Having kids in elementary school means everyone does homework. Kids do homework, moms and dads do homework, maybe you even have a tutor helping with homework. Homework is new and challenging and sometimes frustrating for everyone.
I’ve never been a fan of the idea of homework but our school is pretty balanced about it. In first grade it’s one worksheet per night and some reading. I can’t complain. That said, it’s in first grade that homework was the most challenging with both of my kids. They’ve never had to do anything like this (consistently) before so on top of learning new material, they also had to learn what homework even is.
So when I tell you this homework hack is changing my life I am not exaggerating .
Last week, one page of homework with five questions took nearly an hour and a half to complete. Today with my new hack, we did the same exact type of homework in 20 minutes.
We’ve been working on time management strategies with our youngest lately and I created a little morning routine checklist (free printable at the end of this post!) to help him get ready for school independently. When that started taking longer and longer, I decided we needed to add a timer. But not just any timer.
A smiley homework-free day
Now, my son is six and he can tell time, but he doesn’t really understand the concept of time. To him, anything longer ago than yesterday was last year. If I say 30 minutes it means nothing to him. So when I learned about visual timers I stopped in my tracks.
This is not a sponsored post, however I use affiliate links which means I may receive payment on purchases made through my link.
My Game Changing Homework Hack
What my kiddo needed was a way to see the time disappearing. A regular countdown didn’t seem to do the trick so after asking around, I learned about visual timer apps and a quick search in the app store later, I had the Children’s Countdown Timer (also available on Android) in my hot little hands.
This is a free app and to me, it’s gold. It’s as easy as setting your phone timer only there are hidden pictures that are only revealed as time passes. You have the option to add 10 seconds at a time or make it go faster 10 seconds at a time. And instead of an alarm at the end, there’s a fun little confetti celebration and the app makes the sound of the object it reveals (duck, drum, honking horn etc).
This has been hugely helpful already. I have two boys and they are opposites when it comes to homework. One is a complete procrastinator and the other finishes as quickly as possible. For my youngest, who loves to see which picture will appear, we set the timer for 3 minutes per question. I also let him operate the controls as long as he isn’t too distracted!
This countdown timer homework hack has saved our afternoons. My son loves seeing what the picture will be and gets his work done SO much faster. And I want to be clear that this is is work I know he can do. I don’t want to rush kids who need extra time to learn. But when you know the answer and you take 20 minutes to write the word “and” it’s time to speed things up.
The app is free but you will see some ads and there are picture packs you can add for 99cents each. Or you can disable ads completely and get all the picture packs for $1.99 total. A small price to pay if you ask me.
Non-Screen Visual Timers
The free Children’s Countdown app is perfect for my needs, but if you need a timer that isn’t attached to a screen, I found a couple other options. These would be great for classrooms or multi-child situations.
I haven’t actually used these myself, but I wanted to give you a few options.
The Time Tracker Mini is a small timer that starts out green and ends up red. It’s small and has two dials, one for the timer and another one to give a warning alarm.
The Time Tracker Visual Timer from the same company is a little more pricey but has the same green-yellow-red warning lights. This also has a clock so it would be great for older kids who are learning to process the actual time along with the passing of time.
FREE Morning Routine Checklist Printable!
Below is a copy of our morning routine checklist. Feel free to print it out for your own use. I left a few blank spaces if you want to add your own items. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done!
I don’t know about you, but when I stumble on something like this that actually WORKS and helps my kids I will shout it from the rooftops. Do you have any home work hacks that make your life easier? Let me know in the comments!
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