Wondering where to start when teaching kids time management skills?
The idea of kids and time management was suggested by one of the Instagram followers. She said “I need tips to help my middle schooler with time management. How does one introduce such a topic. Since we are a few months into the school year, this seems relevant.”
I couldn’t agree more. Especially in light of the current school year. Many moms and mom entrepreneurs are juggling time to teach their kids with all the other balls they’ve got in the air.
Plus, the schools do a great job of sneakily setting up routines and structure, providing accountability, using due dates…you know, all those time management strategies. And they do it without presenting it like “we are going to learn time management now, kids.” But many of us don’t have that structure to fall back on. And that is exactly why we are going to talk about it today.
Teaching time management to kids of any age helps them learn the value of time and how to use it best. The sooner your kids learn this skill, the sooner they can start to hone it and make it work for them.
No matter how old you kids may be, you can start to introduce the concepts of the passage of time. Of using a schedule and creating a structure to your day. And choosing priority tasks. If you can start working with your kids on just the basics on a regular basis, you will start to see their ability to manage time improve…and you might see some improvement for yourself as well.
Because here’s a little secret…You do not have to be the sole scheduler in your family. Your kids have the ability and capacity follow their own routine or even schedule their own events depending on their age. You might be worried that they’ll do it wrong or something will get missed, so you just do it yourself. But will you always be there to make sure they’ve scheduled everything in their planner once they leave your house? Or that they’ve plotted plenty of time to complete a massive work project due? Better to practice on tasks or events of lesser importance…The sooner you introduce the concepts of managing time to kids, the more time they will have to develop the skills before you aren’t around to do it for them.
Now, you might be thinking “kids are too young to learn time management”. Or “they don’t really need to manage their time if they’ve got me”. Or “they’ll just figure it out later”. But like a whole host of “adulting skills” like balancing a checkbook, doing laundry, or keeping a plant alive…it won’t just magically happen when they move from your home to their own abode. It can take some time to develop those skills. And the sooner you start to teach them, the better.
When your kids learn time management skills, they develop self-discipline. And self-discipline has been shown in multiple studies to have a greater impact on academic success that IQ! Not to mention the overall benefits of learning to prioritize tasks. Or giving yourself time to complete projects. And just learning to respect time, both yours and other peoples.
Another benefit when your kids start to develop their own time management skills…you’ll find pockets in your day for you. For instance, a while back we started teaching our boys a bedtime routine. We encouraged them to create a routine that included brushing their teeth, getting water, going to bathroom, and so on. It also included a short wind-down play time with a timer. And it took us a bit of time to figure out our flow…but now my kids put themselves to bed AND I’ve bought myself back at least an hour in the evening. And my guys are 7 and 9. And this, my mama friends, is a major benefit of teaching your children about time management, structure, and routine.
Your kids benefit by learning a crucial life skill. Their teachers benefit because your child understands timelines and due date. And the importance of getting the important and urgent homework done first. And you benefit by gaining back time you making sure they complete the tasks on the schedule you created.
Tips to Teach Kids Time Management
I promise, every kid and adult has the capacity to learn these skills. And like I said earlier, the sooner the better. Because like in all things from riding a bike to multiplication tables to using a planner, practice makes better. And here’s where you start…
Start Early – As early as you can. Even preschool age kids can learn the basic ideas of the passage of time. Or how to follow a routine. Or why we do tasks in a certain order. If your kids are older, start by slowly introducing the idea of routine and schedule. Maybe start a Sunday review or the week ahead. Or allow them to write their activities and tasks due on the calendar themselves. This starts to develop that connection between I have “x” amount of time to do “x” amount of things.
Help Kids “See” Time – And speaking of that connection, my second tip is to show your kids time. We’ve gotten away from analog clocks and “seeing” time. And we might forget how hard it is to understand the concept. When your kids can see the passage of time on the hands of the clock, in an hourglass timer, or even as a kitchen timer ticks away, it helps to cement the idea that time is a limited resource. Especially if your kids are young, saying “10 minutes” is the same as “2 hours”. But if you indicate when the clock moves from the 2 to the 4, it develops the awareness of time.
Give Them a Calendar – And along with learning awareness of the passage of time, it is so important to empower your older kids to schedule it for themselves. This is where that self-discipline we talked about earlier becomes key. Teaching your kids to create calendar events for homework, projects, commitments, rehearsals, games, and social events helps them understand where they need to physically be. And also how they need to adjust to complete priorities. It will resonate much more with your child if they see that they have a project due on Monday. And they know they have basketball tournament all weekend. So they need to make time earlier in the week to start the project. As opposed to you knowing that all of this is due and nagging them to start because they will be tired on Sunday. And not have the energy to finish.
Don’t Overschedule – This instance exemplifies my next tip with is to avoid overscheduling. It is much easier for a child to keep up with a jam packed schedule when they’ve got you as a personal assistant. You shuffle them from place to place and stay on top of what they have due when. But the reality is, that sort of scheduled life is nearly impossible without that assistance. You are giving them a false sense of what is possible in their 24 hours in the day. Not to mention, the added stress of no down time. Choose the favorite, best, or most important activities and tasks and get them on the schedule…that they are making themselves, of course.
Create a Routine – Once you’ve chosen your priority activities and written them on the calendar, you will see a pattern emerge. A structure or routine, if you will. Which is my fifth tip…lean into routines for regularly scheduled activities. Routine helps with decision fatigue. And to offload some of the daily stress because in some capacity, you know what to expect. If Tuesdays are busy because you go straight from school to tennis, be sure to create a routine of packing your dinner. If you always have spelling tests on Friday, make a routine to practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday while you’re cleaning the dinner dishes. Look for places you can repeat regular tasks to save space on your schedule. And save your brain power for other decisions.
Learn to Prioritize – And my final tip to teach your kids about time management is to learn to prioritize. Which comes as a shock to pretty much no one. But I hope that you are seeing a pattern emerging…Whether it’s teaching your kids or setting up your morning routine for yourself, it is so important to learn which tasks fit your values. And which tasks are important. And which ones have consequences.
As I was reading the studies linking self-discipline and academic success, researchers found that those who succeed focused on the tasks that make a impact. They knew what was urgent and important and did that first. And while using the Eisenhower Time Matrix we talked about last week feels a bit extreme for your 2nd grader, you can teach them that it is important to study for a test (urgent). Or finish their chores (important). And to complete those tasks before they play video games (not urgent and not important). Practice makes better.
And if you or you kids struggle with deciding what’s important and urgent, be sure to pick up your free Priority Recipe. It’s a step-by-step guide to decide what to do. And what not to do now. You can grab it HERE.