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Visual Timers and Behavioral Management

Managing behaviors can be extremely overwhelming. Often, we may not fully understand the triggers for the behavioral outbursts. However, there are techniques and strategies that you can incorporate at home to assist with preventing and limiting these outbursts. One strategy I most commonly use in my sessions is a visual timer. This is a great strategy to incorporate at home if you seem to be having a difficult time with managing your child’s behaviors.

What is it?

How many times have you dealt with a behavioral outburst when it is time to clean up your child’s favorite toy? Did you warn them it was time to be done in 5 minutes? Young children have a difficult time understanding the concept of time. This is where the use of a visual timer can assist with this transition.

How does it work?

Select an image your child prefers. Inform your child they can play with the toy until the full picture is revealed. Set the timer for the length of time that you wish. Once the timer goes off clean up the activity and move on to something new. The first few times you use the visual timer, you may still have behavioral outbursts. It is important to be consistent and give you child time to learn how the visual timer works. Once they learn how it works you will begin to see improvements with transitioning and behavioral management.

Why should I use a visual timer?

A visual timer is a great way to provide structure in your child’s routine. It sets boundaries for them but in a way that still allows them to play freely. In therapy we may use a visual timer to assist with completing a task that may be undesired. However, we also will use it to provide a structured free play time. I may give the child 10 minutes to play with whatever toys he or she wants. Once the visual timer goes off, they know it is time to clean up and do another activity.

Where can I get a visual timer?

There are plenty or free apps in the app store! My preferred app is called ‘Visual Countdown Timer.’ You can find it in the app store on your electronic device. It is free and extremely easy to use! However, there are plenty of other visual timer options for you too try!

– Madeline Baumgartner, MOT, OTR/L