Home Featured How a Kid’s Hourglass Timer got our Kids to Clean Up

How a Kid’s Hourglass Timer got our Kids to Clean Up

by C'MON MAMA
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Every now & then you stumble upon something that actually makes a difference in your life. And it sounds silly to say that about a set of kid’s hourglass timers, but I’d be lying if I said they hadn’t rocked our world by helping get our kids to clean up after themselves.

This post contains affiliate links.

(Here’s the link to the hourglass timer set we have in case you want to skip the article…but I’d “buy now” & then come back & read. Some solid Mom hacks in this one.)


As parents, we were struggling to get our kids to clean up. That’s how it all started.

I’m a big believer in letting kids make messes & play & use their imaginations in the biggest & best ways. I love that part of childhood. But if you’re going to let them play like there’s no tomorrow, that usually means them making a mess like there’s no tomorrow, too.

We’d play play play all day, but then when it was time for our kids to clean up it was basically Mission: Impossible.

They’d complain. Or fuss. Or cry. But, we’d always manage to get our kids to clean up. (Well, at least our son. Our daughter…not so much.)

The problem was how much effort it took from usthe parents—to get our kids to clean up.

It took A LOT.

If I’m being honest, it would be both easier & more peaceful if we just cleaned up everything by ourselves every night. But what would that be teaching our kids? Not a damn thing. It’s important that they know how to clean up after themselves and it’s our job as parents to help them learn how.

So, we would basically spend 30 minutes every night trying to get our kids to clean up. (I mean just look at that mess)

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We would oversee their clean up. And not from a distance. I mean overseeing it by being right next to them in the clean up trenches, constantly saying “Okay, what about this? How about that? Does it look clean? Where does that go? Don’t just throw things in there, put them back in the right place.”

It was driving my husband and me nuts. It was exhausting us. And, it was exhausting our kids. Even the tiniest messes became big deals. Messes that should take 10 minutes for our kids to clean up would take 30. Or more.

So one night I decided I was done with being the clean-up referee & dishing out play-by-play clean up instructions. I got the biggest box I could find from the garage (luckily I had just ordered dog food on Amazon), brought it upstairs & just said, “You have 10 minutes to clean up. Anything not in the right spot after those 10 minutes will go in this box. And those toys will stay in that box until you earn them back because if it’s too much to clean up then it’s too much to play with.”

They were floored.

It mostly worked, but they kept asking if it had been 10 minutes yet. On repeat. Like every 10 seconds. So, it was still exhausting, albeit less so.

I realized we needed some kind of clean-up timer, and it hit me that an hourglass timer for kids would be ideal so they could have a visual of the time. I came across a kid’s hourglass timer set and BOOM. It was go time.

(Hallelujah for 2 day shipping.)

The night the kid’s hourglass timers got delivered, I put the 10 minute timer out & explained that the sand would take 10 minutes to empty to the bottom & after that—”time’s up.” Let me tell you, having that visual was HUGE for my kids (they’re 5 & 3 but were 4 & 2 at the time). It was crucial for the success of my new “hands off” clean up routine that they be able to monitor how much time they had left on their own.

Kids have no concept of time when they’re young. It’s one of my favorite things about having little kids, actually. Because I can say “10 minutes” to anything whether it’s 2 or 30 minutes. Or I can say it’s “almost bedtime” at 4:00 if I want. They don’t know. I’m milking that for as long as I can.

But the flip side of that is, you can’t tell them “10 minutes” & expect them to know how to manage that. That was the mistake I made the first night with the clean-up box. As soon as I introduced the kid’s hourglass timers into the mix, it was Mission: Accomplished.

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And the crazy thing is, my kids immediately loved using these timers. They loved monitoring the time progression and “warning” each other when they were getting close to running out of time.

These kid’s hourglass timers deserve total “mom hack” status. They proved so successful with getting our kids to clean up that we started using them for everything we could:

  • Timeouts
  • Brushing teeth
  • Taking turns with toys they both “had first”
  • Screen time/tablet time
  • How much longer they can play until dinner
  • Brother/Sister play time before bed

The list could go on & on.

These hourglass timers for kids have become one of my favorite mom hacks—for everything from getting our kids to clean up to getting them to play nicely together.

I love all the time options in our kid’s hourglass timer set because there’s the perfect timer for everything.

1 minute brushing teeth. 3 minutes with the “toy of the moment” before they have to switch. 5 minutes until dinner. 10 minutes to clean up. 15 minutes to clean up a big mess. 20 minutes to play before we have to get ready for bed. 30 minutes of brother/sister time before tuck-in. Or tablet or screen time. The options are endless.

kids hourglass timer get kids to clean up after themselves

And my favorite thing about using the kid’s hourglass timers is that it leaves zero room for questions.

No more “How much longer?” or “Is it almost time?” or “Is it my turn yet?” The timers speak for themselves. Which means I might can finally catch my breath. And somehow my kids listen—like really listen—to those inanimate silent timers. Even better than they listen to me.

And you know what? I don’t even care. I’m totally calling it a win.

(Gets yours here: Kid’s Hourglass Timer Set)


Want more Mom Hacks? —> Check out why we’re obsessed with the HOMER Learning App (ahem, guilt-free screentime)! 

Or my Kids Charcuterie Board dinner hack (yes, dinner)!

And don’t miss my potty-training tips & my kids’ different potty-training experiences (plus everything you need).

Like this post? Join MAMA’s email list to get more like this. All things MOMishthe MOMents + MOMfessions, & all the Mama Must-Haves!



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Mamaaka June 28, 2020 - 5:18 pm

Omg this is genius my son is almost 2 never enjoys or does cleanup with my cleaning up song and my cousin who we live together now ALWAYS asks me how long till I get home how long is 5 minutes ? Now? Now?? Omg I got to get this thing on AMAZON tonight lol

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C'MON MAMA July 5, 2020 - 2:39 pm

This has been the best mom hack for getting our kids to clean up after themselves…without endless complaining!

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C'MON MAMA July 3, 2020 - 7:48 am

These little kid hourglass timers have made SO MANY THINGS a million times easier for us — starting with getting our kids to clean up after themselves!

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C'MON MAMA July 3, 2020 - 7:47 am

These kid’s hourglass timers have been a total game changer for us! Especially for getting our kids to clean up (without fussing…as much, ha!). Seriously though, we have found about a million uses for them!

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Charissa Eisenbaugh June 26, 2020 - 1:01 pm

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C'MON MAMA July 2, 2020 - 7:56 am

These little timers have been absolutely GAME CHANGERS for us! We really do use them for everything you can imagine. Something about that visual just clicks with them. And it has made things like getting our kids to clean up and just listen in general soooo much easier!

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I now set a timer on Alexa to help everyone clean up. They think it is fun!

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C'MON MAMA July 1, 2020 - 7:36 am

The clean up timer mom hack is a game changer!! I’m not sure why they listen to timers better than us, but I’m not even mad about it. I’ll take it!

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