Kids need to learn a lot of skills in order to live their lives to the fullest. One of those critical skills is time management. If you’re like me, your own time management might not be up to par (looking at you, Netflix). Time management is a learned skill and each of us is improving bit by bit with practice. Kids are just starting on their path to learning time management so let’s look at how to teach children time management skills.
Start With the Basics
If you’re wondering how to teach your child time management, start with the basics. Teach them how to measure time, how clocks work, and how much time things take. Even if you teach them about how clocks work, they might not understand how much time actually passes in a minute. Put a clock in a visible space and give them verbal reminders.
A good way to help them internalize what the passage of time feels like is by giving them a timer. An electronic timer or an hourglass can be helpful ways to visualize the passage of time. Encourage your kids to time different activities. They can even time you! When you say you’re leaving in five minutes, they can keep track for themselves.
How to Teach Time Management (Jar and Rocks)
Figuring out how to teach time management skills in a way that your kids will understand can be tricky. That’s where visuals and hands-on experience come in handy. While reading about the Rock, Pebbles, and Sand analogy is good, actually trying it for yourself, and for your kids, can be a great teaching moment.
First, before showing your kids, find a jar or container as well as some rocks, pebbles, and optionally sand (it can be messy). See how many rocks would fill the jar completely. They represent the essential, important things in your life, such as family, school, and health. The sand and pebbles represent optional things such as hobbies, playing with friends, or watching TV. Make sure that if you put the sand and pebbles in first, the rest of the rocks don’t fit.
Now with your child, sit them down and have them try to fill the jar on their own or show them several attempts. They will either figure out how to fill the jar or you can help them. Explain to them what the rocks and pebbles represent and how when we put our right priorities first, everything fits in our day, including the fun things.
Teach them to Calendar
Another important part of teaching teens time management is an awareness of activities or events. It’s hard to keep track of soccer practice if you don’t know when to expect it. Make a family calendar with your kid. Even if they are too young to read, you can use visuals like drawings or stickers. If they are old enough to read, stickers and drawings are still encouraged. Part of what makes calendars work for young kids is the fun.
When they are younger, you can even break up the day into routine chunks. Kids love routines, even if sometimes we don’t as adults. It helps them feel secure. Set up a routine with your child through a calendar. Include things like breakfast, getting ready for school, playtime, and brushing teeth. Bedtime rituals are especially important.
When they are older, you can use monthly or weekly calendars to keep track of upcoming events, homework, and quizzes. Time management isn’t only minute by minute. Help them prepare for big projects in advance, breaking it down into manageable steps. Don’t “helicopter parent” but also don’t leave them to the fishes.
Teach Realistic Expectations
When your child is first learning about time management, they are going to struggle. It’s important to be consistent and stick to the calendar and routine you’ve set up with your child. More importantly, remember that they are learning. There are plenty of us adults who still haven’t learned to use our time effectively, so be patient.
Kids may need adjustments to their schedule or other experiments to find out what works best for them. Some work better by buckling down for long periods of time with one big break. Others work better with shorter work times and frequent, short breaks. They might sit somewhere in the middle. Experiment with them on what times they are most productive. I know I get a lot of work done in my quiet office in the afternoon, while a friend of mine gets their best work done by starting their day at 4:00 am in the morning.
Once you and your children find something that works, you can help them build a routine off of it. Help them not be discouraged if after a few weeks it’s no longer effective. They may need to change up their routine or find another strategy.
Be an Example
Our kids watch and mirror us. We’re their biggest, first example so be a good one. Keep your own calendar up to date and work with their routine. Let them know you are also learning how to manage your time well (there’s always room for improvement).
Time Spent and Tasks Complete Aren’t the Same Thing
If you gave a kid thirty minutes to clean their room, chances are, they might spend the time playing and only pick up one toy. If they need to complete a project and spend the first four days picking out what their topic will be, and then wait until the last day to start, they are also not managing that time well. Help them understand that even when they set up routines or calendars, they still have to utilize all that time well.
Free Time is Still Critical
When you set up a calendar with your kid, and fill it with activities, playdates, and sports, remember to set aside free time. This unstructured time is really healthy for kids.
Time management is a new skill for kids and something we as adults can improve on constantly. Be ready for the process and remember, just because they are learning doesn’t mean they will be perfect right away.
Troomi phones are designed to be teaching devices, as well as a great smartphone for kids. They have built in tools, accessed through the Parent Portal, to help kids manage their time spent on the phone wisely. Check out Troomi for a phone right for your family.