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Visual TimersTime to a child can be so elusive and unimportant, yet its pressure can be extremely limiting and even debilitating.  For children and teens  with executive function isms, time can be an unrelenting enemy. However, with some creativity and visual timers, time can quickly become an ally and even boost accomplishment, well-being, and productivity.

Impacts of Procrastination

Often adults with executive function isms live on the edge of time.  The pressure of a last-minute deadline and the adrenaline rush of that “do-or-die” moment created because of consistent procrastination produces amazing focus and even amazing results.  The reason adults are able to pull this off is because they better understand the consequences of not making it happen.

As children, this lesson is not as clear.  The area of foresight and consequences is extremely foggy in children and teens with executive function isms.  Not to mention that constant stress of last-minute performances, while possibly feeling exhilarating, is not physically healthy.  Last minute pressure does not pan out as well as we think it would.  Keep in mind, children with executive function isms tend to lack hindsight.

The paradox that develops is the inability to see an end. This is the case in children when given a task that has no immediate reward to stimulate their brain. It is not by their choice, but instead they are just unable to feel that the task will ever end. So the brain gives up on that task and looks elsewhere for more rewarding stimulation. Now you have what we know as the distracted child, unable to focus on that math homework.

Help Children to See an End

Visual timers can create the awareness of time needed for children to complete tasks.  Again, on tasks that are not stimulating to a brain that is starving for stimulation, the time it will take for completion is perceived as eternal.  This is one of the reasons a child may fight you incredibly hard about sitting down to complete a math assignment that you know will only take 10 or 15 minutes if they could focus on it.

The child’s reality is incredibly different.  He or she may just not be able to feel or see an end to the task.  The brain sort of loses its ability to determine how long the task will take and it just says to the child –  “This will take forever”.

Just imagine something you hate doing.  Now imagine you were forced to do it for all eternity, never able to do anything you enjoy again.  That is what it feels like to not be able to see an end.

Eliminate Eternity with Visual Timers

Visual timers are your child’s friend.  Let me say that again…  Visual timers are your child’s friend.  Fight time with time and create productivity along with a sense of success.  In doing so, you will see your child’s self-esteem begin to grow because they consistently begin to experience that sense of accomplishment with the use of visual timers.

Simple digital timers are alright, but individuals with executive function isms are very visually stimulated.  A visual timer is quick and easy to process at a simple glance even if your child can’t tell time on a clock well.   Examples of commercial visual timers are the Time Timer and the Fun Timer App.

The trick with visual timers is to use them as a way to make a commitment followed by a stimulating reward with a healthy time limit.

Give a Task and Take a Break

Your child has a task to complete.  You know, one of those tasks that they dread because it’s hard, boring, and their brain literally screams at them every time it comes up. You dread it because you see it as this thing that if they would just quit fussing and get it done, it would be over and everyone could move on with life.

Work together with the visual timer.

Set the timer for a realistic amount of time to work on the task.  This is the amount of time being committed to the project per sitting.

Once that time is up, set the timer for an agreeable amount of time to allow the child to play or do something stimulating for their brain.

When that time is up, they recommit to the previous time and the pattern is repeated until complete.

It may look something like this:

  • Homework reading assignment.  Timer set for 10 minutes (committed time for one sitting).
  • Reading for 10 minutes commences.
  • Timer set for 5 minutes (committed time for a break).
  • Return to task at end of 5 minutes.
  • Timer reset for 10 min (committed time for one sitting).

There is no hard and fast rule for the amount of time to use for either the task or the break.  Use a realistic amount of time for both.  Starting with less time for the committed task time is best.  This sets the child up for success rather than setting the time for too long and having them feel disappointed.  As they experience good results or even feel they want to work beyond the committed time, begin to make gradual increases.

Explore Visual Timer Apps >>


One thing I always recommend is to talk with your child about the plan and clearly state how it will work.  Let your child be a part of the process and be to to value their input.  Children can give you valuable input if you take the time to listen.