Brilliant Ways to Use A Visual Timer with Your Child

Visual timers are a GREAT tool to use with children, whether special needs or not. We’ve actually owned a Time Timer ™ since my oldest was a toddler and it’s one of my very favorite parenting tools.

Typically developing little kids, and developmentally delayed older kids, struggle with understanding time. It’s very non-concrete and kids just aren’t developmentally ready to tackle abstract things like time. And yet time is such a big part of our lives. The visual timer helps kids to SEE time, which helps them to learn how time works, and which also helps them (and you) navigate their day a little more smoothly.

Timer options

There are several options out there for visual timers. In my experience, a 60 minute timer works best in a wide variety of situations. I love the Time Timer ™. It’s rugged, it’s easy to put back together (yes, lol), it has a clear display, and it’s easy for kids to set themselves as they gain skill. There are other options for physical timers, as well. I advise staying away from oven timers and the like – they tend to have a very unpleasant ring.

I also have a few visual timer apps on my phone, one is called OK Timer and the other is just called Visual Timer (both android, I have no idea if they’re available for Apple). And we have a one-minute timer of the colored-liquid-in-clear-plastic variety.

Using the Timer

I’m not going to pretend to know the best way to parent your child. I can tell you that with my three kids, I’ve had two who needed the rule to be that when the timer went off, it was time to do whatever they were to do when the timer went off. I’ve had one who sincerely needed another five minutes after the timer went off. We just set the timer for  5 minutes less than we really wanted, then let him set it for another 5.

I’ve had two kids who just generally cooperated with the timer. And one kid who needed rewards to cooperate with the timer.

I’ve had two who really came to rely on the timer to measure progress through the day, keep track of time on tasks or until events, etc., and one who really didn’t care for the timer and only used it for “you can do this for x minutes” or “you have to do this for x minutes” occasions.

So, do what works for you and for your kid.

Brilliant Ways to Use A Visual Timer


Moving from a preferred activity to a nonpreferred activity, such as stopping playing with toys and taking a bath, or turning off the TV (set the timer to coincide with the end of the show) and coming to eat dinner.

Ending an Activity, like turning off the iPad, turning off the TV, getting out of the bath.

Starting an Activity, like homework, a bath, getting dressed, taking medications.

How Long Until…

The timer comes in really handy for those times your kid knows something is going to happen in the near future, but they can’t quite hang on to the idea of exactly how far in the near future. Once it gets to be less than an hour, set the timer and refer your child back to the timer. They can actually watch the minutes passing.

How long until we get in the car? How long until my friend comes over? How long until dinner? How long until bedtime?

Independent Play

I’m working on a future post about teaching independent play to children, but a visual timer can really help with this. You start out by getting your child involved in an activity he or she enjoys and can do without help. Bring in the timer, set it for a short period (2-5 minutes). Explain that you need to step away quick but you’ll be right back. He or she needs to stay in the room and play, but you’ll be back before the timer goes off. Step away, wait, come back, and praise the child for playing by him or herself before rejoining the play. Repeat, slowly increasing the minutes on the timer.


We use the timer in the car to help manage the “are we there” and “how much longer” issues. Currently, I can set the timer for an hour, and then set it for additional time and that goes OK, but that was tricky for a while, and we just would wait to set the timer until we were about an hour out from making a stop. We tend to stop every hour and a half when everyone’s awake, and having the timer REALLY helps with the repetitive questions.


Waiting is SO HARD when you don’t have a good sense of time. The timer helps with at least two waiting-related issues.

Learning to wait. When the child asks for help with a non-urgent task, let him or her know that you can’t help right then, but you can help in 2 minutes. Set the timer. (Eventually, you can work on waiting patiently, but don’t expect that to happen right off.)

Managing anxious feelings when waiting. Waiting for a favorite TV show. Waiting for a parent to get home. Waiting for a snack to cook. Waiting is just hard, but using the timer lets the child see the time passing and makes waiting a bit more manageable, because it doesn’t seem like it’s going to last for eternity.

