As it's getting darker earlier and earlier over here we have less time to spend outdoors. We're starting to look inwards, spending more time reading, drawing, crafting and playing and much more time turning the living room furniture into a soft obstacle course to jump on. When cabin fever hits during a long winter in a tiny apartment with small people, the best idea is to wrap up and get outside - whatever the weather.
Sometimes though, this just isn't possible. Paris can be truly truly awful during winter, something about long boulevards with icy cold wind rushing down them just isn't appealing. Encouraging a quiet play time during your daily rhythm, especially straight after school or crèche, can really help little ones unwind all year round, but it becomes especially important in autumn and winter when we're all shut up inside together.
how to encourage independent quiet play
- Light a candle. As it's getting dark earlier, we've been lighting candles (keeping them well out of the reach of little hands!) and maybe lighting only one other lamp. Keeping soft light in dark seasons helps us all unwind and relax and encourages a quiet atmosphere.
- Create a play-list. I use Spotify to find soft, relaxing music for this time of day. We love the Spotify Autumn Acoustic playlist and the Slow Mornings instrumental playlist by mamawatters of the blog Homesong.
- Have baskets of activities prepared in advance. Arthur loves counting conkers at the moment, so we have a pot of conkers ready to go, which he counts in and out of the pots from his play kitchen. Have the play doh to hand with a bag of accessories etc.
- Have a space near you where they can play. One of our biggest challenges with encouraging independent play was that Arthur just wanted to be with us, not separated in his bedroom. When we got a toddler sized table & chairs for the kitchen, it was like a revelation. He's totally happy to sit there engrossed in whatever he's doing while I cook now.
One of the best quiet time activities is Play Doh. Arthur's at the right age now where he can spend a good hour intensely playing with it. It's also brilliant because it's open ended - with some imagination it can really become anything. Arthur makes "food" with it, uses it with his trucks and diggers, makes shapes with it, makes it into "petit poissons" swimming through the sea. It's nice to see his imagination doing some work and him so engrossed in a game. I like to make our play doh. I find it lasts longer, I can make the colours I want and I can also add essential oils to it, lavender in particular to encourage calm, quiet play.
- 1 cup table salt
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 table spoon cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups warm water
- food colouring
- essential oils of choice (make sure they are safe for children)
Mix all of your ingredients together over a medium heat until it's no longer sticky. Tip it out onto your work surface and knead it with your hands quickly to make sure it's not sticking to your hands. Divide it up and knead the food colouring and essential oils into each part (this bit is a bit messy). Leave to cool for five minutes and store in an air-tight container.
It's so quick and easy to make and from ingredients you can find in your kitchen cupboard, so worth making!
What do you do for indoor toddler activities? Do you have a set time for quiet play in your house? I'd love to hear what you do!