Little Kids and the Power of the Five Minute Warning

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little kids and time - transitions - five minute warning - mom meet momLittle kids are busy people. I love watching my four-year-old get totally absorbed in her play, whether she’s making art or choreographing a new dance or guiding Calico Critters through a soap opera worthy drama.

I am a busy person, too. And a working mom who can’t always wait for little ones to get with the program. I have A LOT scheduled on any given day. Usually, because I am a freelancer, we have some flexibility in terms of what time we need to be out of the house, but some days we need to be out of the house at exactly such-and-such a time, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Between us, we can clash like crazy when it comes to getting ready to go… or switching from task to task, ending a playdate, or just getting shoes on in the morning. And we used to clash a lot – I’ve had more arguments with a two year old over putting on a coat than I care to admit.

Luckily, I figured out that all it took to stop (most of) the arguing was the five minute warning.The five minute warning is good for not just getting out of the house, but also getting my daughter to the table for breakfast or into the bathroom for ‘teeth and hair’ or out of someone else’s house after a playdate. It helps us leave playgrounds and the beach and anywhere else that’s unusually fun without tears or tantrums. Shoes get put on feet without complaint. We can get to dance class on time or into the car without a whole production.

The five minute warning is amazing.

Here’s the thing, though: The five minute warning never actually means five minutes. I like to give the five minute warning ten or more minutes before we need to leave the house or brush teeth or do whatever. Then when there’s actually five minutes until go time, I give a two minute warning, and so on. Sometimes I give the first five minute warning a half an hour before we’re leaving!

It works because my daughter can’t actually tell time, so I can give as many warnings as I want in any period of time. This means she can prepare herself to switch from one task to another or to go from place to place. She has a chance to wind down whatever activity she was focused on so I’m not pulling her away from the construction of a new Duplo zoo or her picture book before she can finish.

It’s sometimes hard to remember how new our little ones are to this big old world we live in. We might know what another day means another breakfast and another drive to childcare because that’s what we do every Monday or Wednesday, but they don’t always get that routine is, well, routine. Of course my daughter doesn’t want to stop playing to eat breakfast – who would? But a little mental prep goes a long way to help her understand what’s happening and why, and it really is amazing how much knowing what’s coming makes the less-than-ideal less traumatic.

christa terry - mom meet mom

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