Hurry up. Do you know what time it is? Let’s go. What’s taking you so long? Do you sometimes feel like you’re raising a bunch of dawdlers with no concept of time? Even the youngest children can learn how to manage their time to help them (and you) have minutes to spare in the day. Save your sanity by starting with 11 easy steps that teach your kids time management skills:
- Make Time Management Fun
Grown-ups tend to associate time management with carpools, bedtimes, endless appointments and PTA meetings.
The stress can make you want to throw the clock out the window.
Learning time management should be fun for kids, though. Use crayons to color your own calendars. Add stickers to mark special days. Make it a game to see who can complete simple tasks around the house that usually take up a lot of time, such as brushing their teeth, putting on their shoes or getting their backpacks ready for school tomorrow. The more fun you make time management for your kids, the easier it will be to get them to understand time’s importance and how to manage that constantly ticking clock.
- Start Before They’re Teens
Of course you can teach teens time management skills too. But the earlier you start, the better for them and the easier your days will be.
Your preschoolers can learn through small tasks completed in short blocks of time, such as putting on their clothes or cleaning up their toys. Your school-age children can begin with set start and end times they need to complete their homework and simple age-appropriate chores around the house.
- Show Your Kids How to Measure Time
Even children who know how to tell time don’t necessarily know how to measure time. Help them out by setting a timer during a block of time when they’re supposed to be completing a task. Keep a clock close by and give them a verbal countdown as the minutes tick by so they can begin getting an internal feel for these time segments.
You’re not trying to teach your kids to live by the clock. Your goal is simply to help them understand what an hour, 15 minutes or even five minutes feels like. The next time you say, “We leave in five minutes,” they’ll know that doesn’t mean they have time to play with their toys, watch TV and clean their room first.
- Create a Family Calendar Together
Family calendars are the road map to everyone in your house’s commitments. One look and you know one of your children has scouts on Monday, the other has basketball on Tuesday and all of your kids have gymnastics, karate and choir practice on Wednesday.
The whole family should be involved in creating the one document that keeps all of you on track. Banner paper is perfect for family calendars because it can be drawn on, colored on or painted on. Make it a family art activity so that everyone can learn who has what commitments on which days. Color code your calendar so that every person has their own color for their schedule. This simple activity helps children see days at a time in one place so they can begin to understand what goes into keeping your family on schedule. Another bonus is you can use your planning activity to make the most of family time together.
- Create Calendars for Each Family Member
In addition to creating a family calendar, each child should have his own calendar too. That way, he can have his own schedule to keep in his room that’s more detailed for his personal needs than the family calendar.
Break this calendar down by tasks for the day or week. Encourage your kids to use their personal calendar to add new tasks and mark off completed ones too. This can be everything from what it takes to get ready for a soccer game to what projects he needs to complete before the science fair.
- Stay on Task
It’s tempting to let the kids have a few more minutes of play time when they’re getting along so well. Or there are those days when you want the kids to spend more time studying, even though your time management plan calls for them to start getting ready for bed at 7:00.
As your kids are just beginning to learn about time management, stay on task. When time’s up, move on to what’s next on your schedule no matter how involved they’re in in that current task. Straying even a few minutes away from the schedule can throw kids off. Stick to your schedule, especially in those early days and weeks of learning about time management.
- Don’t Overschedule Your Kids
One of the most common mistakes we make as parents is that we try to make sure our kids get to participate in every activity after school. What we end up doing is overscheduling the entire family to the point that our schedule can be packed every day of the week.
Do your entire family a favor and don’t overschedule your kids. Instead of learning about time management the right way, all they feel is a constant go, go, go that has them craving a few minutes of downtime. Overscheduling throws their clock off and yours too. Try to avoid it so all of you can get a better handle on time management.
- Schedule Free Time
Making a schedule and sticking to it is important. Part of that schedule should include free time.
Those blocks of time to do nothing are great moments in learning time management. Solo play time can be fun and unstructured but it can also have a start and end time when your kids are trying to grasp the basics of managing their time. This also helps them learn that time management isn’t all about getting ready to go somewhere or finishing up a structured activity on time. Great time management also means you have moments to play.
- Use Kid-Friendly Time Management Tools
From apps to colorful magnetic calendars, add kid-friendly time management tools to your lineup. The key is to use visuals and techniques that relate to your kids. Only you will know what works best with each of your child’s learning styles.
Apps can appeal to kids who love technology. Magnetic calendars for kids let your kids visually plan their days with colorful magnets for everything from sports practices to holidays.
You can always get creative and make your own time management tools to work for your family’s unique schedule too.
- Consider Rewards
Yes, you can reward kids for good time management and those perks can be great motivators. Rewards can be daily or weekly and you should decide on those rewards together as family.
Be creative with your rewards. Sure, you can opt to give your kids time playing a video game as a reward. Even better, make it a family reward. A week of following that study schedule could equal a family night at the movies. Younger kids can focus on rewards in shorter time periods, such as playing a board game together for completing three or four goals on his schedule. The point is to turn those time management rewards into time well spent with your family as a result.
- Help Them Establish Daily Priorities
Remember this: first, next, last. It’s that simple. Younger children may not understand what a priority is but you can still teach them the concept of it.
Depending on age, most children don’t see the big picture of priorities. Your fourth grader isn’t thinking about getting into college with every homework assignment he completes. Your preschooler isn’t picturing her scribbles hanging in a museum one day when she’s a famous artist. Their priorities are generally on the weekly, daily or even hourly scale.
Help them organize their day using a first, next, last method. Kids should think of what comes first in their day, such as brushing their teeth. Then they can move to what needs to come next, like having their school books ready in the morning and completing homework before bed. Finally, they should plan what should come last in the day. They can brush their teeth before bed and lay out their clothes for tomorrow.
Helping your kids prioritize their day is something they can use throughout life and will help them get the most important tasks done daily and weekly, while setting each one up to complete long-term goals as well. Start small with daily priorities before moving to weekly and monthly priorities. You’ll instantly set your kids up for success and soon have children who are masters of time management.