Would you laugh if I told you we have bought over twenty timers/ stopwatches in the last four years? Yes, REALLY! We should have just bought stock in Timex when we got our ADHD diagnoses! We’re sharing our best, tested timepieces in this post, and some general tips for ADHD time blindness.
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This post was first published November 20, 2021. Updated and expanded: July 27, 2023.
As we discussed in our first post, ADHD time blindness describes the inability of ADHDers to accurately measure time, and to organize their tasks appropriately with regard to time. We talked about why this happens, and how it can impact daily life.
In our second post, we talked in detail about some strategies that are helpful in minimizing the disruptions that can happen because of time blindness.
Our family has used a lot of different timers/ time measurement devices since our first ADHD diagnosis four years ago. In this post, we will talk about different kinds of ADHD timers, watches and clocks, and evaluate their effectiveness, cost, and durability.
TL;DR: You can shop our full list of recommended ADHD products in our Amazon storefront.
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Smart Devices as ADHD timers
Smart devices can be helpful, or super distracting for someone with ADHD. One good way to keep ADHDers from getting lost in cyberspace is to set time limits for specific tasks. For example, setting a twenty minute limit on games, or a one hour limit on email, can give you the razor-focus to get the essentials done.
As the parent, I set the total time limits for games, books, email and social chat for my kids with ADHD. That way, they have to ask for extra time on their screen, rather than lose three hours scrolling through Pinterest cat memes!
Sometimes it makes more sense to set an alarm for you as the parent, instead of for the child. I use my personal phone alarms to remind me to keep kids on task. ADHD timers need to be set for short times, and frequent reminders.
I have one child who needs to be reminded to go shower every day, another to brush hair. These children are still responsible to actually do the task, but the alarms give me a reminder to follow-up and see if it was done. In my busy household it is way too easy for me to forget to follow through consistently with my kids unless I set a reminder!
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However, your brain starts to tune notifications out when there are too many alarms, so use the alarms judiciously. Choose different sounds for different reminders to help keep them fresh. Novelty is important for ADHD brains.
Joon App for ADHD families
My newest find for helping my kids stay on task is the Joon app. Joon uses the power of gamification to help ADHD kids stay motivated to complete tasks by rewarding them with credits to use in the game.
Joon allows me to set up tasks and chores for each child, and even set a deadline. I highly recommend Joon for ADHD families, so go read my full review if you need more details!
@dinkumtribe The Joon app is an incredible tool for families with ADHD. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #adhdfamilies #adhdparenting #adhdproblems #adhdfamilylife #adhdinfo #adhdingiftedkids #adhdstruggle #adhdinwomenandgirls #adhdinformation #adhdlearningaboutadhd #momsofadhdkids ##adhdtiktok##ADHDKid##JoonApp##KidsAndChores##HomeworkHelper##ADHDHomeschooling@@joonadhd ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel
This is an app that I love! It allows you to set multiple timers at once from the same device. I have tried several ADHD timer apps, but this one is my favorite.
More than once I have put a child into time out to calm down, then forgotten that I did that until twenty minutes have gone by because I did not have a timer on hand. Or I set a timer and don’t hear it because someone asks me a question and I thoughtlessly shut it off.
The Multi-Timer app solves that problem. There are six different timers that can be labeled and set to countdown or up for any amount of time. It’s also handy for cooking dinners with several timed dishes cooking!
It was a lifesaver when we made homemade strawberry jam! Each step could be timed separately without having to change the time length on each alarm.
Dedicated ADHD Timers, Specific Locations
Each ADHD child should have their own personal timer. We have found it helpful to also have ADHD timers in each location where they are commonly used.
Since kids generally struggle to keep track of their things, a small object like a timer is easily misplaced. In a household with eight people and four pets, something is always missing, or broken, or lost!
We buy multiple timers for different locations and uses. Before we understood how ADHD impacts our family, I would get so frustrated that my kids seemed to always lose their brushes, shoes, hair ties, water bottles… Sometimes I still get frustrated!
