It’s one thing to tell a child they have 10 minutes left before it’s time to leave. Watching a big timer on the wall or watching the minutes tick down on a clock can help a child begin to feel what 10 minutes is.
I actually grew up using a visual timer all the time.
See, for a long time, I was a competitive swimmer. We just called them pace clocks.
But, other than the big block of color, a pace clock is very similar to a visual timer. That’s mostly what I think of when I see students using visual timers.
What is a Visual Timer?
It’s a fancy name for a clock. Just kidding! They aren’t all necessarily clocks. I say that because that is what you may hear from your child’s IEP team.
Usually, a fancy version of a clock if it only had a second hand. Many kids need visual timers. They serve as a sensory or visual reminder of time. What goes around, comes around, right? Analog Clocks are sexy again.
An app or a physical timer is used to provide both a visual reminder and an auditory alarm to keep the person aware of time.
These are often used when completing a task or doing another time-sensitive or time-restricted activity.
Types of Visual Timers
There are so many options available for students. Some of the options below for timers include sound. Again, think of the child and if they need a multi-sensory approach.
If you have a child or student who would benefit from using a Visual Timer, you can pretty much find anything to meet their needs and interests.
- Apps, either on a phone, device, or desktop.
- Many have a sound that can be volume-adjusted or muted.
- Available in a variety of colors to accommodate visual needs and preferences.
- Physical Timers (as opposed to an app) can have sand, colored oil, gel, lava-lamp-type material, and other features to meet other sensory needs.
- Sand timers (what our grandmas used for eggs!) are small and can be transported anywhere, requiring no electricity.
- Some are strictly visual, some are strictly auditory. Many are both.
Common Uses for Visual Timers
They’re used for just what they say–a visual reminder of the time.
This might be used to indicate the end of playtime before clean-up begins. Or, if you asked a child to read or complete a task if they struggle with task paralysis.
Many dentists even send home egg timers with kids, so that they know exactly how long to brush their teeth.
Some toothbrushes have light flashers that serve this same purpose.
The possibilities are endless.
If your child with autism or ADHD has a hyperfixation, a visual timer can be a good way to manage that.
Online Visual Timers for Autism
In addition to the free Visual Timers above in the Amazon widget, here are a few more.
- Mr Bomb and Friends, kids love this one! Just make sure it’s not too distracting.
- Kids Timer on Google Play
- Children’s Countdown Timer on Google Play
- Timer for Kids, on Google Play
- Happy Kids Timer, Google Play (I like this one because it has chores!)
Visual Timer in your IEP
Like most other resource posts, I like to add a blurb about how to get this in your IEP. Visual timers are affordable. And I’ve shown you several free ones.
So, cost shouldn’t be an issue.
Still, it amazes me what some people will dig their heels in about and not want to add to an IEP.
I can hear it now. “Well, if we let Jacob use his tablet during class for the visual timer, I’ll have to let all the kids use tablets.”
Um, no, you won’t. Jacob is a child identified with a disability who needs support, services, and accommodations specific to him.
Anyway, if it’s a problem, do what we always do: Put the request in writing, follow up, and ask for a PWN. Good luck.
How to Use a Visual Timer with Kids in the Classroom
Using a visual timer with kids can be an effective tool for teaching them time management, promoting productivity, and helping them understand the concept of time.
Visual timers are particularly beneficial for younger children and those with special needs, as they provide a clear and concrete way to track time.
Here are some tips on how to effectively use a visual timer with kids:
- Choose the Right Timer: Select a visual timer that suits the child’s age and needs. For younger children, opt for timers with colorful visuals and simple interfaces. Older kids may benefit from digital timers with customizable features.
- Set Clear Expectations: Before starting an activity or task, explain to the child how much time they have using the visual timer. Clearly define the goal or task they need to complete within that time frame.
- Visual Reinforcement: Visual timers often use symbols, colors, or moving graphics to represent the passage of time. Encourage the child to watch the timer as it counts down, reinforcing the idea that time is passing.
- Use it for Transition Times: Visual timers are especially useful during transitions between activities, such as getting ready for school, completing homework, or cleaning up their play area. Set the timer to help them stay on track.
- Celebrate Progress: When the timer reaches the end, celebrate the child’s accomplishments, even if they haven’t completed the task entirely. Positive reinforcement can motivate them to manage their time more effectively in the future.
- Gradual Increase: For younger children or those new to time management, start with short time intervals and gradually increase the duration as they become more comfortable with the concept of time.
- Encourage Independence: Teach kids to use the timer on their own as they get older. This fosters a sense of responsibility and helps them learn how to manage their time independently.
- Flexibility: While visual timers are excellent tools, remember that some kids may need more time than others to complete tasks. Be flexible and adjust the timer’s settings or expectations as needed to accommodate individual needs.
- Consistency: Incorporate visual timers into your daily routines consistently. This helps kids develop a better sense of time and improves their overall time management skills over time.
- Open Communication: Maintain open communication with the child about their experience with the visual timer. Encourage them to share their feelings and any difficulties they encounter, and be supportive in finding solutions.
By using a visual timer effectively, you can help children develop essential time management skills, reduce stress and anxiety related to time constraints, and create a structured environment that promotes productivity and responsibility.
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