Understanding time helps kids to use their time well. It’s a key part of executive functioning skills such as planning and prioritizing.
The key to teaching your children how to manage their time is to help them to prioritize. What are the things that your family values most? If it is family time, how much of a priority to you give to having a weekly family night? As you help your children prioritize their schedules, think about what is important enough to commit time to each day, whether it is family time, school studies, extra-curricular activities or just play time.
A sense of time is different for each child. Two- and three-year-olds enjoy the predictability of routines but live mostly in the present. Their sense of time involves mainly “now or not now,” and they have limited ability to wait. Five- and six-year-olds have a clearer understanding of past, present, and future. They can anticipate happy events and have some grasp of “next week” versus “tomorrow” versus “a long time ago.” Seven- to ten-year-olds have the skills necessary to use clocks and calendars.
Here are some basic methods for helping children manage their time well:
Set the Right Example
Kids learn what they see. If you come in and throw the mail wherever, drop your coat over a chair, and toss your keys on the table, only to search in vain for them two hours later, it shouldn’t be any surprise that your daughter can’t find her shoes when it’s time to leave the house.
Even toddlers can start learning how to manage their time. Make it into a game: “Can you finish getting those blocks into the box by the time your favorite song is over?” Kids are also very visual learners so using a timer or even an old-fashioned hourglass can help them visualize how much time they have for an activity.
Set a Morning Schedule
If you find that mornings are too chaotic in your home, consider having a checklist for the night before of having school clothes ready, homework and supplies put into their bags, lunches made, etc. Make sure they are put in a central place.
Find a Place for Everything
Organizers believe that everything should have its place, and everyone in the household should have their own space for coats, keys, backpacks, briefcases, and shoes. Once in place, no time is wasted looking for that backpack or coat.
Give Each Child a Calendar
The calendar should be big enough that you or your child, once he or she is old enough, can write in all the things that need to be done. Everyone’s activities should then be placed on the family calendar, so everyone knows what is going on for the week/month. If that seems too much, just use the family calendar and put everyone’s activities on it. Place it in a central location for all to see and refer to each day.
Don’t Overschedule the Kids
Kids need time to dream and play and just be kids. Their structured school day is confining so free time is important. If all their free time is spent going to baseball, ballet, swimming lessons, Scouts, etc., they will be exhausted and so will you. Let children select one activity outside of school they are really interested in and leave remaining free time just that.
Balancing activities and managing time is critical for everyone. Following these techniques will help you and your family make the most of the time you have.