There is a small kitchen appliance which can be purchased for under $10 that is a must have in an arsenal of parental tools. It comes in many colors and cute shapes. Because of its size it can be carried and used in other rooms also. I bet you have one, but are you fully using it?
I am talking about a timer. Yes, it is useful when cooking a pan of brownies for 28-36 minutes or perfectly soft chocolate chip cookies for 8 minutes. But it can also be used for many other things such as sharing, discipline, motivation, diligence, and reminders.
Are two or more children fighting over the same item, which doesn’t belong to any one of them? One option would be to enter the craziness and try to sort it out. Another option would be to confiscate the offensive item and everyone will be unhappy. A third and better option is to use the timer to measure and limit each person’s turn with fairness and equality. No one can/should argue with an objective, “ding, you turn is over.” Now the only argument is who gets the first turn. Roll the die.
Using a timer is much more reliable than using me to remember to tell a child that time is up. My attention cannot be relied upon to always be fair and equal when it comes to taking turns. Sometimes it is also helpful to not directly be the one who ends someone’s fun. It is better to be upset with an impersonal timer than with Mom or Dad.
The timer is also useful for helping children stay on task with homework or chores. Challenge them to beat the timer by accomplishing a portion or the whole task before a set amount of time. Many children will find some fun in this challenge making the task easier.
Have you ever sent a child to “time-out” and while enjoying the peaceful atmosphere conveniently forgotten to release them? I have. Setting the timer lets the child know there will be end to their isolation and holds you accountable too.
Some activities should be limited such as screen time and chores. Yes, both. The timer is helpful with both of these. Many children will cheerfully work with you on a task if the timer is set and it is a race to see how much can be done together before it rings. I often told my children their rooms would stay in decent condition if they would spend only 10 minutes every day picking up.
Because timers can be found in all shapes and sizes, why not get one for each child that matches their interests or which they think would be fun to use. In just a few minutes on amazon, and I found not only a huge variety of digital and classic timers, but also timers in the following shapes; pig, ladybug, penguin, hen, rooster, tomato, carrot, egg, lemon, pineapple, cow, ice cream cone, hamburger, Christmas tree, snowman, Campbell’s soup can, robots in 3 colors, a time bomb, a chef, a granny and R2D2.