Kids love timers. I love Flylady for teaching me about timers.
Kids also love routines.
I'm finding that if I tell the kids what they need to do before they go outside to play, and how long they need to spend, they're more inclined to do it.
Jared's pretty tied to the timer right now. Mercedes will continue working until she's done. But they both like knowing that they are only required to spend 15 minutes, and that there is an end in sight. It's hard to do something like clean your room if you can't see the end. But it's easy to pick up 10 things, or spend 15 minutes on a list of tasks.
(They have to spend a minimum of 15 minutes per school subject, for those topics we don't do as a unit study.)
I spent 15 minutes cleaning up my living room last night. It was completely trashed when I started, but I decided to use my timer for 15 minutes and then go do something else for 15 minutes. It was amazing how much work I could get done in that limited amount of time! Sames goes for the kids.
15 minutes is enough for a full chapter of math (at this level).
15 minutes is enough to practice reading to Mom.
15 minutes is enough to write spelling words.
It's not so short that you can't get anything done, and not so long as to be overwhelming. And if they're interested in what they're doing and want to keep going, well, there's always another 15 minutes!