Many child care and preschool locations use audio timers for classroom management. The timer will buzz when it’s time to clean up toys or when snack time is over. The timer can be used to help children in sharing toys – if a child wants to play with a toy that another child has, teachers will set the timer and when it goes off, it’s time for the toy to be shared with the other child.
This has all worked well enough, but there is definitely something missing. In the case of an audio timer, the child(ren) have no idea WHEN the time is almost up – they are just waiting to hear the bell/buzzer. What is helpful is for young children is to have something visual.
We recently implemented visual timers in all our classrooms. Visual timers are great for helping children begin to get a sense of the “passing of time”. They can SEE how much time is left to play/snack/rest or whatever they are doing. At first, young children may be mesmerized by the visual timer – watching and waiting for the “red” to run out. Once they get used to it, it became a very useful tool for teachers, especially when children needed to “wait” for something to happen. They can watch the passage of time and know when it is getting close to whatever they were waiting for.
I recently had the priviledge of being on the Cooperative Kids Cable TV show (which is filmed in Enfield, CT and shown on local cable stations throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts). This show is hosted by local CT parenting expert, Bill Corbett, and on this particular episode we talked about how we use visual timers in a preschool classroom. Take a moment to watch the short clip and see how Bill Corbett demonstrates the visual timer.