Shortly after we brought Cohen home from Russia, I bought a very cheap, basic, kitchen timer.
Similar to this one....
CLEAN UP TIME
Prior to our school day and after playtime, Cohen is responsible for picking up all the toys in the playroom. I set the timer for 5 minutes and he must clean up by himself until the timer goes off. If he did a good job cleaning up, then once the timer goes off, I will help him. This motivates him to clean up, because he ultimately wants my help. It works out great, because most of the times when the timer actually goes off, the room is clean, leaving me with nothing to help him clean.
BOOK READING TIME
Each day I try to schedule about 10-15 minutes of independent book reading time. This looks different each day. Sometimes I let him pick one or two books to read, sometimes I pick 7 or 8 books for him to read. Most of the time when we have book reading time, I lay a blanket out in the floor of the living room, I put the books and Cohen on the blanket, and he's not allowed to get up until the timer goes off. It encourages him to look at the books and he knows that there is an end in sight. It took some time to get to the point where he knows now not to get off the blanket until the timer goes off...so if you want to start this Book Reading Time with your toddler, I'd suggest you start with 2-3 minutes. There have been a couple of times when we did this and the timer went off before Cohen finished reading all the books. He requested that we turn the timer back on and let him finish...sure thing kid!
Simple enough, I set the timer for the amount of time allowed in the tub, when it goes off, Cohen must get out. He LOVES his bath and he was getting to where he would pitch a fit when it was time to get out. Now he doesn't fuss as much. He knows he got plenty of time to play.
INDEPENDENT PLAY TIME
This is time when Cohen is responsible for entertaining himself without the help of me, games, tv, or books. I like to use this time to clean house, wash dishes, fold laundry. He likes to use this time to make a mess in the playroom (which is fine with me because I'm going to set the timer later for clean up time).
NAP TIME TALK TIME
This one is new to us. I'm finding that Cohen really loves to delay his nap by talking to all of his stuffed animals. At first, I decided to remove all animals from the bedroom, but that really didn't work well because he loves to sleep with Hugsy, his beloved penguin. Instead of removing all animals, I now give him 5 minutes of talk time. After I tuck him in for his nap, I load up the bed with all his favorites, then set the timer and leave the room. The rule is that he must stay on his bed, but he may talk and play for 5 minutes after I leave, then when the timer goes off, he must be quiet and rest. We've been doing this for a couple of weeks now, and it works great! He plays for 5 minutes, then he's quiet. Nap time is actually something he looks forward to now, because he knows he gets to play.
I do not have a set end time for our school each day. I usually start around 9am, and we just go until we are finished (usually about 1.5 hours). I have started using the timer to schedule certain areas of our school work. We used it today to time the rainbow letter tracing (where he uses crayons to go over a letter a bunch of times). Cohen's started to complain about certain parts of school work, and tracing letters and shapes is one of those areas he's not crazy about. Today I set the timer for 5 minutes, told him to trace the letter during that time, and when the timer went off we would read a book together. Worked like a charm! He stayed focused and finished his work.
Can you think of other good uses for my kitchen timer (other than cooking)? Feel free to share! I'm always look for some good suggestions.