Everything You Need To Know About Quiet Books

Are you a parent keen on veering your little one away from gadgets, while keeping her meaningfully occupied? Quiet books could be the solution you have been looking for. Find out how to make one!

By Sahana Charan

Everything You Need To Know About Quiet Books

Years ago, while exchanging notes on motherhood, a young, hassled mother told me: 

“It’s only in the dead of night that I can truly be alone with my thoughts, as it seems unthinkable to enjoy some quiet time when you have toddlers at home.”

Many parents, especially mothers, may find this situation familiar, considering our children make up the centre of our universe. As much as it is a challenge to balance work and life, and to keep our little ones engaged in interesting activities, a simple solution can sometimes turn out to be a boon.

Quiet books can be a part of that solution.

Childhood is a time to explore, learn through play and do exciting things using all the senses. In an era, when babies and toddlers are hooked on to mobile phones and tablets before they can say “mama,” a quiet book not only helps in building developmental skills, it also keeps children away from the repercussions of using gadgets.

Who would know better than mother-of-two Nabeela Mahboob? Not one to be tempted to offer her children gadgets to keep them occupied, she wanted playthings that could not be torn or broken by her enthusiastic toddlers, unlike regular books or toys. Nabeela’s online research led her to a Facebook post on quiet books. But after enquiries, she found that it was not within her budget.

Being a craftsperson herself, Nabeela decided to make a quiet book for her then 2.5-year-old. It turned out to be one of the best learning tools for her little one and it was also a lot of fun.

“I decided to make my own quiet book so that I could incorporate activities that interest my daughter. I fashioned it like a story. Every page depicted a different phase of that story— a little house with a girl about my daughter’s age, who goes through various activities inside the house as well as the outdoors. The activities involve sorting and styling clothes in different combinations and colours from a closet, picking and counting apples, tying shoelaces, doing laundry and going to bed in pyjamas. I used cotton fabric and felt for the needlework, buttons, lace and foam shapes for the detailing,” explains Nabeela.

She adds that the compact nature of the quiet book made it easy for her to carry it around and it kept her daughter engaged in unfamiliar places.

Her children, now four and three years old, are both enjoying the benefits of quiet books.

So, what is a quiet book?

Is it a toy, a book or a learning tool? Actually, it’s a bit of everything and more. Here are a few interesting things to know about quiet books.

  • A quiet book is a soft, fabric-based book, which has soft pages with different activities for children.
  • It is also known as a busy book or silent/activity book.
  • Quiet books are aimed at keeping children entertained, ‘quiet’ and ‘busy’.
  • Every activity in a quiet book is focussed on developing a particular skill.
  • It is ideal for children aged between six months and six years.
  • These books are especially helpful when you are in a place, where you need your little ones to stay silent or engrossed, for e.g. at a temple or church, in a hospital or while travelling.
  • Quiet books are made of fabric (mostly felt), and thus they are comfortable and safe for children, and quite sturdy too so, they do not get crumpled or torn like regular books.
  • Quiet books have brightly-coloured pages with a variety of elements and removable pieces that attract children.

Advantages of quiet books

The advantages of quiet books are that they are more fluid and flexible, compared to conventional books or toys. They allow children to play as they want — by touching and feeling and do not do the work for them. If you are creative, you can make a quiet book at home according to your child’s interests and needs. What’s more, you can add and remove pages as your child grows.

The popularity of quiet books has been gaining momentum. There are readymade quiet books available in the market from both local and international brands. Yet, young mothers who are looking for novel experiences for their babies and toddlers, prefer to do extensive research and create unique quiet books for their little ones. Here, is a story from a mother.

A mother’s experience...

Muddy Puddle, a quiet/busy book company created by Prathiba was born out of such a necessity. Five years ago, the young mother was looking for toys on the Internet that would allow her seven-month-old to explore and learn on his own.

“With electronic toys, there is not much scope for learning. Then, I came across busy books on the Internet but in those days, they were not very common in India. So, I decided to make my own after a lot of research on materials and activities. When I posted photos of the book online, I received many enquiries and requests from moms who wanted similar books for their children,” says Prathiba. 

That’s how Muddy Puddle was launched.

And the advantages were manifold. “It was a great help to have a quiet/busy book while travelling or when I took my son to the hospital. He would be engrossed with a quiet book for at least 45 minutes at a stretch, and no other toy could do that.”

