Some days it just seems as if time flies while some moments just seem to crawl…
“You need take turns with the iPad.”
“Just a minute, Mommy’s on the phone.”
“We need to be ready to go in 15 minutes.”
“Clean up your toys, Kelley will be here in 5 minutes.”
“In ten minutes we will ______”
“You may play that for ten more minutes, then we will _____”
The “Parent Time Scale” is often erratic. We can’t count how many times we think – I will just look at Pinterest for 5 minutes and then I will fold the laundry and 30 minutes later (or more) we look up and see more than a couple of minutes have disappeared. Sometimes we have the opposite happen, like we decide we will spend 15 minutes cleaning up the clutter that has magically gathered in the family car and five minutes later we wander off to a more pleasant task like resetting the radio buttons on the dashboard. Luckily, there are apps that can help our children and us pay attention to time because sometimes time is important.
There are a couple of important things to look for when choosing apps to use as timers and time awareness tools.
- Make sure to test any timing apps you consider (or already use) to be certain they work if you go to another app or if you close the app altogether. If the timer turns off when you leave the app, it will probably set you up for a burned cake or a missed appointment.
- Check timer apps for children for how the time is displayed. Young children who are not yet ready to read the numerals benefit greatly from graphical interfaces which make it clearer how much time is gone and/or how much time is left.
- Sometimes having multiple timers running at the same time is important. Look for apps with custom time amounts and multiple timers perhaps with the option of having different sounds for the alarms.
- There are also some apps designed for children specifically. These may serve a specific purpose like taking turns or measuring sound levels. Make sure these displays are appropriate for your child. For example there is an app which measures the noise level in the room – kind of a cool idea for practicing “mindful quietness” -- but if the room gets noisy there is a scary barking dog which appears to “remind” the child to be quieter. Why would we want to teach children to fear dogs?
Now it’s time to check out some apps!
Tico Timer by Ricardo Fonseca
This timer is a beautiful visual timer that can be helpful for young children. Instead of numbers flashing on the screen there are graphical shapes that disappear as the time disappears. There are a variety of soundtracks and minimalist graphics to choose from and touching the screen during a countdown displays the actual time left in numerals. The times you can set range from 1 second (Why would I EVER need that?) to 30 minutes and 59 seconds.
Best Sand Timer
(iOS, there are similar apps for other platforms)
This app does one thing - provides a classic sand hourglass in digital form and provides a countdown in 1 of 5 colors with times from one second to 59 minutes and 59 seconds. There are 30 sounds to choose from. This app does have display ads on the bottom of the screen when in use. There is a paid version called “Best Timer” without ads and with more options.
Stoplight Clock by Brian Victor
This timer uses large colorful blocks of green, yellow, and red to signify the passage of time. You set the time for each of the color changes. You can save these settings if you use the same timing frequently. This app can be seen from across the room and runs on phones and tablets.
Timer+ by Minima Software
(iOS and Android)
While Timer+ does not have the graphics of those listed above, it does a good job with multiple timers and saved timers. Additionally, this app will let you know when a timer is finished, even when you have closed the app and moved on to other tasks. If you don’t return to turn off the timer it will show you how much time has passed after the alarm. The free version has ads on the bottom of the screen. There is a paid version without ads which is called “Timer+ Pro” which is ad-free and has the added feature of count-up timers (like stopwatches) which can also be labeled and saved.
Be sure to check out our book Using an iPad with Your Preschooler for even more apps and ideas!