Time is an abstract for little ones. If you’re having trouble getting your little one to understand a 5 minute warning, use a sand timer to help give a concrete visual. When it’s time to get their shoes on, give them a choice, beat the timer or you will help. When it’s time to turn the TV off, tell them they have till the timer runs out and then you will turn it off.
Young children don’t have number sense so watching or listening to numbers just confuses them. Time is also abstract so when you give the young ones something to watch like a sand timer it helps build time concepts.
Here are a three recommendations that work really well with young kids:
Visual Animal Timer: It takes time for kids to learn what the number 5, 10 and other numbers look like so this timer is great in that it has animals connected to it. The cat at 5 minutes is likely your most popular one when you’re trying to do quick tasks such as you have 5 minutes to clean up. But when you’re doing bedtime routine, or watching Tv, maybe the dog at 25 minutes is the time. You can even have the children set it on their own and then watch the red visual count down towards the 0. At a size of 3 inches makes this an easy timer to carry in the car or to someone’s house as needed. The faster animals are closer to the 0, while the slower animals are higher numbers. I used to use a timer even at a restaurant in terms of how long I had my son wait to use a technology device. I preferred to engage him in conversation or coloring for a while to build some self-regulation (waiting) skills. With a timer like this you could even talk about the animals and their speeds.
These hourglass timers are the most concrete timer of them all. Highly recommend this one for the younger ones that need to physically see the sand disappear to understand what the concept of 3, 5 or 10 minutes really is. What’s great about this set is the time is associated with the color so as they get used to the timers and follow directions such as clean up, or go get your shoes, or brush your teeth, you could eventually stop using the timer and just say “Brush your teeth for as long as the blue colored sand would take.”
This red timer comes in your choice of blue, green or red and helps countdown minutes similar to the animal one. This one just has numbers so can help keep you and your child focused on the task at hand. For example, if it’s 5 minutes till clean up time. Your child wouldn’t be distracted by animals like they might in the first one.