Friends, I am not a fan of the overuse of electronic devices.  We don’t have to have an app for everything. In our house we use timers a lot for various activities, and I never expected to need anything beyond the (extremely versatile) timer I keep in my pocket. In fact, that timer is so awesome, it may just get its own post one day. My expectation of never needing a “high tech” timer changed once I realized transitions were going to be a long term struggle with my son.

All kids, especially ones with special needs, respond well to having a concrete representation of something so abstract to them as time. Even adults respond well to timers. If you’ve ever read any of the Fly Lady’s cleaning tips, she recommends setting a timer for 15 minutes at a time, to de-clutter your house. She likes to remind people, “You can do anything for 15 minutes.”

At our house, we can use timers for schoolwork, for housework, for screen time… pretty much any activity.  However, I found that our youngest was still struggling with even the concept of a timer. He seemed to  feel the pocket timer was arbitrary, and didn’t really understand the counting down of minutes or the sense of urgency to finish a task within those last few seconds.

Understanding the benefits of getting timers to “click” with your child, I searched around for an app that might help us better convey the point of a timer. What I found was the Lickety Split Kid’s Timer. I was happy to see there was a “lite” version, which I used for a while, but it was so useful I quickly decided to spend a buck on the full version.

Here’s a description from the iTunes website:


Tired of nagging your kids to get ready? Asking them 10 times to put away their toys?

The Lickety Split Musical Timer turns daily tasks into a fun, beat-the-clock game. Accelerating classical music encourages dawdling kids to get going, while an animated hourglass counts down. The abstract concept of time becomes tangible for kids.

The timer uses encouragement and the power of music to motivate children as they move through daily transitions. So, instead of nagging, grown-ups are free to champion their kids!

Developed by parents and educational technologists. Perfect for preschoolers, early elementary schoolers, and their grown-ups.

Musical timers include:
* Ready to leave the house in 5 minutes
* Getting dressed
* Getting ready for a meal
* Cleaning one’s room
* Making one’s bed
* Brushing teeth (for a full two minutes)
* Taking turns

As a music therapist, I think I know what makes this program “work”.  It’s the unique use of music. They have perfectly timed classical music selections that naturally accelerate as you near the end of your sequence. It doesn’t seem contrived or cheesy because it’s the natural progression of the pieces–not something that was made up just for the program.

If you have a special needs child that has no concept of time, they can still feel the music in their body as it moves them along their task.  After your time is complete, the cartoon hourglass (which has been counting down) is “rewarded” with one of several different items- a balloon, an apple, or a 1st place medal, for example. The children look forward to seeing what the virtual prize will be each time.

The only downside for me is that I only have an iPad, so I have to drag the computer around to use it. If you have an iPhone, it would be much more accessible.  I highly recommend this app and give it two thumbs up for value.

Perhaps it might be helpful for you, too!


Annie Beth Donahue is the founder of Signposts Ministries and the mother of four children, and each of them have special health needs. Annie Beth is a specialist in musical therapy and a talented singer. She and her husband, Brad, live near Charlotte, North Carolina.