Timers are an excellent way to motivate your child or student(s) to complete tasks and follow directions.

Recommendations for Timer Use

Some children have difficulty working for prolonged periods of time without a break. They may get frustrated or mentally drained. I have seen children start to look around, talk, and play with items during prolonged periods of homework or classwork. This often leads to an adult telling them to get back to work before they are mentally ready. Sometimes the child becomes resistant and refuses to get back to work. Other times they will make statements such as “I am too tired.” “It is too hard.” “I am bored.” or “I don’t care about this.” If they do get back to work, they may work slowly, rush through the assignment, or not put forth their best effort.

So how can timers help?

1. Tell your child that they need to complete a certain amount of work and allow them to work towards a break.

For example, if your child is given 20 math problems for homework, you can say, “Complete the first ten problems and then take a five minute break to do something of your choice. Then do the next ten problems.” During the break, set the timer for five minutes and make sure the child can see it so they know exactly how much time the have left.

This is a great method for encouraging work completion because children like to work towards something fun. Many children also need a mental break and will work more effectively when they have the opportunity to take one. Using a timer takes the ownership away from the parent or teacher. The adult is not arbitrarily telling the child that the break is over. The timer dictates the length of the break. This leads to less resistance from the child.

If you are doing an open ended activity, such as studying or practicing an academic skill, try setting the timer for 10 minutes and saying something like “we will practice for ten minutes, take a five minute break to do something of your choice, and practice for another 10 minutes.” In this case you would use the timer to let the child know how long the practice/study session will last and how long the break will last. Some children need suggestions for the break (e.g., when you take your break do you want to draw or play a game on the computer). If you are offering suggestions, pick things that you know your child would want to work towards. You can adapt the number of minutes as some children can work for longer periods, some need to work for shorter periods, and some benefit from longer or shorter breaks. Work with your child/student to see how much time works best for him/her.

2. Some children benefit from timer games.

Some children are very easily distracted during tasks like getting dressed or copying down their spelling words. The child may look around, talk, or play with items rather than getting the task done. If the child is able to do the task competently but gets easily distracted, he/she may benefit from a “timer game.” Try it out to see if it benefits your child/student. For instance, you can tell your child that if she completes the task of copying down her spelling words before the timer goes off, she can engage in an activity of her choice when she is done working. You may want to time the fun activity she chooses if you want her to do something else afterwards (e.g., copy your spelling words before the timer goes off, play on the computer for 20 minutes, get ready for bed). If “timer games” make your child anxious there are other methods which may be successful. Not every strategy works for every child.

3. Use timers to facilitate transitions from one activity to the next.

Has your child ever resisted when you told him to put his toys away, get off the computer, or turn off the television? Young children or children with disabilities such as autism often have difficulty breaking away from something enjoyable when not prepared that their fun time is coming to an end. Using a timer is a great way to prepare your child for these situations. For example, you can set the timer and say “In five minutes turn off the computer and start your homework.”

Timers can also be used to encourage children to complete household chores such as dishes, putting toys away, and cleaning their rooms. Use the same strategies given above and apply them to household chores.

Teachers can also use timers in their classrooms with individual students or the whole class to encourage classwork completion, again using the same strategies described above.

It is important to note that some children do not have a concept of time or numbers. For these children visual timers work best. Try a red clock visual timer, as shown below.



With a red clock visual timer, children can see time running out as the red disappears.

For another visual timer option, try sand timers such as the ones shown below.



All of this great information came from: http://www.educationandbehavior.com