Time Management for Kids

Everyone gets 24 hours each day, every day. How well we use those hours is a result of time management; how well we are able to manage our time.

Teaching your child how to budget, manage, and plan ahead are all important components of this executive function that have a big payoff.

What is the payoff?

Children with strong time management skills, whether naturally occurring or explicitly taught , are less stressed, rushed, and scattered because they understand how much time it realistically takes to complete a task.

They become adults with these same qualities.

Our team has shared with us great pearls of advice as well as some specific books and tools that will help you help your child master this skill!

What is Time Management?

Time management is the ability to self-manage in order to make choices.

We don’t let a four year old make choices about how long it will take to get ready in the morning, but a second grader should be able to do the same thing.

By the same token, that second grader should also be able to estimate the time needed to complete a small project or chore. If they consistently can’t, then they probably have an executive weakness in the area of time management .

The good news is that this is a skill that can be explicitly taught.

The Passage of Time

A lot of children are not aware of the passage of time. They don’t know how long 10 minutes is, or what it looks like because digital clocks don’t show movement, just the continual present.

Use an analog clock when at all possible to teach the progression of time. Get one with all of the numbers and a nice hour and minute hand.

Talk about how much time has passed or how much time is needed in any event. For example, “when the minute hand moves from the 7 to the 12, your TV program will be over. That is 25 minutes.”

Invest in a time timer to teach progression and sequence of events within a given time span. The time timer allows children to see time even if they can’t tell time through the use of a red color block.

So, you need them to read for 15 minutes? Set the time timer for 15 minutes. The color block will slowly disappear as they get closer to their ten minutes.

There are covers you can purchase and customize for any routine. As the red block hits the item you’ve written down, your child gets the visual cue that they need to move on.

Schedules and Routines: the HOW

Once again, the schedules and routines help to save the day! Having a schedule gives the framework for the day. That helps with the progression of time.

The routine teaches them how to move during a time period. For example, the routine when you get up in the morning is bathroom, teeth, hair, get dressed, and have breakfast.

The routine teaches them the sequence of events for the morning with the hope that they will internalize it and do it on their own.

If no one teaches them routines, they will grow up as adults with no idea of HOW to do unconscious things!

Planners and Calendars: the WHEN

Planners and calendars are all great visual tools to show kids WHEN things will happen.

Personally, I am a huge fan of the Post-it Note calendar , and it works well for our family. Older students may need a full size week-at-a-glance planner with lots of space for keeping track of items during school as well as after school.

In our home, we sit down on Sunday afternoons and take a look at the week ahead. We note any appointments or special days with our Post-it Notes or jot them in the planner. The kids even make meal suggestions, which I note in my planner.

I keep the planner with ME to help ME keep the week organized!

Link Time with Outcomes: the WHY

Kids need to know the WHY they need good time management skills. What’s in it for them?

By linking time management to behavioral outcomes, you teach your child that being organized has a desirable payoff.

For example, ask your child what it is they want to do in the morning before school. If they would really like to watch TV, arrange for them to have a little bit of TV time. I know it’s controversial, and some readers are up in arms, but you have to consider the big picture. The big picture is learning to get a sequence of events performed correctly in an allotted amount of time. The outcome is they earned the right to watch a little TV before school.

Perhaps you leave the house at 7:30 in the morning. If they are done getting ready for school by 7:20, then they earn the last ten minutes of a program. However, if they don’t finish, then they don’t earn the behavioral outcome.

You get to be very empathetic and ask questions to help them figure out where the routine broke down. Then you can remind them that they have tomorrow to practice again!

Celebrate Successes

Your child needs the opportunity to brag about a job well done. Being able to verbalize what they did correctly is a powerful tool.

You can help in the internalization process by asking a few guided questions about how or why they were able to complete the assigned task. That feeling of success will encourage them to repeat the desired behavior.

Time management is a valuable tool that helps a child for their entire life! Begin early to explicitly teach routines and procedures, how to budget time, and how to plan ahead for deadlines.

Someday, your adult child will thank you!