How would you like it if you were somewhere having the time of your life and thoroughly enjoying yourself to have someone come and tell you without warning, “That’s it! It’s time to go!” I’m sure would not be happy and may even be a bit irritated that you are being told that you have to leave when you are having such a good time, and it never was established what time you would have to leave. I never gave this much thought until one day when my two year-old daughter and I were at the park, and I turned to her and said, “Okay, honey it’s time to go.” Her response, understandably, was to whine and cry, shouting, “No! We stay at park!.” Realizing that I did not give her a warning, I felt bad and decided to give in allowing her to stay a little longer. Then an idea, which should have been obvious, came to me: why not let her know in advance when we will be leaving? There are some studies I have come across that state toddlers may not understand the concept of time, but from my observation with my daughter, I would say some do. Since Quinn was one, she’s always had a fascination with clocks and watches and will point them out when she sees them. My husband and I even got her a watch for her second birthday as one of her gifts. No, she cannot tell time yet, but she does know how to count, so I will set my stopwatch and let her know when we have fifteen minutes remaining, and when we get to ten minutes, we will count down together, and she will repeat after me, “Seven minutes Mommy!” Counting down has been working like a charm; the crying and tantrums have been cut down drastically. We use it at the park, in her playroom when we are in the store so that she is more patient when I am shopping (This is great because it forces me to get in and out and not dilly-dally too much myself), and anywhere else or with anything else where a countdown can be beneficial to help the transition from one activity to the next go smoothly. Now, Quinn will even initiate the countdown and say, “Mommy, I play with iPad for five more minutes please.” While I am sure this is used in childcare centers and day schools, sometimes parents do not implement these simple techniques in the home because it just never occurred to them. If you have a toddler or child who gets upset when it is time to leave, when it is time for an activity he or she is enjoying to end or even time for an activity to begin, such as nap time or bed time, give this a try! It is not 100 proof, but it most certainly works more often than not.
All the best,