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However I’ve realized that getting upset at that doesn’t help anyone, and it ends up using time and energy that is better applied elsewhere.
So now I buy multiple, inexpensive versions of things that we tend to lose. I have resigned myself to the fact that we will just lose more things than a standard household.
This is not to say that we don’t work with our children to help them learn how to take good care of their things.
Kids need coaching on how to look for something that is lost. We regularly remind our son that he needs to move things around when he is searching for a missing item- not just give a cursory glance over the area!
We also have taken the time to teach our children the concept that everything needs a dedicated “home” to be put away. With training, repetition, patience and maturity, our kids do lose fewer things eventually.
There’s no point in getting angry about kids losing things- maturity and practice will change that tendency, not my anger.
Best big ADHD timers
When our daughter got her ADHD diagnosis, her behavioral therapist recommended that we get timers which visually show the countdown shrinking as time passes. Most of the timers in our list meet that criteria. This helps ADHDers “see” how much time they have left for their task.
Secura magnetic timer
As I said earlier, I have probably bought over two dozen timers in the last four years since we got our ADHD diagnoses.
We have tried lots of different options, but so far the one that has survived the longest is this Secura one– still on our fridge! It is heavy duty, and the magnet is super strong.
@dinkumtribe Here’s my walkthrough on our favorite timer for our ADHD family. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #adhdtimeblindness #adhdtimemanagement #adhdtimeparadox #adhdtimer #besttimer #besttimers #adhdfamilies #adhdparenting #adhdproblems #adhdfamilylife #adhdfactoftheday #adhdemployee #adhdinfo #adhdingiftedkids #adhdstruggle #adhdinwomenandgirls #adhdinformation #adhdlearningaboutadhd #momsofadhdkids ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel
The Time Timer was highly recommended by the behavioral therapist. The visual time countdown (pie shape) is ideal for helping ADHDers “see” time. We bought several, and I eventually stopped using them because they break easily. Kids are not gentle on things!
I would only recommend this timer if you are planning to affix it to the wall. It comes with a stand, but if your kid knocks it over, it’s done. An ADHD timer should be fairly indestructible, and this one was not!
These colorful ones are more stable, but still breakable, so you’ll want to exercise caution in where you use them.
If you have a magnetic surface, a standard kitchen timer works pretty well. Notice that the bigger the numbers and display are, the more effective they tend to be.
Digital ADHD timers are not as effective for long time increments (over 15 minutes).
We even have these ToileTree waterproof timers for use in the bathroom, so that our kids don’t stay in the shower too long. Recently one of our sons got “lost” in the shower for an hour while Mom and Dad were in a virtual meeting! 🤦♀️
ToileTree timers are great because you can permanently stick them to a surface (which means they don’t wander off and get lost). You can also hang them using a standard nail or screw.
Best Clocks for ADHD
We prefer to use battery operated alarm clocks in our bedrooms for a couple of reasons. First, the blue light from screens is a known sleep disruptor, and ADHDers struggle with sleep generally. That’s why we keep screens out of our bedrooms.
Secondly, many people with ADHD struggle to wake even with an alarm clock. A battery operated alarm clock allows you to position it in the room wherever you want, without needing an outlet. That means you can put it far out of reach of the bed, so that you have to get up to turn it off!
For younger kids, a clock that lights up at waking time can be particularly helpful. It’s hard to sleep when the room is full of light. If your teen or adult struggles to wake up, you can even get an alarm clock that vibrates the bed or pillow!
These are some alarm clocks we use in our house with our kids, teens and adult ADHDers.
1. SHARP Digital Alarm Clock
2. Equity by La Crosse 70905 Soft Blue Cube LCD Alarm Clock
ADHD-friendly Wall Clocks
Bigger, bolder, and loud! Those are some of the things we look for in ADHD wall clocks for our household. Many people struggle to read a standard analog clock, so if that’s you, definitely grab a digital wall clock.
