Sand timers are ideal for teaching the concept of time:
- Time is a very complex concept for our children to understand. Lay firm time concept foundations in their early years through regular use of sand timers in your activities. “How long do you think it will take to….?” encourages estimation skills and understanding of how long things take: the concept of time.
- The 5 minute sand timer is particularly good for helping them to understand the clock. Point out that it takes 5 minutes for the long hand to travel from one number to the next, use your sand timer to demonstrate it and find other things that take 5 minutes to complete.
- Sand timers provide a strong visual understanding of the concept of time as they watch the sand running down as time passes.
- Helping children to manage their own time – create a habit of using the sand timer for cleaning up after getting their toys out or messy play. “Turn the timer, let’s see if we can do it faster than 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes.” “let’s see if we can clean up before the sand runs out..”
- Not relevant to sand timers but something I want to share with you that was really successful for me with my son: A good way of teaching time is to draw a clock face on your home trampoline, ask them to bounce clock-wise, anti-clockwise, get them to be the long hand and you be the short hand and shout times out for you to bounce to the relevant numbers – a really fun way to learn time.
- If you are using the sand timers to teach time ensure all the clocks around your child are analogue: play room, their bedroom, where they eat and where they watch television. Point out to them that they have half an hour to eat and show them where the hands will be when time is up. Plenty of this repetition will really help them to understand time concepts and organise themselves.
Sandtimers can be used to help manage positive behaviours:
- Encouraging turn taking especially if they have a friend over and they both want to play with the same toy. “I see that you are playing with that car right now, when this 3 minute sand timer is done it will be your friends turn”. Encourage turn taking at home, “Oh, you are playing with the spade and there’s only one, you enjoy that and in 3 minutes mummy can have a go and turn the timer…” Make sure you carry out your turn…
- Sand timers can prevent meltdowns; “I see you are busy playing with your Lego. It’s time to go to school. Would you like to put your school shoes on now or in 1 minute? After saying this you should flip the sand timer over and stand back to be amazed at how well your child can make the transition for themselves.
- Helping your child to make choices – “Would you like to do that in one minute, or two?” Then turn the sand timer.
- They can be used as positive reinforcers. If your child is demanding your attention and you’re on the phone, use the sand timer to communicate to them that they need to wait for 5 minutes. You might offer to read to them for a quick 5 minutes etc.
- Happy transitions – “We are going to read a book once the sand runs out”, “5 minutes of play and then we’re going shopping…”, “Come downstairs when the sand runs out…” You’ll be amazed how well they respond to this.
How to introduce a sand timer effectively:
- Plan time to introduce your sand timers, and don’t expect overnight results. Children need to be taught their purpose and the benefits. Introducing them when you can be consistent in using them is essential, such as school holidays or even a weekend when you don’t have too many time restrictions.
- The adult must have control of the situation and the timer to ensure that the child fully understands the meaning and benefits.
- Teach your child the rules of using timers: not turning them over once that have started, not moving them etc.
- Teach your child how the sand timer works
- Use sand timers according to your child’s age or development: Use a 2 min sand timer for a child between 18 months to 2 years, a 3-min timer for 3 year olds and a 5-min timer for 4 years old and up.
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