Completing an Activity

Kids tend to rush through nonpreferred activities. For one of mine, it’s the bath. He hates the bath, so his baths tend to consist of squatting in the water, then bouncing back out and declaring himself clean. Ummmm….no. So we use the timer. You have to sit all the way down, and you have to stay in there for 5 minutes and then I’ll come in and help you wash. (Note: he hates it in the sense that he’d just rather be doing something else. He doesn’t hate it in the sense that it really genuinely bothers him. I wouldn’t force him to stay in for five minutes if it was an actual issue.)

A timer is good for tooth brushing, too. (I prefer the liquid minute timer for this.) We also use it for hair brushing, for daily chores (your bedroom will take at least ten minutes to clean. I don’t want to see you until this goes off), etc.


When we’re headed toward a sensory overload or a meltdown, we can grab the timer and the kid, and do some calming activities until the timer beeps. I don’t know about other kids, but MY kid with tends to think that he only needs to barely take one deep breath before he’s ready to go back to whatever he was doing. Using a timer helps in several ways – first, it actually gives him something to focus on that’s relaxing (we use the liquid minute timer and flip it 5 times), and second, it helps him know there is a definite end to the “time in.” He WILL get to go back to playing. Since he knows the break won’t be forever, he’s usually more cooperative with doing a few calming activities like rocking, deep breaths, massage, etc.

Taking Turns

Taking turns can be really hard. The timer helps. Not only does it keep the turns strictly fair, but it also helps the person whose turn it is NOT to see that their waiting will not be forever.


I hope this gives you some ideas on how to incorporate a visual timer into your daily life. My regular kids have really liked the visual timer throughout their day when they were younger. With Teddy, who has developmental delays and special needs, we use the timer almost constantly during the day. We’ve had times we’ve had several timers going, even. Once you start using a visual timer, you’ll start seeing all the ways it can help your child’s day go just a bit smoother.





7 Ways to use a Weighted Blanket or Lap Pad

We’ve learned all about our weighted blankets. We’ve learned the science that supports weighted blankets, and we’ve learned how they work. Now how about some ways to use weighted blankets or lap pads?

1. Sleeping. Obviously, many people use weighted blankets to help them get to sleep faster, wake fewer times, and feel more rested. We discussed that in-depth in a previous entry.

2. Long periods of sitting. Travel, for example, or church services. Kids (and adults) can struggle with staying seated for long periods (and they SHOULD – it isn’t really normal to sit for that long) – weighted lap pads or blankets can help in these situations. We find that Tbear does better in the car with staying calm and showing appropriate behavior when we combine frequent breaks with a weighted blanket. The blanket provides him the deep sensory input that he naturally seeks – and he doesn’t have to seek it out in other, less desirable ways. Like hitting his sister.

3. Stressful or anxious times. Science has shown that deep touch pressure reduces stress and anxiety, and promotes calm. We use weighted items during hospital stays, for example, and I find that when I’m particularly stressed, I tend to pile Teddy’s weighted blanket on top of my own for even more weight.

4. Schoolwork. Whether at school or at home, a weighted lap pad can improve concentration, help reduce wiggliness, and help students stay on-task (see weighted lap pad studies mentioned here.

5. Transition periods, particularly moving from a period of high activity to one of lower activity – such as sitting down to dinner after running around outside. Letting your child chill out for a few minutes under the weighted blanket in a calm environment can often help ease that transition between high activity and lower activity.

6. Meltdowns. Some parents find that they can head off meltdowns by strategic use of weighted blankets. Weighted blankets, as previously discussed, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect on the body. Typically, parents need the child’s cooperation, but if they’re willing, and if the parent catches the meltdown early enough to head it off at the pass, a weighted blanket can help.

7. Heavy work. Many kids benefit from heavy work – during transition times, to get out their wiggles, to help re-focus. We often use our weighted blankets for heavy work. “Hey, Tbear, go get your heavy blanket for me!”

And you can get your very own weighted blanket or lap pad here!

Why do Weighted Blankets Work?