However, we’ve found that analog clocks with hands showing hours and minutes are much easier to “see” time passing at our house. If the clock gives some kind of notification on each hour, that can also be helpful.
ADHD Watches for kids and teens
All three of my kids with ADHD (two are currently in high school) have found a wristwatch to be incredibly helpful. Even though my oldest now has her own cell phone, the sports wristwatch we got her allows her to track time and set alarms, even when she can’t or shouldn’t be using her phone. Since screens are so addictive, it’s a huge benefit having a wristwatch.
Additionally, a wristwatch with a timer/stopwatch feature is great for kids not yet old enough to own their own phone. Assuming, of course, that you can get them to keep it on! Some kids with ADHD also deal with sensory issues, so this can be a problem.
The most important features for an ADHD-friendly watch that we’ve found are:
- Waterproof: your child or teen WILL forget to take their watch off when showering, swimming, or washing dishes, so just get a watch that can handle some water!
- Shock resistant: again, people with ADHD struggle to remember that they’re wearing a watch, so if the watch can handle getting knocked around, that’s a definite benefit!
- Stopwatch feature/ timer: this is a great option for kids and teens who use the Pomodoro method to manage longer tasks!
- Alarm: medication reminders, wake-up times, daily routines… any of these can be set right on the watch, which means that it won’t get left in another room out of earshot and forgotten.
- Comfortable: many ADHDers also have sensory challenges, so finding a comfortable watch will help encourage your ADHD child or teen to wear their watch.
Here’s two watches our kids use consistently— multiple colors and styles are available.
1. Armitron Sport Women’s 45/7012 Digital Chronograph Resin Strap Watch
2. Armitron Sport Women’s Digital Chronograph Resin Strap Watch, 45/7086
A regrettable gift
Since he already recognized by that point his need for help keeping track of time, he set the watch to go off on the hour, every hour.
I did not know he had done that.
In the middle of the night, I heard the alarm go off every hour, and every hour it woke me up! I searched high and low for what device was going off, but could not find it. He slept right through the whole thing!
In the morning, I described my struggle (in exasperated tones), and he was as puzzled as I was. He had completely forgotten that he had set his watch to do that!
I shot my husband a death glare, while he frantically tried to shut it off and avoided my eyes.
Attitude is key
I have spent a significant amount of time coaching and mentoring my kids with regards to good time management practices. I have also spent a lot of time talking about schedules and routines and priorities with my husband to help him create realistic plans for his days as a self-employed business owner. In a future post I plan to share the details of those coaching processes.
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A key principal for coping with these disruptions is acceptance and good humor. These things happen, and in a family with ADHD, they happen more often.
When ADHD time blindness causes disruptions, laugh things off if you can. If you can’t manage to laugh about it, remember to be patient.
Our loved ones with ADHD really do experience time differently. Acknowledging the difference and leaving the moral judgment out of it truly makes things go more smoothly. And that keeps the relationship intact.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are timers good for ADHD?
Yes! Since people with ADHD often struggle with time blindness, a timer is one method of helping ADHDers to see and notice the passing of time. The kind of timer that works best depends on the situation and location where the timer will be used.
What is an ADHD timer?
An ADHD timer is one that visually shows time passing as a decreasing amount. The most basic of these would be a sand timer or hourglass. Modern versions of ADHD-friendly timers often use colored pie shapes that shrink in size as the time decreases.
What is the best timer for ADHD kids?
The best timers for ADHD kids are highly visible, sturdy, and clearly show time decreasing. We’ve listed several of our favorites that meet these criteria in this post.
What is the silent timer for ADHD?
A silent timer uses an indicator, such as light, instead of an alarm sound to mark the end of the timed period. It’s particularly helpful in situations when an alarm would be disruptive, or for ADHDers who need to work with a minimum of sound distraction.
© Copyright 2021-2024 Jennifer D. Warren. UPDATED: July 27, 2023.