Do you love quiet books but have no idea where to start? I was in the same boat as you a few years ago when my daughters were babies. But then I decided to just take the plunge and I started sewing my very first quiet book. Now, after five wonderful years of making quiet books for my own kids, friends and family, I am sharing with you the tips and tricks that I have picked up along the way.
So come on in, take a look at what I have been working on. Print off my free PDF patterns and get started. Making quiet books is so much easier when you have a template in front of you!
Hang on … but what is a quiet book anyway?
Quiet books ─ also often called busy books ─ are soft, interactive, touch and feel books made out of fabric, felt and other haberdashery supplies. Quiet books are designed to help little ones practise and learn new skills in a safe, engaging and nurturing way. A high quality quiet book for toddlers is one that is properly stitched using safe and sturdy materials. It has no little parts tearing up or breaking down or popping off under the play of curious little fingers. The best busy books are fun, stimulating and tailored to the child’s age and likes/dislikes. Above all – and I cannot stress this enough — a quiet book is safe for the age of the child.
When to use a quiet book
Quiet books, as the name implies, were originally designed to keep children quietly occupied for a length of time. In today’s day and age when everyone is aware of — and yet impassive towards — the harmful effects of mobile phones, quiet books offer young children a welcome respite from the cons of technology. For parents, this means peace of mind that their child is having a healthy and fun learning experience while they go about their urgent tasks.
Quiet books in busy public areas
For this reason, quiet books are best used in situations when the parents are near their child but occupied with other pressing things. These could be during everyday situations like waiting at the doctor’s office, airports and on airplanes. Quiet books are also excellent for keeping children occupied in private events where it is easy for little people to get bored and antsy.
What’s more … interactive quiet books pretty much always steal the show when other moms, dads and grandparents see your child sitting there quietly playing with his/her awesome handmade toy. It won’t be long before you have a string of people pressing up to you asking about where you got your quiet book from or how you made it. It really is quite the conversation starter!
Quiet books VS harmful tech
We all complain about kids watching too much television or being too eager to use smartphones. But we rarely have enough ideas on how to keep our kids occupied otherwise. This is where quiet books really step up their game, literally. They offer the perfect, healthy alternative to watching television or being glued to smartphones.
When a child uses a quiet book, s/he is engaging all of his/her senses. This ensures a wonderful, rich experience for your child as opposed to the numbing, dumbing effects of technology overload.
Quiet books during times of distress
One of the real values of quiet books is their huge potential as a source of comfort for children during times of distress. For example after a death in the family or during recovery after an accident or illness. At times like these, often the grownups are too involved in their own worries to fully address the fragile state of children’s minds.
Here, a quiet book’s soft fabrics, vibrant colors and interesting textures stimulate children’s senses and motor reflexes, distracting them from troubling thoughts and helping them focus on the pleasant sensations there are experiencing. And at least for those precious moments, children can rest assured that it is going to be okay.
What is the best age for using quiet books?
I’ll tell you a little story. Around the time when my Little Miss Z had just turned two, a friend of mine came across the phenomenon of quiet books on Pinterest and challenged me to make one. I accepted the challenge. The only thing I had ever sewn before this was a simple sewing machine cover from re-purposed jeans. I had little idea of how all the different settings on my sewing machine worked, much less how to make a quiet book!
Anyway, after ordering some materials on Ebay and salvaging some stuff from around the house, I set to work. It was a completely new experience, I had very little idea of what I was doing, but eventually, after many days of laborious work, I finally finished my quiet book – my very first quiet book!
Now, five years later when I look back at what I had created, I can see that it wasn’t a properly finished busy book at all. There were all sorts of cutting flaws and the sewing wasn’t anything to write home about either. But you know what? Little Miss Z who is now seven, still plays with it every few days! Best of all, Little Miss S who is now five, also has a whale of a time going in and out of the soft fuzzy pages. Here’s the clincher though: my quiet book is most popular among my girls when they are doing a shared activity in it together.
So if you are having any doubts, read this again: the same quiet book that I had created for my two-year-old baby is providing hours of fun every month to two kids of school-going age! These kids are a whole five years older y’all … and my quiet book is still going strong. If you’re thinking that all your hard work into making a quiet book for a little person in your life is only going to pay dividends for a few months, think again. A quiet book is not just for toddlers …. And it does not have to be restricted to a certain small window of time in a child’s life at all.
If you just take some time to plan ahead and think carefully about what you are going to put inside your quiet book, your labor of love will be played with for years. I think that’s well worth the effort, don’t you?
Why you should make a quiet book
If you’re toying with the idea of investing your time, energy and resources into making a quiet book but are unsure about taking the plunge, here are a few reasons why this is an awesome idea:
A quiet book is a gift that you can customize to no end, from the content matter and colors to the fabrics and sensory experiences that the child prefers.
A quiet book helps you get good at the basics of sewing. No fancy frills or pleats or embroidery hoops – you will just be using a few basic skills over and over again. By the time you complete your project, your skills will be honed to awesome levels.
A busy book gives the child a truly unique, engaging and sensory learning experience unlike any other medium.
Quiet books are a true labor of love, a handmade memory literally forever preserved in fabric and stitch.
A quiet book is a true legacy that can be passed down through generations. It is a true testament to your commitment to the craft. Nothing that you purchase from a shop or online store – not even Etsy – can match up to something that you have created yourself from scratch.
A finished quiet book is truly flawless ─ no matter how it is stitched or what technical blemishes it might have, it will still be absolutely, beautifully perfect because you saw it through to the end. Your journey itself from the rough sketch to the very last stitch has perfected your creation. Nothing else matters.
And here’s my favorite reason why you should make a quiet book: there will be no other busy book like yours in the entire world. No matter how many times you recreate the same pattern using the same fabrics and same threads, every single quiet book will be different from the next, just like every single child is different. Which is what makes your quiet book the only one of its kind in the entire universe.
Why you should not make a quiet book…
Enough about the whys. Here are some reasons why making a quiet book might not be for you
You have to make time (and love enough)
Making a quiet book is a time-consuming venture. The simpler ones can be finished from scratch within a week, investing a few hours every day. But the more complex quiet books can take weeks. You need to think about whether you are willing to make time for this project. (It helps to think about the child and how much you love him/her. If you love the child enough, your schedule will magically open up to make room for the quiet book’s preparation.)
You have to think creatively
A busy book requires some level of creative thinking. Nobody loves a monotonous or boring quiet book. To make it truly work, you need to plan ahead and think creatively about your colors, content, materials and the child who will be receiving it.
You must be willing to sew
I repeat: you must be willing to sew. Not already-know-how-to-sew or learn-how-to-sew-first. You just need be willing to sew on a basic sewing machine. You don’t have to already know everything, but you should be willing to sit at a sewing machine, thread it properly and sew on it.
Most of the times, you will only be using a simple straight stitch. Sometimes you might use a zigzag stitch. And that’s about it. It’s not difficult, but if you have never sewn before, you need to be willing to step beyond your comfort zone and go ahead and actually use a sewing machine.
A final word on quiet books
If you can say yes to the above three points, then there is every reason why you should go ahead and start planning a quiet book for the special child in your life. Finally, think about your journey this way: if you never start, you’ll never finish. What have you got to lose? Happy crafting!