The Device that Saved My Sanity {Teaching Kids Time Management}


A while back, we were having a hard time getting our son to eat dinner. We would beg, bribe and tell him over and over again how yummy it was. But, he wouldn’t budge. He would sit there while we ate and stare at his plate. “Your food won’t taste good if it’s cold, you should eat it while it’s warm,” we would tell him. We even tried saying, “You won’t grow up to be big and strong if you don’t eat.” Nothing seemed to work.

Finally, when we would start clearing the table, he would take his first bite.

time management

We got in this habit of sitting back down and waiting until he finished, which resulted in a two-hour dinner due to how slow he would eat. It was maddening. After so many nights of frustration, reading articles on how to get your child to eat at mealtime, and talking with some of my mom friends, I decided to try using a timer. Not just the one on my phone or the microwave, but a good old-fashioned egg timer. You know, the kind where you can hear the tick, tick, tick and watch the seconds lapse.

I scoured Amazon for the perfect timer and waited patiently for it to arrive. When the timer arrived at our house, I decided to give it a name and a personality, because I knew my kiddo would relate to it better. We welcomed Red Rex, our red minion-looking timer, into our family with open arms about six years ago and we have never looked back. I swear to you, this little guy saved my sanity on more than one occasion. It was an absolute game-changer in our house.

The first night Red Rex joined us at the dinner table, I told my son that dinner would last for 45 minutes and at the end of the 45 minutes, Rex will ring to tell us we are finished. When Rex rings, your plate will be taken away and dinner is over. The first night, my son watched Red Rex the entire time. As he saw Rex tick down and approach zero, he started eating the food on his plate. It was like the lightbulb finally went off! Rex was exactly what we needed to help us in setting boundaries and understanding time management at the dinner table.

After that evening, Rex started making his way into many of our other daily tasks. We used Rex to notify us when it was time to catch the school bus, when we were done with our daily 15 minutes of reading time, and as a count down to when dinner would be ready and when we would be expected to stop playing and come to the table.

Fast forward six years and Rex is still very much a part of our lives.

He helps to manage screen time, showers, timeouts, getting ready for school, and a host of other things. About three years ago, when we started needing time management solutions for our second child, we introduced Ray (a yellow version of Red Rex) to the family. Having two timers helps when the kids are doing separate activities. Sometimes, they will even take the timers themselves and play games with them and time themselves doing different activities.

Rex and Ray have turned out to be very positive, motivating and welcome introductions to our family. Not only have they helped my kids to have a better grasp of time, but they have also taught them how to take ownership of the way they use their time. If you are struggling with time management and motivation techniques, I highly recommend trying a timer. And while naming it is fun, it’s totally optional.