Quiet Time before School Starts: It's Fun and Required for School Success

Is your youngster only quiet when asleep or watching TV?

Kids need quiet activities that require focus and concentration. The trick is getting them to do it.

And it's especially important for them to practice some quiet time before school starts. They'll be asked to sit quietly in school and often get in trouble if they don't.

You need the down-time too. Schedule some time every day which doesn't involve driving kids to the pool, and you'll stop counting the days till they're back in school.

O.K. I admit that hammering and building like the boys in the picture are doing isn't quiet. But it does require sitting still (or kneeling), concentration, and not too much talking. Plus it's creative. Count it as a great quiet time activity.

Succeeding in school requires the ability to be quiet and focus. Your kids will benefit by practicing these skills right now that they'll need in the fall when school starts. (You can do these same activities again during Winter and Spring break or any other school vacation.)

The key is letting them choose fun un-school-like quiet things.

Try alternating between mental activities like word puzzles and physical activities that build eye-hand coordination such a building models or sewing.

Try a couple of these Quiet Time suggestions:

1. With very young children and older children who resist this idea, start small. Begin with as little as 10-15 minutes a day and do the activity with them.

2. For kids who are “antsy” all the time or have ADHD, try having them sit for TWO minutes (not TEN) with their arms crossed like they're giving themselves a hug and their legs crossed at the ankles while taking deep breaths. Use a timer. It's a Brain Game modified from Wayne's Cross-Over which you'll find in "The Five Brain Games Shift for Taming ADHD."

Or try having them put one hand on their forehead, resting their elbow on the table. Take deep breaths and set the timer for no more than two minutes. This is a modification of the Brain Game, "Magic Fingers" which you'll also find in "The Five Brain Games Shift for Taming ADHD."

3. Take the kids to an arts and crafts store and let them pick out something that looks like fun: sticker books, paint-by-number, model cars and airplanes, jewelry kits, art projects or science experiments.

Do watch, however, that they haven’t picked out something beyond their skill level. You don’t want “This is too hard and I can’t do it” as part of quiet time! I just put a 3-D castle jigsaw puzzle in the garage sale. Neither my husband nor I could do it and our grandson, who enjoys quiet activities, gave up in 10 minutes.

And steer them away from things you know will drive you crazy. Is this an activity that makes a huge mess and you can’t stand messes? Something else will interest your child. Our granddaughter chose a sand painting kit. We had colored sand everywhere for months. Never again!

4. Check out books at the library. However, for children who hate to read or have difficulty with reading, this is not a good choice. Practicing quiet time in the last days before school starts must be something fun. Being quiet for most kids is hard enough already. If you’re working on reading over the summer, and I hope you are, choose a different time.

5. Card and board games: Quiet and focused doesn’t necessarily mean by all alone by yourself.

6. Word games, puzzles, mazes, hidden pictures, activity books: “Where’s Waldo” is great fun for older kids. Kids intrigued with astronauts? Try Dave Phillips’ “Space Age Mazes.” Have a child passionate about dinosaurs? They’d go for “Dinosaur Word Search” by John Chaneski.

Dover publishes sophisticated activity books of all kinds for older children and adults.

Torn between coloring books that limit creativity or free-hand drawing your child won’t do? You can have it both ways with Anna Pomaska’s “Create Your Own Pictures Coloring Book” where pictures are partly drawn.

7. Do you have a quiet hobby they can do with you? Perhaps you do scrapbooking. Your child works on her scrapbook while you work on yours.

Maybe you enjoy knitting. Let your child make fluffy scarves with giant needles. Easy for the first-time knitter, and they’re all the rage. Think birthday gift for Grandma. You’ve never held a knitting needle? Learn together. And Grandma gets two scarves.

Boys can knit too. And girls can make model cars and airplanes. It’s o.k. (You can always promise boys that you won't tell anybody so they won't worry about being embarrassed. And stick to your promise! Embarrassing your kids isn't o.k.!)

Bottom line: Have fun. Fun helps the brain develop more quickly than struggle. And remember quiet time isn’t an excuse for those children who would sit all the time anyway instead of running and playing outdoors. Kids need both.

Listen to more suggestions for Quiet Time and download the handout.

Please leave us a comment below. What Quiet Time activities have worked at your house?

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About Dr. MaryJo Wagner

MaryJo Wagner, PhD, helps you help your kids transform ADHD behavior for success. Sign up at Coaching & Accountability to get your questions answered with a complimentary Transformation Session.


  1. Thank you so much for your kind words and I'm so glad what I'm showing you is helping the children. Maybe someday I'll get to Kenya to see you. That would be lovely. MaryJo

  2. Dokpe Akele says:

    I am a bit confused about whether my son has ADHD? He is not paying attention in school and at home and is quite restless/hyper. He watches cartoons by acting them out and it takes a lot of effort to get him to write. But what he loves, he gets so quickly. I read the 3 little pigs story book over and over again. He likes to read stories about nature and animals and plants and will refuse to read when he does not like the story., He loves to drum and learns lyrics and rhythm of songs pretty fast. He will be 6 and in 2nd term of grade 1 and the teacher just sent a note that he is not settling in class and often disturbs the class just talking to himself (i.,e repeating the words of any cartoons he has watched). We take TV away Mondays to Fridays now and I am considering stopping cow milk because he does eat a lot of cereal. Please advice?

    • Hi Dopke,

      Thanks for your comment.
      Your son probably doesn't have "true" ADHD. Sounds to me like he's a bright and super-creative kid. Cut WAY back on TV--maybe 3-4 hours a week maximum and never before school or before bed. Make sure he's getting lots of vigorous physical activity every day. Boosting protein in his diet and limiting sugar may help also.

  3. I also am confused and concerned about our son. His kindergarten teacher has brought up that he might have ADHD inattentive type. He isn't hyper but does fidget a lot. He is kind and polite in school but I'm getting at least 1 note per week that says he isn't finishing his work or touching other students (not roughly). His coloring skills are not up to par but he hates to color. He loves to be read to and is learning to read himself. He is smart, in the top 10% of his class but already hates school ! "It's boring and no fun." He also has trouble at home following directions the first time and will give up quickly on something that he finds difficult. What do you think ?

    • Doesn't sound like ADHD. He finds kindergarten boring so he's not paying attention. Some kids like coloring. Some don't. Has nothing to do with ADHD.
      I would give him directions, one task at a time. Look directly at him when you are talking and make sure he's paying attention to you. Lots of kids
      give up quickly when something is hard. Try helping him when it seems difficult for him. He's learning to read. He's a bright kid. Hopefully
      he'll find 1st grade more interesting and have a teacher he responds to. Kids in the top 10% of the class often find school uninteresting if the
      teacher doesn't engage them and pays most attention to the kids in the middle and lower percentile.

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