Time management isn’t just for businessmen and women. Teach children to manage their time to complete tasks and they will be equipped for life.
Your child will need to get dressed ‘in time’ for school, or prioritise answers to questions in an exam. These are just a couple of examples which involve children managing their time well. This guide will help you to instil time management in your child.
Time is valuable – and often limited. Whether your child is four or twenty-four, they will need to fit tasks into a certain amount of time.
Time management can help you and your child to:
Young children have no concept of time, but they will soon need to know how it works. The National Curriculum expects schools to teach children how to tell the time, but it’s a good idea work on it at home, too.
Telling the time is obviously necessary for time-keeping. Fortunately, there are lots of games to make it fun, and interactive ways of teaching it.
You can use either digital watches (just numbers) or analogue watches and clocks (with fingers or hands) to teach the basics.
Show them the basics as soon as you feel they are ready. An article in The Guardian suggests some teaching resources, with tips to help you.
Teaching children how to tell the time also involves maths – specifically, multiplication. Help them to learn their 5 times table, which will make the process easier.
Help your child to keep track of time by allocating set times for certain activities. Children need to have routine in their lives to feel secure, so keep things simple and predictable. Have a set time for things they do regularly and make sure that you stick to it. It will help children to be disciplined. For example, it’s good if they know it’s time to wake up at 7.30am, or that they need to be ready to leave for school by 8.10am.
Beware of children getting lost in time, too. They can spend hours watching TV, playing on video games or sitting at the computer. Make sure you have set times for this kind of activity, and limit the time they might ‘waste’ or use unproductively.
Teach them how to schedule things. For example – half an hour of TV after dinner; then an hour of homework.
If children are reluctant to do basic tasks, make them fun. Routine ‘boring’ tasks could be daily chores like making their bed, tidying up their room, or brushing their teeth. How do you make them fun?
Find a way to motivate them and keep within a specific time. For young children, try singing a song or playing a CD track, or make it into a timer-game. By the time the song is over (or the egg-timer or alarm has gone off), the task should be finished.
One method is to set up competitions between siblings – such as bed-making races – or award gold stars for completing all their chores (properly) by a certain time. If they have no siblings, encourage them to time themselves and see if they can break their own records.
Children love visual things. Make a colourful chart together, reminding them of the things they regularly need to do, in the order they need to do them. Then display it. Once the planner has got your child into the habit, they will soon do things automatically – without the reminders.
It's also a good idea to schedule revision or homework using planners, timetables and lists.
Research suggests that girls are generally better organised than boys. Whatever their gender, show your children how to:
Children will enjoy ticking off tasks they have completed. It will give them a sense of accomplishment.
Children might feel apprehensive about doing something new. Give them the opportunity to practice. A run-through allows children to familiarise themselves with what needs to happen within a certain time.
For example, days before a new term starts, help them to practise packing their school bag and changing into their uniform.
Or if they face a test or an exam, give them practice papers. As well as helping them to manage their time, it will help them to get in the right headset.
Rehearsals will improve their confidence in new situations.
Help them to set goals to give focus and set priorities. Goals should be specific. Pin them down to times, dates and detail.
Ensure that they understand what steps they need to take to achieve their goal. For example, if your child wants a grade A*, help them break it down.
Make goals realistic and achievable, but do not ‘pooh-pooh’ your child’s greatest dreams. If they really want to fly around the moon – who says that is impossible? It could happen, with work, effort and creativity. Discuss what it would take.
You don’t need to be obsessive with charts and schedules, but planning and organisation can help a child to develop good habits.
Teach the importance of not leaving things until the last minute – it alleviates stress and helps them to feel confident and prepared.
Tips for you, too, can be found on the NHS website.