Sand timers can work wonders with toddlers and kids before they are old enough to understand the concept of time and duration!
Judy here - I’m an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy. Since I’m an OT, I also work with my clients on play and physical development, as it all supports successful feeding. One helpful tool that I use with many families is a sand timer.
Many clients also use timers on their phones or in the kitchen - a sand timer just helps kids visualize time a little more.
Why is a sand timer helpful when used in a positive way? Young children do not understand the concept of time. They may understand that we’re leaving the park now or that their birthday is tomorrow, but most kids don’t grasp the idea of duration of time until at least 7 or 8 years of age. Sand timers can help kids as young as 2 visualize how much time is left.
This is great when used right before dinner when your kid is tearing through the house. It can also help in playtime, especially when your child doesn’t want to leave or struggles with transitions.
Sand timers also help in daily activities like brushing teeth, bathing, washing hands, cleaning up their bedroom, screen time etc.
Head to our Amazon shop to check out some sand timer recommendations!
We recommend using sand timers in a positive, not punitive, way. If you’re trying to work on your 3-year-old staying at the table longer, use the timer as a visual cue and a fun game. “OK, the timer’s not done yet so we’re going to sit together a little longer while we eat - can you show me how you put your pasta in a line? How about a circle?” (Food play really helps engage children in the meal - check out Step 7 of our online Toddler Course for more on this!)
If your child is taking a long time to eat a meal (longer than 30 minutes), a sand timer can be helpful to remind them that we have other activities to get to. However, if they are taking a long time because they can’t seem to chew or have sensory/behavioral issues keeping them from eating at a reasonable pace, please speak with your provider.