In school age care exists a tradition called quiet time. This time is when all children must lower their energy and practice activities that are approved by the educators in the program. In many programs, the available choices for children are limited or exclusively tied to reading. Is quiet time a necessary requirement for school-age children?
When looking at school-age program schedules patterns emerge. All of the programs I explored, included at least thirty minutes of scheduled quiet time for half day or less care and sixty minutes of quiet time for care lasting over six hours. This time is built in to the curriculum and is considered an important component of quality care.
The school-age care environmental rating system (SACERS) a guide to quality care environments, does not mention quiet time or nap spaces in the construction of an school-age program. The SACERS recommends quiet space for homework and allowing children to build private spaces by moving materials or furniture.
The National Afterschool Association handbook categorizes quiet activities as being important and include activities like sitting, talking with friends, playing board games, helping another child with quiet work, reading, studying alone, or sitting and daydreaming.
One resource, the California Department of Education “Kids Time” school-age care program guide specifically recommends that children have between thirty minutes and sixty minutes of quiet or rest time scheduled each day described as a space that represents a “place for low key activities, a quiet reading or conversation area”.
In practice, quiet time has involved many different procedures. Quiet time has been utilized for homework, a practice that embodies no rest but another opportunity for more work. The idea that remaining quiet and working equals resting and enjoying quiet activities is confusing. The real intention of programing a quiet time constitutes allowing children to rest, reset, recharge, and lower their cortisol levels that can be elevated in the structured environments of school. The traditional school day is filled with structured and restricted activities. At the end of the school day, children require an opportunity to deconstruct the stress of this restriction and enjoy the time in a method that best suits each individual child.
Kids Time answers this question differently by advocating for the real purpose of school-age programs stating, “The purpose of school-age programs is to meet children's needs” and continues “a crucial step is to determine the needs and interests of the particular group of children in your program.”
Many programs attempt to meet the needs of children by making quiet time the reading hour complete with goals and contests. All children during this time must read or look at books even their interests exist elsewhere. Conversation is discouraged and working alone is encouraged. By mandating certain activity during this time educators interfere with the original idea of providing children an opportunity to decompress from their workday.
When adults arrive home from the work day do all adults perform more work (homework) or live forced to read a book to relax? No. Adults enjoy many different activities to decompress from their work life and if educators envision children as capable we can let children decide what self-care they require to recharge their batteries.
I propose educators employ all of the time and energy expended for creation and enforcement of quiet time to create quality quiet spaces where children can access a place to read a book, talk to a friend, play cards, and sit back and daydream. School-age spaces can be challenging, since many exist in shared spaces and spaces that are noisy and feature a variety of hard surfaces. The challenge exists and the time is available if educators let go of the traditional way of thinking about children's needs and capabilities.
Children are looking for a place to rest and recharge after their day at school. Providing plentiful and creative soft spaces will encourage children to self regulate and seek the quiet their body and spirit are looking for, taking away the need for educators to play the quiet police role. A proper and inviting environment encourages children to deconstruct their day the best way that feeds their soul.
What type of quiet and soft spaces do you provide for school-age children in your program?
How do the school-age children in your program utilize quiet space?