Prathiba has designed quiet books on a range of topics including vehicles, animals, numbers, festivals like Christmas, farm, forest, planets and so on. The books are washable and eco-friendly, and harmless even if children put them in the mouth.

“The idea was to counter the dependency on digital media. Quiet books are able to stimulate the sensory organs and promote cognitive learning. Our books are also in line with Montessori learning,” says Prathiba.

Benefits of quiet books for children

Dr Prashanth Gowda, Consultant, Paediatrics and Neonatology at Motherhood Hospitals, says when babies engage with mobiles and tablets, the colourful and moving visuals lead to prolonged use and addiction, further causing eye problems and attention issues. This does not happen with quiet books.

“We recommend parents to get quiet books for children in the ages of six months to three years, as their minds are not mature enough to avoid gadget addiction. These books will help in cognitive learning and development of motor skills. Even for older children, quiet books can be used by teachers to facilitate learning by engaging them creatively in interesting activities,” Dr Gowda adds.

Quiet books—

  • Foster learning and independent play while nurturing your child’s imagination and creativity.
  • Teach basic life skills such as tying shoelaces, brushing teeth, washing and having a bath, making a braid or buttoning a shirt.
  • Help develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Develop your baby’s object recognition and problem-solving skills.
  • Promote logical thinking and memory building.
  • Teach maths skills, sorting and matching, spelling and alphabets, shapes and colours.
  • Improve attention and concentration.

Priya Ravishankar, founder of Cubs and Calves, a manufacturer of beautifully handcrafted quiet books, says that the learning and play possibilities with quiet books are immense and manifold.

"A quiet book is like a trunk full of toys, yet convenient, aesthetic, easy to carry around and lightweight. It provides children with many opportunities to play and learn on their own — gripping the small pieces in the book, sticking them with Velcro and trying to manoeuvre things like finger puppets builds their fine motor skills; working with alphabets teaches language; when they take out all the different pieces from the book it promotes open-ended play; and quiet books that have activities related to daily life allows pretend play."

Priya adds that the Cubs and Calves quiet books are made with eco-friendly fabric and are in line with the concepts promoted by early learning specialists and child therapists.

"Our aim is to give parents and children the choice of active and joyful learning, where the quiet book does 10 per cent of the work while allowing the child to do 90 per cent of the work."

To sum up from the different inputs from quiet book enthusiasts, the different uses of quiet books are as follows:

  1. Keeps children engaged while visiting public places such as hospitals, airports and train stations.
  2. Makes a good travel companion and helps entertain children during long journeys.
  3. Serves as a decorative item and can charm any room.
  4. Can be passed on from one sibling to the other and preserved as a family heirloom.
  5. Makes a thoughtful gift for children.

How to make a quiet book?

It takes a lot of patience and creative skills to make a quiet/busy book. So, only if you have a flair for the artistic and are good at crafts, should you take up such a project. The difficulty level of creating a quiet book will depend upon what kind of book you want to make for your little one.

The following video will give you a quick idea on how a quiet book is made:

Here are some things to keep in mind before making quiet books:

1. Browse the Internet and social media to draw inspiration to craft your quiet book— you can gather a lot of ideas and improvise it on the go, to suit your child’s age and interest.

2. Choose a theme for quiet books based on your child’s interest—it can be cars or aeroplanes; playing house; nature and its bounty; animals and birds; sea life; festivals and celebrations; fruits and vegetables; puzzles and board games or based on a particular country or city.

3. Make a plan for your quiet book—what the pages will contain, what type of activities you want to put in, what elements you want to use. Write up these things and come up with a rough idea for the different pages.

4. Get the supplies—decide what materials you want to use and based on that you can collect all the things that will go into making the quiet book.

5. For children less than three years, ensure you do not use pieces that may be a choking hazard.

Materials required for quiet books:

  • Felt is the most common fabric used
  • You can also use cotton fabric
  • Wool and cotton thread for sewing
  • Buttons from old garments
  • Pom-poms and elastic
  • Velcro for removable pieces and
  • Glue to stick the pages or other accessories.

Whether you make your own quiet book or buy a busy book for your child, the idea of investing in one will definitely pay off in the long run. It will not only keep your little one engrossed for hours but will also free up some of your time.

About the author:

Written by Sahana Charan on 09 October 2019.

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