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Visual Timers to Ease Summer Homework

Age: 8+

Learning Tool

When I started working in the autism world as a PCA (Personal Care Assistant) I remember being shown visual timers. This timer came in really handy when we would request the children to do a task they disliked. Usually, it was picking up toys, or brushing teeth, or even “time outs.” When you think about it time is a hard concept to grasp and if you can have a visual instead that can help children understand and feel more in control of the situation. It can help them feel confident the task will end. Does this solve all the problems in the world? No, not even close but I remember it being an amazing tool that I still love to use.

Why am I bringing this up?! Summer is usually a time were parents request their children to read or work on math skills. Now, we just finished up a school year at home and I think everyone is a little bit scarred. Maybe homeschooling was great but some might be shy about starting this battle of getting your children to practice there reading or math skills. So here is a tool you can try out.

Give them options but not too many options. If you want your child to read for 30 minutes a day and you know they dislike it try breaking it if possible. Have them do 3 ten minute stunts or 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. You might not have that time to sit there with them the whole time so having that visual timer helps not only you but your children too.

Keep in mind you know when your kids are having an off or hard day. On those days cut the time down or if possible read with them or sit with them as a supporter. They read then you read. I have dyslexia and let me tell you I have tools upon tools of ways to read with your children. My mom was an amazingly strong woman who stuck with me through the tears, tantrums, and frustrating moments. She found different tools, tutors, and tried I think everything in the book. I am almost certain she could have written a book by the end of it. But back to the timer.

Things to think about with the timer. One reason this timer works well is that you are upholding an unspoken contract that they will be finished with the task once the timer is up. Honor this even if the task such as a math sheet or a chapter is not finished. You are creating trust in this tool.

Now, I can hear some of you thinking but they need to finish. Yep, I wholeheartedly agree! Here is how I navigate these situations. I am going to make up a child’s name to make this easier. Ruby still has three more math problems to finish on her math sheet but the timer has gone off. She lets you know. You can say, “Wow, great job. It looks like we still have three more problems left. Would you like to take a break and come back to this in ten minutes or would you like to finish up these last few problems? You pick!” Now, let me tell you why this works. This works because you are acknowledging the timer contract. You are also letting them know that they will still need to finish up the work they have left. Next, you are giving them a choice to make which makes them feel they have more control over the situation. They can check in with themselves and decided what feels right for them. I also, like this because when I call Ruby back to finish up if she starts to fuss I reminder her that she made the choice. This is done in a fun way. “I know it you don’t want to come back. You had a great break and after you finish you up math you can X.” You are acknowledging how they are feeling but also still sticking to the amended contract. They decided to come back after there break.

If you notice them fuss in these moments of transitioning back to the task set the timer for there break. You can verbally tell them, “okay I am setting the timer for ten minutes and then you can come back to finish up!” Again you are honoring there break (they know you won’t cut the time short) and keeping up with the new contract that they chose.

Once they are back at the table you can give them words of encouragement. You can decide if you want to set the timer again or just have them finish up. It is up to you. Feel it out. Some children will just finish up the math without too much fuss and others I would set the timer, again. Note: I will make sure to give them more time than needed for this second round so they beat the timer. I don’t want to draw out this whole homework thing because we don’t have all day. Plus, coming back to it again is just another item for you as a parent to remember.

I hope this helps with your homeschooling. The app I found the easiest to use was Time Timer app. It allows you to create as many different timers as needed. You can even label them and change the color of the timer. I recommend this for more children who are 8+. I have a different timer I like better with younger children. Look for a blog post about that coming soon!

One note about visual timers, some have a ticking sound. Pay attention to this sound and the way your children react. For some, it is distracting and for others, I have noticed their anxiety rises. They act more stressed and have this need to try and get done too fast. You can either turn down the sound or mute the noise. With this app, you can also choose the end tone. It can be applause, truck horn, robot, the game over sound, explosion, dog breaking, or a bell. It can be fun and not startling. I really enjoy the game over and the applause sounds. I really enjoy the customization especially if you have more then one child who is working. This Time Timer app works on iPhone and iPads for sure. You will have to let me know if it works for androids too! Here is what the Timer Timer looks like. I love visuals so I thought I would help give you all a full visual timer experience.

As Miss Frizzle always says, “Take change, make mistakes, and get messy!”


As always feel free to tag me in your adventures. I would love to see how timers work for your family! Tag me on Facebook or Instagram @intuitivedesignsmc

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