Weighted blankets work on the same basis as Deep Touch Pressure, or DTP. A hug is one way to get DTP, as is a massage. If you or your child are sensory-seeking, you might have noticed other ways you or they seek out DTP, as well – laying under the couch cushions, slipping between the mattress and box spring, wearing tight clothing, piling on blankets and pillows. And you can also get Deep Touch Pressure from a weighted blanket or weighted lap pad, which provide a nice, evenly distributed, gentle weight.

When the body is under stress or is overwhelmed (such as by sensory input), it moves to the “fight or flight” response – the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system causes your body to release cortisol, the stress hormone, which causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, makes you a little sweaty, and makes it hard to concentrate. You start to feel anxious and irritable, among other things. Kids with autism, SPD, ADHD, and other disorders spend far more time with their sympathetic nervous system in charge than most of us. And most of us in our modern society spend far more time with our sympathetic nervous system in charge than is ideal.

But when you apply Deep Touch Pressure to the body, it switches over to the parasympathetic nervous system. Cortisol decreases. Dopamine (neurotransmitter associated with brain’s pleasure center) and serotonin (neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being) increase. Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease. Your muscles relax, blood flow improves. You feel relaxed and calm.

You can apply Deep Touch Pressure many ways. A hug. Firm touch (with warning and approval of the person being touched, if they’re sensitive to touch). A massage. Or a weighted blanket or lap pad, which have the benefit of not requiring another person, and being available whenever and wherever you need.

Read more about our weighted blankets here, and more on the science that supports the idea of using weighted blankets for better sleep here. And get your very own weighted blanket or weighted lap pad from Wallypop.
Hsin-Yung Chen et. al., 2011

Some of you may find this article about touch and ASD to be informative, as well.

Do Weighted Blankets Work? Here’s What The Science Says

What does science say about weighted blankets? Do studies support the idea that weighted blankets help with sleep?

We’ll cover the science behind how and why weighted blankets may help in another article, but for now, we wanted to focus on what the science currently says about whether weighted blankets objectively improve sleep.

And…well, not too many studies have looked at this issue, surprisingly, and they’re generally pretty small studies. But many studies that have been completed to date do show objective improvement in sleep, and most show subjective improvement.

Image shows a woman lying on a couch under a weighted blanket

Here are all the studies that HAVE been done that we could dig up.

—  1992 Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. Temple Grandin’s study on her Hug Box supports the idea that deep pressure (such as you get from a hug, or from a weighted blanket, or from, as Dr. Grandin used to do, crawling under the couch cushions and having someone sit on you) objectively calms people with ASD and ADHD.

—  2008 Occupational Therapy in Mental Health.  This study looked at a small group of adults, and measured things like respiration rate, blood pressure, etc., during short periods of using a 30 lb weighted blanket (regardless of participant’s weight). They also looked at effectiveness by measuring electrodermal activity (EDA), using a standardized anxiety measurement, and an exit survey. “The results reveal that the use of the 30 lb weighted blanket, in the lying down position, is safe as evidenced by the vital sign metrics. Data obtained on effectiveness reveal 33% demonstrated lowering in EDA when using the weighted blanket, 63% reported lower anxiety after use, and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.”

—  2011 Nordic Journal of Psychiatry. This study looked at 21 children with ADHD, who slept with a weighted blanket for 14 days, and without for 14 days. Their sleep was monitored by sleep journals and actigraphy. Conclusion: “The results of this study show that the use of Ball Blankets is a relevant and effective treatment method with regard to minimizing sleep onset latency. We find that the use of Ball Blankets for 14-days improves the time it takes to fall asleep, individual day-to-day variation and the number of awakenings to a level that compares with those found in the healthy control group. Furthermore, we find that the use of Ball Blankets significantly reduces the number of nights that the ADHD child spends more than 30 min falling asleep from 19% to 0%.”

—  2012 Australasian Psychiatry. This study looked at about 30 adults inpatient in a psychiatric unit. “Those individuals who used the weighted blanket reported significantly greater reductions in distress and clinician-rated anxiety than those who did not. No changes were noted in rates of seclusion or aggression.”

