How can a timer help with my child’s behaviour?

Timers work very well for lots of children as they support organisation, time management and also can reduce anxiety as the child knows when one thing will end, and what to expect next. Some effective uses are:

  • Timing of an activity that the child is only going to have for a short time, e.g. screen time, ensuring the child does not get too caught up in a preferred activity
  • Giving your child notice that a change or transition is coming, e.g. ‘Justin, five minutes of playtime left. When the timer goes, we are putting the toys away and getting ready for dinner.’  Depending on your child’s character, they may benefit from a longer time frame, e.g. 10 minutes, then a five then a two minute reminder etc. Sometimes counting from 10 backwards to zero also helps with the final stopping of the activity. 
  • Using the timer to encourage engagement and motivation, e.g. ‘I think we can get this all cleaned up in two minutes. I’ll set the timer…let’s go!’

Remember to use descriptive praise and positive reinforcement when the child cooperates and follows the prompts, making positive comments that describe what they are doing. ‘You’re doing a great job putting your lego carefully back on the shelf.’ ‘Thank you for listening and stopping the activity when the timer went, now we can enjoy our dinner together.’

For some children, timers may be a cause of stress, but there are things parents can do to ease this. See Sue Larkey’s Top Tips for Using Timers for more help and ideas. 

Have any questions?

Have questions about the content of this blog post or need further insights? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris! Your curiosity and feedback are always welcome.