Anyone can put together a Quiet Notebook for a child to encourage or teach them to be occupied quietly as an individual. Learning to occupy oneself happily is key to independence. From the early years of tv, to videos and DVDs, to Wiis, computers, Leap Frogs and more, children and parents have always welcomed yet another way to keep children occupied when reading is not a viable option. A Quiet Notebook is a non-electronic alternative.
For best results, involve your child/ren in preparing their Quiet Notebook so they both feel included in the choices and understand how it works.
Step 1: Get a binder and explain what a Quiet Notebook is.
Get a three ring binder and 3-8 pocket dividers or sheet protector envelopes. Have your child decorate a sheet of paper to glue on or slip in the cover. Explain that this Quiet Notebook will be theirs to use whenever they want or need quiet time activities. Each divider will have an activity that they can do without needing any help. Some dividers may have a picture of them doing something, which is there signal to do the activity. When they want or need quiet, alone time they can come get their Quiet Notebook. They start at the first activity and when it is done, they go to the next divider's activity, and so on until all activities are done or they no longer need/want alone time.
Step 2: Gather Materials
With your child go shopping, or look around the house for activity materials that you can pull from for filling the quiet notebook.
Materials you can use:
a. A variety of single page activities from puzzle books, coloring books, old school workbooks, and more.
b. A small collection of hands-on activities such as tangram puzzles, pattern beads or animals, colored magnetic shapes, magnetic poetry word sets, etc.
c. Gather or bag a few healthy snacks.
Step 3: Fill the notebook dividers
Usually I do this without the child so the actual activities are a surprise. Since the child has helped pick the books this usually works fine.
a. Each divider should hold one activity with everything needed. [Ex: a single maze page and a pencil or a color-by-number page WITH crayons or pencils]
b. Mix up sitting activities [like mazes, codes, worksheets, etc.] with more manipulative activities [like tangram puzzles, bead pattern activities etc.]
c. Surprise the child with a divider that includes a healthy snack treat. If it is a bulky or refrigerated snack [like some carrots, pretzels, applesauce cups, etc.], take a photo of the child reaching in the refrigerator or cupboard and getting one and put the picture in the divider. Just remind the child that if they see that picture they can do what the picture shows.
You are ready! Put the filled Quiet Notebook in a specific place. Whenever your child uses it refill it, mixing in new activities each time so that it is always ready. Every once in a while check with the child to see which activities are favorites and try to always include one of those.
1. Take photos of your child doing some of the activities in different places [on the bed, on the floor, at a desk] to give the child ideas and encouragement.
2. Occasionally put a photo in the divider that shows the child playing with something that may not FIT in the divider but which they could use during quiet time. [Ex: photo of child on a Sit and Spin or building with blocks or playing with mini cars or toys].
3. If and when appropriate, fill one of the dividers with a photo of the child doing an independent activity outdoors. This could be as simple as doing the paper activity on a picnic table or something more specific like drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, working in the child's garden, or even jumping rope. There is no reason why quiet time choices can't also include active choices when feasible.
Note: Adaptations of this work well with children with autism spectrum concerns too. Let me know if you need more info.
Let us know--Try making and using a Quiet Notebook and let us know what works best for you and your kids! I know it takes some time to set it up, but once you have the stuff handy, it doesn't take long and it teaches an important skill.
For foster parents... Quiet Notebooks can be a wonderful tool. Sometimes when I had a phone call from the department I could just quickly handout the Notebooks and actually be able to finish the call without constant interruption from my kiddos. Foster children also have trouble with occupying themselves independently and you can start with just single activity notebooks, then go to two activities, then three, etc. as you build up their attention span and independence.