The other day, I was having a discussion with a mum in the store and we brushed over how the concept of “five more minutes” just doesn't work when you need to get kids to leave somewhere.
It never works and yet “five more minutes” is a thing parents say to their kids all the time when it’s time for them to wrap up whatever they’re doing - reading before bedtime, having a lightsaber battle with their pals, playing at the park or whatever.
It doesn't work because children actually have no concept of the passing of time and because they cannot apply an such an esoteric concept to the practical nature of what they're doing.
And yet we still say it and then, when the time is up, and the kids are understandably shocked, confused and resistant, we get angry.
We've all been there. But there is an alternative - you just need to turn the concept of time into a concept of things.
For example, when it's close to time to stop playing at the park or in the pool, give them plenty of warning using a concrete timeline that they can understand. Instead of saying “we’re leaving soon” or “five more minutes,” tell them something like, “OK, let me see you jump in the pool. Seven more jumps and we’re leaving.”
For me, sometimes the number is higher, but it's never less than five. Less than five is always met with “come on, just one more!”, which if I resist causes more arguments but if I agree to, concedes my authority. Seven or more always seems such a big number that they seem to get their fill and are ready to go when it's time.
You can use the script when your kids are on the playground (“Seven more times on the slide and it’s time to go!”), playing on the beach (“You can dump seven more buckets of water into your sand ditch”) or just hanging with friends (“Seven more hugs!” or “Seven more rounds of leg wrestling!”). If they try going really slowly or just stopping at number six, because kids are geniuses, you can say, “OK, you don’t want to use up all seven - it’s time to go!” They’ll start claiming their full allotment of turns/jumps/slides pretty quickly.
For young kids, it’s easier to grasp a concrete number, and that may make the transition go smoother. They probably still won’t be happy to leave the fun thing, but that’s ok - at least they’ll know it’s time.