Kitchen timer: Multi-purpose tool of the gods!

Amazon: Cook-Rite 60-Minute Quartz Timer, White We've talked before about how helpful a timer can be in all sorts of parenting situations. I really liked the way Katy (author of Adventures in Parenting) expanded on the  examples, so I thought it would be a great time to revisit the topic.  We find the homework routine hard to resume after the holiday break, and our timer has been ticking nonstop.

"Go to your room!"
"Do your homework!"
"Clean your room!"

To a child, these commands seem like life sentences. Because children do not have an accurate perception of elapsed time, they think the tasks will take forever. They do not understand that 15 minutes is not a lot of time.

Enter the timer – the old-fashioned wind up ticking kind, not the digital type.

The timer has become a vital part of my family routine. It helps my children to organize their time, to get their work done, and to learn the value of time. The best of all: it has *replaced my yelling.*

As a work tool
I set the timer for 15 minutes for my children to clean their rooms. If I see them cleaning their rooms diligently for the entire 15 minutes, then they can have their free time. I am there cleaning alongside them to do the harder work that they cannot do, such as wiping the blinds. This method gets me motivated to do some necessary cleaning, too.

When they see and hear the timer ticking and they know there is a definite start and end time, and they are motivated to get going on their chore. If they lose focus and begin to play, I increase the time by 1 minute.

If they whine, "Can I stop now?" I do not yell. I merely point to the ticking Timer.

As a play tool
I set the timer for 30 minutes of computer time. The children can gauge how much time to spend on their favorite sites so they don't get caught half-way into a game or something. When the Timer goes off – DING! – it's time to get off the computer. If the children continue playing, those minutes will be taken off their computer time during their next free time.

If they ask, "How much more time do I have?" I do not have to yell. I merely point to the timer.

(Just as a side note, I do not limit my children's computer time if they are using it for schoolwork or other learning functions. And I use this method for myself so I don't end up on computer all day either!)

As a behavior tool
When my children begin to fight, I do not yell at them nor do I listen to their accusations about who started it. I merely set the timer for 5 minutes time-out. Each child goes to a different room in the house and they stay away from each other for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off – DING! – they can go back to what they were doing before.

If they scream, "Can I come out now?" I do not yell. I merely point to the timer.

If the quarrel was something serious, they've cooled off enough in 5 minutes so we can discuss the issue calmy. If it is just the usual bickering, 5 minutes is enough to halt the battle, and it usually doesn't resume.

You can use the timer for just about anything – time your stay at the toy store to play with the toys, time the amount of time doing their homework before taking a break, time the amount of time to soak in the bathtub, etc.

I go everywhere with my timer. This tool has saved me a lot of aggravation.

Amen. We use the time as a turn-taking tool, as a reminder to get out of the shower, as video/TV/computer time monitor, and as a tool for teaching our kids about how the passage of time feels. My 8 YO son still has a hard time knowing the difference between 5 and 20 and 60 minutes, so it helps to give him some sort of scale by which to measure in his mind.

How do you use your timer?

Related:
Use a timer to announce transition times
Set the timer to help antsy homeworkers stay in their seats
Cell phone alarm helps announce transition times

Comments

  1. says

    If Fuller gets to needy and we are trying to get some work done (anything from work-work to laundry folding), we set the timer for ourselves telling him, “When the timer goes off then Mommy/ Daddy will be able to play with you.” He knows we will be there when it goes off, so he is content to play by himself until the buzzing starts. Then he is quick to remind us it is time for us to play with him.

  2. mama2etc says

    Every Friday evening, I set the timer for 15 minutes, and all five of us (me, hubs, 13yo, 8yo and 4yo) run around setting the house to rights after our busy week. Usually 15 minutes is enough to tidy up the whole house if we all work together. Then, we are free to enjoy our weekend, and I can wake up Saturday morning to a clean house!

  3. Zed says

    I’m in the market for a new timer for the kids (6, 4, 1). Any opinions on the “Learning Resources Time Tracker” vs. the “Visual Time Timer”? Both are in the Parent Hacks store. Thanks.

  4. says

    I have three timers in my daycare. One is by the potty – to remind me that it has been an hour since my potty training child has tried to go, another is by the computer and the third one is near the back door so that we can take it outside for turn taking on the swings.

  5. says

    My 4.5 year old used to take forEVER to get dressed in the morning. We’d beg, plead and yell and he’d take his sweet time, stopping to play with toys, read a book, or just lay on the floor. We’d set the timer for a reasonable period of time, and if he beat the timer, he got a reward – usually a coin. Getting himself dressed in the morning really helps get out of the house in a more timely manner.

