My oldest daughter stopped napping about four months ago, and in the beginning she was very happy to play quietly with toys, visit with me a bit, and then watch a little TV once one of the other kids woke up. Lately this has turned into more and more requests to watch TV sooner and play less, and I am left feeling like we need to do something better with this time. I am sure many of you can relate to the feeling of being torn between the desire to spend some quality time and the need to accomplish a few tasks so that you can be truly focused on the kids the rest of the day.
Right now we are doing preschool at home and incorporating all of the necessary preschool skills during our weekly theme activities, so I considered including mostly free play activities during quiet time. However, I have also noticed that Lovey seems to be wanting a bit more of a challenge academically, so I am hoping to include a combination of play-based learning activities and open-ended play. After researching a few different options that mostly related to workboxes and quiet time activities, we started a workbox plan in January. If it is successful, I will continue to include new activities each month to help share some new ideas and give you more information about our progress.
UPDATE: The plan worked well for my oldest daughter, but my youngest daughter has started skipping naps here and there. This has created a need to modify our plans a bit, so the girls have been working on some cooperative art projects and play during this time. I may come back and update this series if we return to it at a later date.
When We Are Using the Plan
I imagine this system could be used as quiet time activities or any time during the day. For us these activities will take place each day after the other kids have fallen asleep. Our general routine is that Lovey rests some and then plays for a while on her own once the other kids are in bed. This can be any type of quiet play with her toys. When she is done and getting a bit restless, we start our workboxes. After trying it out this first week the whole series of activities is taking her about 45 minutes. Then she spends a little time playing again, usually this second time involves the iPad or an educational game. Soon after that the other kids start waking up.
Goals of the Plan
- Engage my daughter in meaningful quiet activities while others are napping
- Be simple enough for me to rotate activities each day
- Repeat activities for one month to practice each skill multiple times and simplify planning
- Include materials we have on-hand instead of having to make a bunch of new things (although I do love making new things, too)
- Utilize some of the activities and toys that haven’t been getting a lot of use lately
- Use some of the time to focus on key skills my daughter is showing readiness for
Our plan includes four activities each day, one in each of the following areas: reading, math, play, mommy time.
This means there are 20 activities each week, but don’t stop reading! I knew that I couldn’t possibly come up with 20 new activities to play with every week, so we are going to repeat each set of activities for a month. Not only does this make it easier for me to plan a new set of workbox activities, it will provide Lovey with extra practice with each of the activities. Typically the first week will involve a little more support from me, but I hope to see her become more comfortable with each activity as the month progresses.
Once I decided on the four main areas we will have each day, I went through some of our toy boxes and storage areas. I gathered things that related to each area and involved skills my daughter is practicing right now. I quickly realized I had much more than I needed to get us started! Because we do a lot of theme-based activities in other areas of our day, I did not incorporate an overall theme here. I may at some point, but for now I like that the activities can be used any time of year. When the other kids outgrow nap, it will be nice to be able to pull up this plan and use it with little modification.
To keep my things organized I used a plastic crate. We had an empty one on-hand, but any box or storage bin will work well. I added six box-bottom hanging file folders to the crate. The first five were labeled with each day of the week, Monday through Friday. The last folder was labeled, “Next month,” and I am adding items to it as I come across things I’d like to include in our next plan. This crate is for me to store the items we will use each month, and my daughter does not use it.
Once I had my crate set up, I sorted the activities I had gathered so that each day of the week had one activity for reading, one for math, one for play, and one for mommy time. If a certain activity was too large (like a puzzle box), I set it to the side of the crate with a post-it that says the day it is used on.
Lovey’s set up looks like this. It sits near my computer desk so I can respond to emails and take care of minor tasks as she is working and still be close enough to help her if needed.
Working again on the idea of using what we have, I repurposed one of our Sterilite storage drawers. Each day I place the mommy time activity on the top, the reading activity in the top drawer, the math activity in the middle drawer, and the play activity in the bottom drawer. If an activity is too big to fit in the drawer I place one piece of it in the drawer as a clue, and she knows to look for the box or the rest of the activity next to the storage box.
Lovey chooses whether she wants to do mommy time before or after the other drawers. Then she progresses from the top drawer to the bottom drawer. When she is all finished for the day I return all of the items to the correct file folder in the crate and refill the drawers for the next day. She loves this sneak peek at the day ahead!
Originally I intended to share the January plan in this post, but as you can tell it is much too long already. Tomorrow I will share a detailed list of the 20 activities in our plan for the month of January.
I would love your feedback on this workbox plan though. What activities do your kids do while others are napping? Have you ever used a workbox system or something similar?