School Age

'Beat the buzzer': morning routine game

'Beat the buzzer': morning routine game

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About 'Beat the buzzer'

'Beat the buzzer' works because it rewards your child for being on time and ready in the morning.

As you introduce this game into your morning routine and play it with your child, praising your child will help things along. When children get praise for behaving well or doing what you want them to do, they're likely to want to keep behaving that way.

How to make 'Beat the buzzer' part of your morning routine

1. Explain the game
Explain that you want to introduce a game called 'Beat the buzzer' to help with getting ready in the mornings. Choose a buzzer and show it to your child. You could use a kitchen timer or the alarm on your phone.

2. Plan your morning routine together
Talk to your child about how you'd both like the morning routine to improve. Agree on a 'ready time' - your child must be ready for school at this time.

Together, write a list of the tasks your child needs to do in the morning. With younger children, you do the writing, but you could ask them to help you draw a picture for each task on the list. Explain what tasks you expect children to do on their own and what tasks you'll help with.

The list might look something like this:

  • Eat breakfast.
  • Get dressed.
  • Brush teeth, wash face, brush hair, put on sunscreen.
  • Pack bag.
  • Put on jacket, hat, shoes.

When you have a list that you're both happy with, put it up where your child can check it throughout the morning.

3. Decide on rewards and consequences
Explain to your child what will happen if he's ready on time, and what will happen if he isn't.

Make up a simple chart to keep track of success with ticks or stickers. You can decide how many ticks or stickers your child needs for a reward. At first, it might be that one tick or sticker equals a reward.

Choose some special rewards for beating the buzzer. Activities with mum or dad are often the most effective rewards.

Choose some appropriate consequences for not being ready. These could include not being allowed to watch TV, or going to bed 10-15 minutes earlier.

4. Try out the game
On your first 'Beat the buzzer' morning, set the timer and leave your child to it. Let her know that you've set the 'buzzer' and now it's up to her.

Watch for your child being independent and responsible. Praise and encourage him - for example, 'You're going well' or 'Keep it up'. But avoid giving reminders and instructions about tasks - this will just lead you back to nagging and fighting.

If your child gets all the tasks done by the time the buzzer sounds, she wins - and gets the tick or sticker on her chart.

If your child isn't ready when the buzzer goes

Here's what to do if your child isn't ready when his time is up:

  • Calmly let your child know that the buzzer has sounded, and get her ready to go.
  • Remind your child that he can try again the following morning.
  • Follow through with the consequence you decided on.
Encourage your child to check the list rather than telling her what to do next. This will help her become more independent. It also reduces nagging from you.

'Beat the buzzer' next steps

When things have been going well for a week or two, start phasing out the rewards over the next 3-4 weeks. Your child might need to be on time two, three, four, then five days in a row to earn the reward (make the reward a little bigger each time). Then make rewards a surprise. Your child won't know when a reward is on offer - it just happens every now and then.

As time goes on, your child might find it easy to beat the buzzer. Even when your child is regularly ready on time, praise him occasionally to keep him motivated.


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