Beat the Clock!

Mornings had become a horrible time of day, as I’m sure is the case for many families. Jeremy had started to take much of the responsibility of getting the kids up and fed and Mac’s lunch made when he was home, which was great. But we still had to continually remind them to eat and get moving.

“Eat your breakfast. You have 5 minutes left before you need to get dressed.”

“Keep moving or we’ll be late.”

“Get dressed so we don’t miss the bus.”

“Get your clothes on, please. We need to leave in 2 minutes.”

“Finish your breakfast. It’s time to get dressed.”

I could go on, but I’m sure many of you parents out there are familiar with all of these phrases and more. It sucks the energy out of us at a time of day when we barely have any energy built up, and I don’t know about you, but I haven’t even had my morning caffeine at this point!

On Friday, April 25th, we had a particularly miserable start to the day. I was on my own after Jeremy had to leave very early for work. I was barking at Mac and Vivian to get eating and get dressed, yelling by the time we were getting in the car. I looked at Mac’s face and could see clearly that this was also not how he wanted to start HIS days. I apologized for yelling. I told them I was going to work on a way to make mornings better.


Jeremy and I had actually talked about it before this. Just a week earlier, we had a discussion about ideas for what we could do to make mornings better. I realized that, while I can make up time if I get up late, Mac has no concept of how much time he has to make up, or how much time he has for anything, for that matter. I hurry him along, it feels like we have plenty of time, then before I know it, it’s 7:20 and we’re going to be late. Then HE wants to know, “why are we late again, Mommy?” Ugh. So frustrating.


Back to the 25th. And the idea!

I had finally formulated in my head the picture of an analog clock with shaded areas for different steps to getting ready – eat, get dressed, be ready (shoes, backpack, etc.). I felt like if Mac could see what he needed to do and where the time was in that process, he could probably take care of it on his own. A simple timer would not work, because we’d have to set it for each task, and we’d have to find one that is big enough to set on the table and be obvious. A digital form of anything would not work either because the visual is important for him.

I went to Target in search of a simple analog clock. Check.

I started to create some circles on the computer but decided the mock-up would be faster by hand. I made some different-sized parts of a circle to put on the inside part of the clock. This was the idea:


But it wasn’t quite right. The tasks were covering up the hands, and it was confusing to see the tips of all the hands poking out from underneath.

Next I thought maybe we could cover more of the clock and just write in the numbers so that we could only see the tip of the minute hand (that’s really the only one they need to see), but that wasn’t going to work either because it hid too much.

I found what I really wanted was to have the tasks under the hands, and better yet, remove the hour and second hands altogether to avoid confusion. I ran out of time before I could do much more that day. By the time I got back to it, Jeremy was home and ready to help. He quickly took the clock apart to remove the front cover AND the second and hour hands. I was thrilled that the clock still worked with only the minute hand installed!

Once we had that done, I went back to the computer to create the task sections. It took a long time to get them just right (to my standards), but what we ended up with was quite impressive!


Now to put it to the test!


I showed the clock to Mac on Sunday night. I reminded him of Friday and how that was not such a great way to start and told him I made this clock to help him to know how long he has to eat and get dressed, and when he needs to be ready to go. He seemed to like that idea!

The first two days were a success! We were out the door early both days with very little intervention and few reminders. Most importantly, there was NO yelling! The second day, Mac even finished eating early and asked, “Mommy, if it’s not on dressed yet, do I have to get dressed?”

I happily replied, “No! But as soon as it’s on dressed, you need to start getting your clothes on.”

The true test was going to be the rest of the week when Jeremy would be out of town and I was on my own.

Wednesday was not great. I got up late after having two of the three kids up in the night. BUT, we were NOT late! AND, I still didn’t have to yell. So still a success in my book!

Thursday, I still didn’t get up early enough. I got up at 6:15, but Mac wasn’t budging (so much easier when Jeremy takes over that part!), and he didn’t make it to the table until 5-10 minutes into “eat.” He wasn’t happy about that. I told him it had seemed like he wasn’t needing as much time since we started with the clock, but he said he’d like to have that much time anyway and that he’d also like time to watch some TV before he eats. So I agreed to try to get him up earlier.

And since then, this clock thing has worked really well for us. Mornings are no longer about barking and yelling and “hurry-up.” It’s been fantastic! Sometimes I’m not able to get him up quite as early as he’d like, but I do my best, and he seems ok with it. What he likes most is getting to school and being first in line!

I ended up putting the cover back on the face of the clock after realizing Vivian found it fun to try to “change time” a few mornings. I also made a stand for the clock to sit better on the kitchen table, but Jeremy’s version easily beat mine – it works and is way more simple: two large binder clips!

Now I’m going to work on making a second clock we can put up in the living room so we don’t have to keep moving the one around. I’ll also be finalizing the “tasks” and maybe making a few more, then I’ll laminate them and get some velcro to make the whole thing more adjustable. We’ve been able to use it a few times when we have to be somewhere in the evening too, so it’s nice we can just pull the cover off and move the tasks around.

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