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Imagine this - you're trying to get the dishes done, the laundry folded, or an email sent off, and your partner approaches you, telling you it's time to go to the grocery store.
You ask them to hold on a minute, you need to finish what you're doing.
But they're immediately frustrated. They say things like, "Come on, you always do this. You know the grocery store closes in an hour. We need to leave right now."
All you want to do is wrap up what you're doing. Yes, you knew that the plan was to go to the grocery store that night but you just need three minutes! Is that too much to ask?
Wouldn't it have been so much better if your partner had said something like, "We need to leave for the grocery store in 5 minutes. Can you finish up what you're doing so we have enough time to do all our grocery shopping?"
Transitions Are Hard!
Transitions are the change from one activity to another, i.e for adults this could be from work to lunch or, for children, from playing to nap time.
People often say transitions are hard for children but I think they can be hard for everyone.
No one likes being commanded to drop everything the minute someone asks, especially if you're in the middle of a task.
Fortunately for adults, they have a fully developed prefrontal cortex that helps them understand why the transition is important, as well as the ability to self-regulate their emotions and response.
Not only are children missing out on the benefits of a fully matured brain but they also don't understand the concept of time. They're still trying to figure out what a minute, an hour, or a day is.
When you say things like, "we need to leave in 2 minutes", they just don't fully grasp what that means.
How Visual Aids Can Help with Transitions
Visual aids, like timers, can help make transitions easier for children.
They help in three ways:
1. Timers provide a visual cue - rather than saying "you have 5 minutes left, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, etc", your child can SEE how much time they have left.
2. Timers help with predictability - children thrive on predictability and timers can help with that. Every time the sand runs out on an hourglass timer or the blue runs out on the Time Timers then it's time to move to the next activity.
3. Timers are less stressful (for the parent and child) - they take the onus off of the adult to manage the child’s time. Reminding children of time and counting down can be stressful, especially when you’re busy doing something else and the reminders are inconsistent. A timer creates a very clear expectation without you feeling like a nag.
Like Everything - Consistency is Important
Timers can be really helpful when used consistently. They may not work at first but after a few times, your child will begin to understand.
They also need to be used truthfully. It can be tempting to add a few extra minutes to a timer when things are going really well but they need to understand what each time period feels like.
When you regularly use a five minute timer, they'll begin to learn what 5 minutes feels like. They’ll learn how much they can do in 5 minutes, and eventually they'll learn how to manage their time.
If you are interested in timers, we have a couple options in the shop, as well as teaching clocks, calendars, and other tools to help children grasp the concept of time: https://themontessoriroom.com/collections/tools-to-help-children-understand-time
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