“Time to finish,” calls mom as her child continues to color. “Color one more truck and then it’s time to finish.”  No response. “OK, one more minute then time to stop”.

Does this sound like your home? Starting activities with your child can be hard, but stopping on time can be even harder.

The concept of time and time frames is foreign to most children until they have practiced with what starting means and what stopping means. Starting and stopping are behaviors that are dependent on time and space.  Time, itself, is a very human-taught thing.

Adhering to stop and start depends on the circumstances. If your job begins at 8:00 AM, does that mean you park your car at 8:00 AM in the staff parking lot, or does it mean you should be at your desk initiating work at 8:00 AM? That depends on your job and the circumstances.

“Stop teasing your brother,” means stop talking, moving, fooling around and look at me for further directions. “Stop playing so we can get to school on time,” is more urgent than to “stop playing so we can do a different game.” Your child must be taught what stop means in these different circumstances.

Children that have trouble stopping one thing and starting a new thing can practice doing so at times when your agenda is relaxed. Practicing this skill, like practicing any new skill, needs to be done in a stress-free environment.

Consider declaring a “part way done day.” During part way done day you can practice what it feels like to stop before the task is completed. Make it fun and silly. Perhaps share a drawing of a boat and leave it part way done. Share a small bowl of popcorn, but only partially finish the bowl full. Ask your child to build a tower, but stop part way along.

Another game to teach children time and space is the game of the “change of plans” day. Consider declaring a change of plans day. Perhaps start a game with one set of rules and then you have a change in plans and alter the rules. Start the game in sitting and then, “change in plans” finish the game in standing. Go for a walk, then have a change of plans and walk backwards or a change in plans and sit down, or hop or sing.

Learning to negotiate change in plans and to navigate tasks that are part way done are necessary skills in the adult world. Children who learn this early in life can feel more comfortable and self-assured when surprises change the course of events in their day. Get creative. Have fun. Enjoy.

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