Time management is a life skill that many adults haven’t mastered yet, but you can give your child a head start by preparing them early for this very all-important habit. If we don’t help our children (or learn for ourselves) how to manage time, we end up getting less done, are more stressed, and usually find ourselves running around scrambling.
It’s never too early to teach time management skills to your kiddos. Even the littlest ones find comfort in routines. As children begin to understand the concept of past, present, and future, and then later, how to tell time with a clock and calendar in Kindergarten and beyond, you can begin to teach them how to prioritize tasks – their schoolwork, chores, family time, alone time, etc. Learning how to manage time is an ongoing endeavor no matter what age we are, so start early! Here are five tips on time management for kids and how to teach it to them.
1. Teach Them To Focus On One Task At A Time
As a mom, you are probably the queen of multi-tasking, with the single-handed ability to make dinner, teach math, balance your checkbook and change a diaper all at the same time. But you’d be surprised the amount of work that can get done (without the stress and frazzled feelings) if you focus on one thing at a time.
Help your child focus by limiting distractions in the school space. If your child works better with some noise, play some soft music in the background, otherwise, keep the dogs, siblings, TV and other potential distractions away. Some children may need a time limit to help them focus, in which case a kitchen timer comes in handy and will give kids a sense of how to work within a deadline.
2. Give Your Child The Proper Tools
Whether it’s a watch, a timer, a calendar or a smartphone app, give your child the proper tools he/she needs to manage their time. Show them how to plan out their day using a planner or a calendar. Remind them to begin the week looking at the week ahead and write in the important events on their calendar. Help them create goals and set deadlines for those goals. Schedule in blocks of time for schoolwork and playtime. For the littlest ones, make a colorful chore chart checklist.
In an Independent Study model like Epic Charter School, sticking to a rigid schedule may be too much, but having a general routine with a list of things to accomplish that day might work better for you and your family. In any case, showing students how to manage their school and home responsibilities and have enough time to get to batting practice can be easier to grasp visually on a calendar; Give your child their own and show them how to write down tasks and activities and estimate the time it may take to complete the tasks that need to be finished. Later, have them write down the actual time it took them to complete the task or activity so they can begin to understand how long each task can and did take.
Personally, we use Trello to manage our family tasks and to-do lists. The visual layout, stickers, and the interactive element (moving cards from one board to the next) makes planning a bit more fun.
3. Help Them Prioritize
Prioritizing is challenging for kids (and adults). It involves learning how to make good choices, analyzing and determining which tasks are most important. First, discuss what is most important and why. This may begin with a discussion on values and goals. This will help with determining what tasks are “must-dos” and which are “can waits.”
Teach children to make a list of what they need to get done each day and in the morning, they can choose three of the most important tasks that they need to accomplish based on their values and goals. Show them how to distinguish the difference between important and urgent and making the decision to focus on completing the urgent tasks immediately.
4. Teach Them How To Set Goals
There are many benefits for goal-setting. Teaching your children how to set measurable goals they can work toward is a habit that will help them succeed throughout life. Encourage your children to pick some goals that they find interest in but will also challenge them. Help them map out steps that will lead to achieving that goal.
Make goal setting fun. Celebrate the wins as they progress toward accomplishing the goals and help them deal with days when they are unmotivated or have setbacks. Goal setting is a skill that they will use over and over for the rest of their lives.
5. Show Them The Importance Of “Me Time”
Just as important as completing tasks and setting up goals is teaching your children to plan time for themselves – alone time. Kids need time to be kids, time to use their imaginations to dream and play; even adults get burned out if we spend too much time scheduled with endless tasks.
It is important for children to learn how to spend time alone (not in front of a screen). For some independent kids, alone time is easy, but for other, more social children, teaching them how to entertain themselves for a short period of time can be more challenging. Teaching alone time can start at a very early age with short amounts of solo play time that gradually lengthens. As a side benefit, you’ll get some “me” time in, too!
Time management is something that can be learned and practiced. Just be aware of overdoing it; find a balance between overmanaging and managing inadequately. Kids need to learn how to manage their time properly, but they also need time to be free and play!