Using a Timer to Cue Transition
One of the most common day-to-day frustrations for many parents is when it’s time for your child to stop doing something that they love (e.g., playing with toys) and start doing something that they don’t love (e.g., brushing teeth).
When our daughter was pretty young (less than 2 years old), we introduced the proactive strategy of using a timer to help cue her that one activity would be ending, and another one would be beginning.
These proactive strategies to help our kids be more successful are invaluable additions to your parenting toolkit (Read: Preparation is the Key to Success).
One of the most common frustrations for many parents is when it’s time for your child to stop doing something that they love and start doing something that they don’t love.
I have a few friends that actually had pretty strong opinions about the use of the timer; it was too strict, too structured, too inflexible. And though I’ve learned to keep my parenting opinions to myself (unless asked), I think that those takes on the timer are mistaken.
Here are three benefits to using a timer to signal your child's transition from preferred to non-preferred tasks:
- Our kids tend to be more successful when there is some warning of change, rather than an abrupt change just happening without notice (Actually, don’t we all do better in those circumstances)? Using a timer allows us to provide that warning, giving advanced notice of an upcoming change.
- A timer presents a visual representation of time passing; a completely abstract concept that is very difficult to comprehend (especially for young kids). Watching as a timer gradually counts down, there is visual feedback regarding how much time there is remaining. It allows your child to “wrap up” the activity and have closure before moving on.
- Flexibility can be incorporated so that a timer doesn’t have to be seen as a strict, inflexible tool. Teach your child that when the timer rings, they can always politely request more time, and that sometimes they can have it; but other times, it won’t be given.
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