The magic of the sand timer

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The magic of a sand timer. Something so simple and yet so capable of engaging and serving as a meaningful support for children. Here are just a few ideas.

1) Use timers to signify transitions. This can be done at home and not just at school. For example, “Adam, I see you are having a lot of fun. I need to let you know though that we have five more minutes before it’s time to clean up the Legos to get ready for bed. I am setting the timer right here so you can see how much time you have left.”

2) Use them for turn taking. So you have two children screaming over a jump rope that neither one has cared about for a year? Set the timer and allow them to take turns. Teaching the children how to use the sand timer is fantastic because they can then use it themselves. Have multiple timers available (1 minute, 3 minute, 5 minute, etc). “Okay Abby, you need to give Sam a turn next. Do you want to give Sam a turn in three or five minutes?” It’s amazing how suddenly the concept of time is more grasping and a child can go from kicking and screaming to watching the timer intently while waiting or even engage in another activity while waiting (while occasionally checking the timer).

3) Use timers to help children gain capacity to pay attention and stay engaged in activities longer. “We will do homework for ____ number of minutes before taking a break today. Tomorrow we will see if we can do ten minutes!” Children see this as a game often and will sometimes even ask to engage in undesired activities longer just for the challenge.

4) Speed things up. Everyone has had the time when a child is dragging out an activity or task, whether that be defiantly, tiredly, or in a completely withdrawn I’d-rather-be-doing-anything-but-this way. The timer is great to make a game out of seemingly “less fun” tasks. “Let’s set the timer and see if we can beat it together while cleaning up this mess!” And don’t forget to have fun too. 😉

Timers help children feel they have some understanding and control over their environments. Remember that timers are best when kids can be in charge of them too! Let them self utilize timers to remind themselves of transitions, take turns, etc. So take the timers out of the “time-out” area and get some real use of them during kids’ “time in.”

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