Using Timers To Keep Kids Focused

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Photo by barbourians

I’ve talked about using timers before (see A Really Easy Way To Get Going On Any Task and The Power of 15 Minutes). Mostly it is to get me going, or keep me going on a task. But there are other ways that I use timers that allow me to focus on something else, yet still accomplish the task at hand..

You can use this type of timing to help keep your child on track as well.

Getting Started On Homework

When my daughter gets home from school, I like to give her a little break before she starts in on her homework. She is still not skilled in checking a watch, particularly if she is having fun. Unfortunately, if I am not on top of her play time, 30 minutes of playing turns into two hours. So I set a timer so that I know when to call her in.

This method works well because my daughter knows the timer is not speeding up or slowing down, and seems less arbitrary than me telling her without prompting

Music Practice

My daughter, like me, tends to skimp on music practice. Her piano teacher wants her to do certain repetitions of songs, but not to exceed 30 minutes in any given sitting of practice. So we set the timer, and she practicies her repetitions, knowing that her practicing cannot go beyond 30 minutes.

This method works, because the amount of practicing seems to her like hours and hours. So knowing that the timer will go off when she is supposed to quit, she practices and concentrates on repetitions. She has never reached 30 minutes yet, so it takes on aspect of practice out of the equation: clock watching.

Household Chores

I have used the timer to get me started on household chores. By telling myself I only had to clean for 15 minutes, I was more willing to get started than without a time limit. The same method works for my daughter. When I tell her she just has to clean for 10 minutes, she usually doesn’t argue, and we are both happy with the amount she can get done in that short of time.

This method works because we know that there is an end to the task, even if the task is not done, so we work as we can.

Limiting Time Sucks

My daughter is even more prone to time sucks on the computer than I am. Build-A-Bear Workshop and Webkinz are the two big ones for her. By setting a timer on the computer, we are able to measure how much time she can spend on a program.

This method works because it allows a timer to pop up in front of her current window, reminding her that she needs to stop and get on with her other tasks. (It works for me, too!)

Using a timer can be just as useful to help keep children on track as it is to help ourselves. Do you use timers with children? Share below.

Photo by barbourians


  1. says

    Have you noticed that your kids don’t reckon time the same way you do? I did and started using a timer to help them get a feel for how long 5 minutes FELT.

    The timer made a game and a competitive event of daily chores. Could they beat their best time and still do the job well? Could they beat their siblings (handicapped for age differences)?

    Just last week I put myself on the clock with several stacks of the file-defying clutter stacked on the console in my office. The timer forces quick decision making and action. No reward like a cup of tea or lunch break until the pile is gone. Works every time.

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    Kelly Grace

    • LJ Earnest says

      I’ve noticed my daughter has the same warped sense of time I have, but even worse. For instance, I was sure I couldn’t clear a mess in 15 minutes…she was sure she couldn’t clear a similar mess in an hour. In reality, it took each of us 10 minutes.

      I love using a timer to plow through my tasks. I am amazed, every time, the progress I make on tasks that seem insurmountable. :) I like the idea of a race. It inspires us to move faster and do better.

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