changes. Everyone benefits from this rest time, and it’s not unreasonable. So stick with it, and give it time for everyone to get used to your new afternoon routine. It’s for their good!

Have you tried afternoon rest time before?

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