Fort Worth, Texas,
08:04 AM

'5 more minutes'

How to get your child from one activity to the next

“Five more minutes!”

I just got back from a vacation at an indoor water park; otherwise known as The Land of Five More Minutes. I could not walk around without hearing some child be told how much more time they had before they had to leave.

It’s no secret that children, especially young children, have a hard time with transitions.

One great way to ease these difficult times is to set them up with a defined period before their current activity is going to stop. Another is to set clear expectations for what is going to come next and your expectations for their behavior and attitude at the time of the transition.

The conversation might go like this: “We have five more minutes, then we are going to change clothes and go eat lunch, all with a happy attitude.”

I’m pretty sure grandparents think we’re crazy for walking around at the mercy of the timers on our phones all the time but it really can work well.

Here are some ways to fail at using your timer:

1. Bargain - Five more minutes turns into one more and one more until everyone is hangry (hungry and angry) and the whole point of the timer is defeated. Besides, think about the culture you are setting up for your child. Your word and your boundaries mean nothing because they know with enough fussing they will get their way.

2. Choose the wrong time - Thirty seconds isn’t enough. Ten minutes is too long. Somewhere in-between is just right.

3. Be inconsistent - If you only do a timer once a week, it is not going to work. Your children need to know what it looks like, how it works and know that you are going to stick with it no matter what.

You may feel like a timer is the most ridiculous thing you could ever imagine (especially if you don’t have kids, because I was a perfect parent before I had kids too). If you think it is silly, that’s fine, it’s just a suggestion.

If you are doing it all wrong, make those changes.

If your kid screams every time they are asked to stop an activity, give it a try, what can it hurt?

About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

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I have just started this with my four year old and it does work! My husband and I have actually started with him saying "okay once you are finished with that game you are playing on you're leap pad it will be time to put it away". He has gotten to the point that when he is done playing that one particular game he will bring it to us without us having to even ask him.