Inside: Has your 3 year old stopped napping? I feel you, mama. Today I’ll show you how to establish a quiet time routine using a quiet time bin. These bins are life-changing.
Who’s on the struggle bus with naptime today? Or just trying to get a minute or 10 to yourself?
When your toddler refuses to nap, or you’re just unable to complete a simple task without constant interruption, frustration levels rise immensely.
If you’ve been there, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Quiet Time Bin to the rescue.
Because some days, naptime is just *not* happening.
Right around 2, my oldest girl went through a HUGE nap regression. Naturally this happened just after the birth of her baby sister. After days of no-nap misery, I grabbed a bin, asked her to pick toys & things from around the house and told her she could play in the loft outside her room.
While she did whine at first, it eventually started working.
I’ll never forget the day I went to check on her and found her ASLEEP on the floor amid all the toys she picked out.
It became a best of both worlds situation. Although she was technically refusing to nap, she would play independently with her bin and then eventually fall asleep!
When she did eventually stop napping around 3.5, she was so used to doing the quiet time bin that it was an easy transition for her.
Read: What to do When Your Toddler Won’t Nap
That being said, you can use your quiet time bin:
- In place of a nap
- For independent play
- To lead into a nap (they fall asleep while playing)
- After nap (to extend afternoon rest time)
What is a quiet bin?
The idea is simple: fill a bin or a bucket with 5-6 items your preschooler can interact with independently. Ideally, these are things they can do by themselves, without help or assistance.
Over the years I’ve collected bins from Target, Five Below and the Dollar Tree. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just needs to hold a few items!
How to Set Up Quiet Time for a 3 Year Old
First, read this post to ensure you have proper safety measures in place (if they will be alone in their room).
Now, as with anything, it helps to integrate quiet time into your 3 year old’s daily routine – and of course, this takes practice and consistency.
Your 3 year old most likely will not go along with it if one day out of nowhere you hand them a bin and say “okay time to go play” – most kids need structure and consistency in order to adopt new routines or rhythms in their day.
So if you’ve never done quiet time or set up a quiet time bin for your preschooler before, here’s how to start:
- Pick a time of day you need it most: Maybe this is at 1 PM (instead of a nap) or at 10 AM when you need to put the baby down for a nap while keeping your other child busy.
- Tell them ahead of time what the plan will be: “See this bin? Today after lunch we’re going to pick 6 things for your new bin. You will play in your room with this bin until your clock says 2 PM. Then mommy will come get you and we’ll watch a show.”
Of course, they might say “I don’t want to” or “Will you play with me?” And you may actually find it helpful to start out by playing together with your 3 year old and then finding a quick reason to leave the room, in the hope that they’ll keep playing.
You can also try playing together for 5-10 minutes and then announcing that their quiet time is starting and let them know you’ll be checking on them on their monitor, etc.
The process might require some trial and error to see what works best for you and your child, but you may find that the “new” factor is what draws them in as well as the chance to listen to their favorite stories (more on this below).
This post may contain affiliate links. You can read our full disclosure policy, here.
How to Make a Quiet Time Bin for a 3 Year Old (Quiet Bins for Preschoolers)
You may have heard of this referred to as a busy box or busy bin, and the idea here is the same. I encourage you to start out with whatever amount of time you can get out of it!
Maybe your preschooler is not ready to play in their room alone, but they’ll play with their quiet time activities close by while you get work done or fold laundry, etc.
It won’t be perfect, but my hope is that you’ll find a routine that works for you.
What do you put in a quiet time box?
Let’s chat about what’s currently in my bin for quiet time:
- CD player & headphones
- Disney books on CD (comes with a book + CD)
- Crayola Color Wonder markers & paper
- Play erasers (these have small parts, so not for littles under 3)
You can find most of these items in my Amazon Storefront under “quiet time toys”
I like to reserve the CD player and headphones just for quiet time – this helps keep it special and helps them actually want to be alone.
While it’s easy to use a tablet, I like to keep quiet time screen-free. I also find that tablets and screens invite meltdowns and tantrums when removed, however, there’s nothing else to do on a CD player other than listen to the story being told 😉
Help! My 3 Year Old Won’t Play Independently!
- These bins are also a great way to build independent playtime into your daily routine.
- A quiet time bin doesn’t just have to be in place of a nap. It can also be a great tool for independent play – especially for a preschooler who is reluctant (and most are at first 😉).
- However, with practice and consistency, this can become a part of your daily routine.
- If you’re looking to start your day with a bin like this, see: How to Make a Morning Basket for Your Toddler
Will this work for other ages?
- Yes! I used a quiet time bin many times with my 4 year old after arriving home from half-day Pre-K. These may also be helpful if you’re experiencing a nap regression with your 2 year old.
- However, I’ve found that with a child younger than 3, they really need help to operate the CD player, which hopefully can be as simple as turning it on for them and hoping they don’t press any buttons 😉
- For toddlers younger than 3, you’ll also want to modify what items you put in the box, as the idea is for them to play independently.