About ‘Beat the buzzer’
‘Beat the buzzer’ is a game that rewards your child for being on time and ready in the morning. It works because it’s fun for your child.
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 following the routine or doing what you’ve asked 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. Your child might enjoy having a go at setting the timer to see how it works.
2. Plan your morning routine together
Talk with your child about how you’d both like the morning routine to improve. Agree on a ‘ready time’ – your child must be ready to leave 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.
Think about how long each task will take your child to do. This will help you work out what time the game needs to begin.
Work out whether there are any tasks your child needs help with, and let your child know that they don’t have to do these ones by themselves.
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 and shoes.
When you have a list that you’re both happy with, put it up where your child can check it during the morning.
3. Decide on rewards
Explain to your child what will happen if they’re ready on time, and what will happen if they aren’t.
Make up a simple reward chart so you can 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.
4. Try out the game
On your first ‘Beat the buzzer’ morning, set the timer and leave your child to it. Let your child know that you’ve set the ‘buzzer’ and now it’s up to them.
Watch for your child being independent and responsible. Praise and encourage your child. 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, your child wins – and gets the tick or sticker on their chart. Give the tick or sticker straight away. And once your child has earned a reward, give the reward as soon as possible too. This keeps your child motivated.
If your child isn’t ready when the buzzer goes
If your child isn’t ready when the time is up, calmly let your child know that the buzzer has sounded, and get them ready to go. Remind your child that they can try again the following morning.
Encourage your child to check the list rather than telling your child what to do next. This will help your child become more independent. It also reduces nagging from you.
‘Beat the buzzer’ next steps
When things have been going well for 1-2 weeks, start phasing out the rewards over the next 3-4 weeks.
For example, your child might need to be on time 2, 3, 4 and then 5 days in a row to earn the reward, but you could 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 them and give them a surprise reward now and then to keep them motivated.