By Delaney Francis on Dec 9, 2020 12:51:37 PM
Waiting is difficult for many adults. Whether it is waiting for food to be served, waiting to be called into the doctor’s office, or waiting in a long line of traffic, few enjoy waiting. When we look at waiting from a child's perspective, it can become even less appealing.
The concept of units of time typically develops later in childhood, which means that a five-minute wait may seem never-ending to a young child. Waiting can be problematic for several reasons. The inability to tolerate waiting can cause frustration for both caregivers and children, limit family outings, and create negative behavior patterns to decrease problem behavior. Fortunately, there are ways we can help foster the development of this essential skill.
First, we should consider the age of the child and the length of the waiting time when setting our expectations. While a ten-year-old may be able to wait for something quietly for ten minutes, it would not be realistic to expect the same of a three-year-old without adding some support.
Here are some ideas for all ages:
Have a Special Waiting Toy or Activity Ready
For example, if your child wants attention while you are busy, you could invite them to help dry the dishes as you wash them, stack clothes as you do laundry, or sit beside you and color as you work on the computer. Inviting your child to join can be especially useful with younger children who love to help.
If your child is more inclined to play on their own, you could have a secret stash of toys that get rotated or create a running list of activities to choose from. A fun way to list activities is to write each activity on a popsicle stick. When your child is waiting, hand them the cup of activities listed on popsicle sticks and ask them to pull out a stick. If you are out in public, something small that they can fidget with, like an old set of keys or a stress ball, might be helpful.
Play Waiting Games
- In this game, your child tries to guess what objects you see in your surroundings based on hints that are given
- Letter and Number Games
- “What sound does ‘apple’ start with?”
- “How many chairs do you see?"
- Simon Says
- Following directions such as, “Simon says, point to your ears!” or “Simon says, stand on one foot!”
Use Visual Cues
Incorporate Verbal Cues
One way to practice verbal cues at home is by creating opportunities to practice waiting. Start with small increments of time, work your way up, and use your “waiting signal” to solidify the concept. Give your child lots of praise and whatever they were waiting for as soon as the time is up. For older children, try relating the length of time to something they are familiar with. For example, “this will take about as long as a trip to Grandma’s house.”
While not all of these ideas will work for every child, a few will hopefully be a good fit for your family and help make waiting a little bit easier for everyone!