—  2014 Pediatrics. This study looked at children with an ASD diagnosis and “severe sleep problems.” They gave kids a weighted blanket (no notes on the weight and whether it was appropriate for the weight of the child) and an otherwise identical regular blanket. One blanket was used for 2 weeks at bedtime, then the other blanket was used for 2 weeks at bedtime. 67 children completed the study. The results? “Using objective measures, the weighted blanket, compared with the control blanket, did not increase TST [total sleep time] as measured by actigraphy and adjusted for baseline TST. There were no group differences in any other objective or subjective measure of sleep, including behavioral outcomes. On subjective preference measures, parents and children favored the weighted blanket.” It’s hard to say what this result means. Perhaps the children and parents were experiencing a benefit not captured by the study. Perhaps it was a placebo effect (they expected to see a difference, so they did). It’s also possible that “severe sleep problems” involve larger issues than can be reasonably improved by a weighted blanket.

—  2015 Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders. This study looked at 31 adults with chronic insomnia. They slept one week with usual bedding, 2 weeks with weighted blanket, then 1 week with usual bedding. 80% of study participants slept longer and spent less time awake during the night while using the weighted blanket. Participants also reported that it was easier to settle into sleep with the weighted blanket, feeling as though they’d slept better, and feeling more refreshed in the morning.

—  2016 Journal of Formosan Medical Association. They used weighted blankets on people getting a wisdom tooth extraction and compared them with people without the weighted blanket. (This makes me wonder if they just used the lead aprons, lol. My favorite part of the dentist is using that lead apron. It’s sooooo heavy and feels sooooo nice.) They discovered that those WITH the weighted blanket showed more activity in the part of the nervous system that manages low-stress situations, suggesting the people with the blankets were less stressed by their wisdom tooth extraction.

And then there’s the reported experiences of parents, kids, and adults, many of whom report better sleep with a weighted blanket than without. Get yours here!

Image shows a weighted blanket all folded up.

Weighted Vests

I don’t know how relevant weighted vest studies are, since they’re used in different ways than blankets, but I wanted to include these weighted vest studies that I found:  Decrease stress, increase calm

A 2011 study in the South African Journal of Occupational Therapy found ADHD kids were more on-task while wearing weighted vests.  ADHD kids increase focus, but very small.

Pinnable image for this entry

All About… Waist Belt Pouches

What Can’t You Fit in our Babywearing Waist Belt Pouches?

One of our more popular babywearing accessories is the Waist Belt Pouch. This handy accessory slips over the waistband of your SSC and holds your stuff.

What can they hold?

Keys, money, credit cards in a Compact size. (Some phones will fit in the Compact size.)

A cell phone, keys, some money, credit cards, an EpiPen, and a snack in a Regular size.

A cell phone, keys, some money, and credit cards in a Large size.

All of the above, plus a diaper and wipes (in a Small wet bag) in a Large size.

Tube feeding supplies in a Large pouch.

Hiking Kit in a Compact pouch.

Hiking Kits in a Large pouch.  (Notice my Freshette “lady penis.” It’s my favorite hiking companion – especially for babywearing. Lets you pee standing up, without depantsing.)

Medications in a Syringe Holster in a Large pouch – prefilled syringes not in a Holster might fit in the Compact or Regular, depending on how big they are and how many.

For many people, they can fit their necessities inside, and avoid having to carry a bigger bag or purse.

We offer three sizes. Compact size is about 5 inches tall and 6 inches wide. Regular is about 6 inches tall and 7 inches wide. Large is about 10 inches tall and 6 inches wide. The Large has snaps on the outside that allow you to snap it up smaller for times when you don’t need the full capacity.

Obviously, I’m not wearing a child in the carrier in these pictures. All pictures are with a Tula. Evidently, I’m just too lazy to get out my other carriers.

The pouches are constructed with canvas or twill on the back and the belt loop. The side that shows is made of cotton, typically in a fun print. The inside is made from either flannel, soft cotton, or a linen blend, depending on what we have on hand in a color that coordinates with the outside.

Buy Yours Here!