    Now he has a 14 month old baby brother and he likes to race him to see who can get dressed first. Since the baby has a diaper and is in that wonderful stage of trying to run away while I’m putting on his pants, the older one usually wins. And on the rare occasion he doesn’t, he learns that you don’t always get to win.

    We do use a digital timer for computer time. He can look at the clock to see how many minutes he as left.

  6. says

    What a great idea!! We have this timer link to kaboodle.com

    and it’s visual feature is great for us (we can glance over from across the room and see how much time is left, for cooking and for laundry) and I bet it will work for kids too! Our son is only one month old, but I use the timer thing with my students all the time. (Though they’re in 7th grade so I can just use the analogue clock in my time and that’s enough of a visual for them.)

  7. says

    What a great idea!! We have this timer link to kaboodle.com

    and it’s visual feature is great for us (we can glance over from across the room and see how much time is left, for cooking and for laundry) and I bet it will work for kids too! Our son is only one month old, but I use the timer thing with my students all the time. (Though they’re in 7th grade so I can just use the analogue clock in my room and that’s enough of a visual for them.)

  8. says

    We use the timer for teeth brushing, bath time, bed time, and MumMum’s work. Two minutes for teeth. On bath nights, as soon as he’s done with his teeth I set it for 20 minutes. He knows he has to run get changed as quick as he can so he can spend the longest time possible in the tub.

    He gets 10 minutes after he’s in his jams. He can read/have read as many stories as he wants, but at ten minutes, we’re done.

    Turtle is only 2 1/2, but the timer works great for him.

  9. jeffc says

    I gave my kids (2 & 4) plastic hourglass timers for Christmas. They got excited to have them but the irony is I use them for timeouts.

    I think the sand makes it even easier to grasp the concept of time. Plus its the timer, not me, that says its time to get out of the tub, etc.

  10. Alex says

    Flylady.net has this whole “you can do anything for 15 minutes” thing, and it does seem to be true. It’s a great site for getting clean/organized etc with kids. They sell a timer that has a vibrate setting, which is AWESOME for when I need it but don’t want to wake up a napping kid.

  11. says

    Just posted about this on my blog a few days back….timer used for getting the family to all sit at the table for dinner together. My kids are almost 4 and 2 so they don’t quite understand the idea of sitting, eating, chatting, etc.

  12. Tiffany says

    I LOVE this idea! It will be a huge help in the mornings for those dilly-dalliers. I will definitely be buying 2; I will label one for each child.

  13. Tiffany says

    I LOVE this idea! It will be a huge help in the mornings for those dilly-dalliers. I will definitely be buying 2; I will label one for each child.

  14. Tiffany says

    I LOVE this idea! It will be a huge help in the mornings for those dilly-dalliers. I will definitely be buying 2; I will label one for each child.

  15. Tiffany says

    I LOVE this idea! It will be a huge help in the mornings for those dilly-dalliers. I will definitely be buying 2; I will label one for each child.

  16. Tiffany says

    BLESS YOU FOR THIS HACK!! I only read it 2 days ago but began implementing it immediately. It’s working for nearly everything. The best thing is clean up time after school. I set the timer for 10 minutes and they both cleaned one bedroom. Then a “timed” 10 minute break. Then 10 minutes cleaning the other bedroom. They weren’t spotless, but they were much better. And allowing them to clean together helped them to motivate each other to get the job done! I can only say WOW! This is a real blessing for my home.

  17. says

    We have timers all over the house. We love them.

    We use a timer for “time until the meal is cleared from the table,” to prevent ignoring the call to a meal, and it has worked wonders. We also set it for “time until the car leaves for school” to cue the kids to get through toothbrushing and so on–we have only once had to throw a kid in the car coatless and bootless. (Don’t worry; we handed him these to put on himself.) Also, because our two kids are close in age (3 and 4) and giving up naps, we set a wind-up alarm clock for “quiet time” every day (during which they may sleep or play quietly): we set the alarm to ding so briefly that they sleep through it if sleeping but will hear it if awake and playing. Finally, we often time cleaning up: whatever is left on the floor when the timer goes “ding” gets put in a closet and given back at the next good clean-up.

  18. TDH says

    This is a great idea. I plan on going to buy some timers this weekend. I have used the microwave timer for sharing. I have a 3 and a 2 and if they start fighting over a toy I use the timer so that they learn to share. Whent he timer goes off, time to share with your sibling. Sometimes, if it gets ridulous, you can set the timer for 30 minutes and teh kids just forget about it by then. But the whining stops.

  19. says

    Thank you for this post. I am really searching for ways on how to implement upon my children the essence of time management. Thanks for this tip. It would surely work wonders with regards to my kids. Thanks again.:-)

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