In our home, 4:30-5:30 is the witching hour. It's far enough past nap time where Titus is bored and a little tired again and usually is begging to watch his "puppet show" as he is craving down time. Everyone starts crying all at once. Cecie is hungry, Titus is cranky, I'm hormonal and Harley (our Morkie) sees a squirrel out the back door. It's chaos and I begin praying that my husband will somehow invent teleporting and get his Vulcan ass home.
Then, a couple weeks ago (well, I heard of it before but got smart a couple weeks ago), I discovered something that can change the rest of our days. A magical activity that can perform miracles like changing the course of an afternoon or settling the inner monster of a toddler. What is this sorcery, you ask? BLANKET TIME.
This is a life saver. I started this with Titus at 18 months. Many start sooner, but it just took me that long to find a blanket. Seriously, put it off because I couldn't find the PERFECT blanket. Please ignore how ridiculous I was about the fudging blanket while I tell you about "Blanket Time" --
What is it?
"Blanket Time" is a designated time where your toddler/child sits still on a special "Blanket Time" blanket and plays quietly. The goal is that they learn that they have to play quietly and stay on the blanket until you say so no matter where the blanket is (at your home, at your in-laws, at church, at the doctor's office, etc).
What will you Need?
First, get a blanket that you will designate for "Blanket Time." I couldn't find one I liked at a price I wanted to pay that was the size I wanted, so I ordered a yard of sweatshirt fabric from Girl Charlee (most awesome place for fabric BTW), folded it in half and had my mom use her serger to sew up the edges. Yes, I had my mom do it. I'm not one of those crafty moms. No time for that shiz. It's 3'x3'. I feel this is the perfect amount of space for them to play while not being too intrusive for anyone else.
Second, get some quiet play toys that are age appropriate that you can set aside just for blanket time (this gives them something to look forward to). Titus is 18 months and I have a couple board books, stacking cups, a shape sorter and an old parmesan cheese shaker that he puts straws in (I'll tell you more about that later).
Third, get a toddler or just use the one you already have.
How does it work?
Start off small. Focus on spending 5-10 minutes at a time practicing sitting quietly on the blanket.
If they try to get off the blanket, pick them up and set them back on the blanket and happily tell them, "it's blanket time." Be very persistent in this so they can get used to sitting on the blanket. If Titus throws his toys off the blanket, I take them away until the next "blanket time."
If they talk, explain to them that they must be quiet. At 18 months, Titus doesn't understand "be quiet" so I try to model it for him by saying "shhhh" and spending the time being quiet myself and not responding verbally to him. I will nod and give him eye contact and smile, but will not talk to him except to say "time to be quiet."
Do this every day. The goal is that they will get used to it and you will be able to use this as a time inside and outside your home to create easy and comfortable boundaries for those energetic little people who normally run at a mile a minute. We do a half hour at a time. I have a friend with a three year old who does up to an hour and a half at a time depending on where they are.
We have been doing this for several weeks now. We still have days where Titus wants to get off the Blanket, but for the most part he can stay on there for up to 30 minutes. I have seen a huge difference in his attitude since starting this. He is more happy and focused. I feel like he may have been getting overwhelmed with all his free play time I was giving him and he was needing boundaries for just a little bit. I can tell when he's tired, he'll go to the closet where we keep his "Blanket Time" bag and ask for "Be te." Some kids take longer to get used to it, but keep at it! It is SOOOO worth it.