Work Time and Play Time Using a Visual Timer

Enrichment Therapies

February 6, 2017

Do you find that your student struggles to remain focused while working? Is it difficult to motivate your child to stay on-task for a certain amount of time? Or is it difficult to move away from ‘break time’?

One great tool that often helps students (young and old) to stay on-task, or understands that a break is over is the visual timer!

What Does a Visual Timer Do?

  • A visual timer provides a visual representation of time as it passes
  • A colored circle, which can be set to the amount of time you choose, moves closer and closer to the ‘0’ overtime
  • Once the set amount of time runs out, a beeping sound is heard

What Can a Visual Timer be Used For?

  • To show an amount of time left within a difficult/non-preferred activity
    • For example: First practice handwriting for five minutes. Then, when the timer beeps, you can play one iPad racing game.
  • To show an amount of time left within a ‘break’, particularly when that activity has no natural, clear ending
    • For example: You may take a two-minute break to play on the iPad. When the timer beeps, we will turn the iPad off.
  • To allow a student time to mentally prepare for a challenging task
    • For example: We are going to brush our teeth. You can spend five more minutes in your room. Then, when the timer beeps, we will brush teeth.

How Can I Use a Visual Timer with My Student? 

  • Introduce the visual timer, using First/Then language
    • For example: “First we will work until the timer beeps, and then you can have a short break”
  • While using the timer, provide a couple of verbal reminders that the time is decreasing, particularly within the minute or two before the timer beeps
  • For younger students, you might use language like, “The red is getting smaller” as a reminder that the time is decreasing
  • Use only a small amount of time at first
  • As your student becomes more familiar with the timer and understands how it is used, you might lengthen task time as the student is able

Who May Benefit from Using a Visual Timer?

  • Children who struggle to understand the abstract concept of time
    • For example, a young child may not realize that “five minutes” is not a very long time
  • Children who are motivated to complete work when given concrete rewards
  • Children who do best when provided with a concrete plan
  • Children who benefit from ‘warnings’ prior to a change in routine or non-preferred event (most children do!)

If you are interested in purchasing a visual timer for your home, there are many different options available on Amazon. Also, check out some additional strategies for helping your child stay motivated here and here.

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs.  At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.

740 Community Drive, Unit A

North Liberty, IA 52317


5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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