Thursday, February 23, 2012

Preschool (and toddler) trick #1: timer transitions

One day while I was taking stock of what had worked or was currently working in parenting Bean, and thinking about what was going on with A-Train and what might lay ahead, I started making lists in my draft folder.  In one of my moms' groups, the use of timers as parenting tools came up today.  So, I'll go ahead and elaborate and publish this entry, and do a little series on the things I remember working with Bean.  It'll be a great refresher course for me, since A-Train is about to enter the second half of his second year (what?!?  Didn't this just happen???).  I have a feeling I'm going to be digging into this list shortly - though he is so different from his brother...I will need y'all to make your own lists!!

So.  Timers.  I have been using a timer with Bean since he was somewhere under 2 years old - maybe 18 months?  I still use it for all kinds of things.  I think it initially started with me counting to three to give him warning that we were about to transition.  Things like "count of three we are leaving!  1-2-3!"  I'm already doing this with A-Train - I say it's time to go, if he resists I give him a little more time and suggest he give a hug/kiss and say goodbye to whatever he's playing with, and if he still resists I tell him we're leaving on the count of three.  Honestly, this is so far more for my benefit and feeling like I'm not just tearing things out of his hands, but he generally does do better with a little warning than if I scoop him up and pry something away from him immediately.

In any case, the timer became a constant companion for transitions with Bean.  At the park, I would say "when the timer beeps it is time to go!"  My saying "time to go" would elicit a tantrum.  The timer saying "time to go" was no big deal.

As Bean got a little older and started negotiating, I would let him say how long the timer would be set for (usually I was honest, because I wanted him to start getting some small sense of time...but I have never, in fact, set my timer for "twelve-sixty-ninety minutes").  Sometimes he would be ready to go before that.  Sometimes he was in the middle of something and wanted another minute.  But I think it gave him a sense of power - and it made me stop and note that whatever he was doing was important to him, and I should let him finish if I could.

The timer has also made for fun games.  We have raced the timer to get ready for bed, or once Bean challenged me to clean up various sections of the house in under 5 minutes apiece.  He didn't help, but he laughed and stayed out of the way and wasn't pulling stuff down behind me - I think that's at least 3/4 of a victory on encouraging him to clean up after himself...Also, the house got cleaned up pretty thoroughly, and he thought it was hilarious that I kept losing to the timer.

Currently, I set the timer for 10 minutes and we clean up together.  He still requires reminders to stay on task, and he needs specific instructions (like to clean up all the Legos, or see how many books he can find) because he gets really overwhelmed just looking at the mess he just made.  As do I!

And, finally, "timer turns."  If there is one of something, every toddler wants it right now.  Timer turns usually end with someone losing interest, but Bean is pretty well accustomed to taking turns according to the timer (I think I did 30 seconds when he was really small, and now I might do 3 minutes - it really depends on the toy/activity, and also the age of the other child and whether they are flipping out or the timer thing makes a lick of sense to them).

Oh!  Ok, one last thing - we have a designated timer ("The Special Timer") for Special Time....which I will write about in another post, probably tomorrow!
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