Time management is a skill that most of us consciously build in the early part of our working lives. By juggling multiple projects and deadlines at work, adults inevitably learn to better manage their time.
But children are definitely capable of learning time management skills, too. In fact, primary school students (between 7 and 12) benefit the most from doing so, as it helps them tackle the pressures of school at an early age and remains beneficial in the years to come.
Explaining time management as a concept to children
By the time they enter primary school, children should be able to understand the concept of ownership fairly well. They identify strongly with statements like “This is my toy” or “I have five toys”. By framing their time in terms of possessions, parents and teachers can use ownership to explain time management to children.
One way to do so is to verbalise it in statements like, “I have ten hours in a day that I spend doing various things,” and “These ten hours are mine, and I should use them carefully.”
7 simple ways to help children learn time management
Once children understand time as a concept, parents and teachers can begin to teach them how to manage their time. Here are seven easy ways to start.
1. Highlight the importance of time
For children between the ages of 7-12, their first experience with time limitations will likely be through everyday occurrences, such as food going bad when not stored correctly. In this case, they can witness the perishable nature of food and the consequences of not making full use of time; once it passes, you cannot reclaim it.
A more relevant way to explain the value or importance of time is to associate it with homework. If your child's homework schedule is not defined well, they may miss the deadline, and then there’s no way to reclaim the time that passed. Delayed homework submission has consequences that they might be familiar with, which can help reinforce the importance of time.
2. Help your child settle into a routine
Children like to follow patterns that repeat themselves. Help your child get used to a routine that includes structured sequences of waking up, washing up, having breakfast, and so on till bedtime.
Sticking to this daily routine will not only help them understand the chronological sequence of time (before and after) but also introduce them to the concept of breaking time up into smaller groups of hours.
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3. Introduce the calendar to your child
Children will learn how to read the clock and the calendar in due course during their kindergarten and primary school years.
For younger primary school children, you can introduce calendars to them by starting with hand-drawn, easy-to-visualise examples. Older children on the other hand should focus on learning how to use a calendar, and building the habit of listing and carrying out activities with it. With the pressures of schoolwork, exam revisions and extracurricular activities to contend with, they will need to manage their time well in order to juggle them all effectively. A calendar will help immensely in this regard.
4. Using the countdown method
As your child becomes familiar with the use of numbers, you can begin using countdowns to help them anticipate certain important events. For example, if there is a vacation planned in a month’s time, encourage them to count down the days until your family sets off for the trip. You can then allow your child the opportunity to plan the steps to take before the vacation, such as packing their belongings and finishing up their homework. This will help them to develop time management skills.
For school-related matters, children can also be instructed to prepare a countdown calendar for important events like exams. Children can then cross out each day as it passes by and familiarise themselves with the concept of deadlines, thus being tested on their ability to prepare for important occasions within a set period of time.
5. Get your child to prioritise tasks
Prioritising tasks is a key component of time management. There are many situations where there would be too much to do within a limited span of time, so your child will need to learn how to maximise efficiency by identifying critical tasks and completing them first.
A popular suggestion by experts to teach task prioritisation is the “jar with stones and pebbles” activity. First, give your child a transparent jar (preferably shatterproof) along with some large stones and pebbles, and ask them to fill the jar with the stones and pebbles. They will face some difficulties at first, but the child should be able to get all of them inside the jar after a few attempts by placing the large stones first before adding the pebbles.
Similar to the large stones, your child’s “must-do” activities should be prioritised first before the pebbles, in this case the “can do” activities, are tackled. Only then will the jar - obviously the analogy for time here - be filled to the brim with no wastage whatsoever. You can conclude this exercise by explaining how their homework time can be viewed as stones in the jar, while recreational time are the pebbles that can only be added in afterwards.
6. Teach them the consequences of poor time management
As children get older, parents need to remove the training wheels and allow them to learn the consequences of poor time management.
For example, parents such as yourself should endeavour not to dismiss an unfinished homework assignment that was scheduled in advance. The child should understand they must face the consequences of not completing a planned assignment. This will help them take ownership of their time and calendar.
7. Ensure free time in your child’s day
At the same time, it’s also important to maintain a fair and balanced schedule for your child while helping them to learn about time management. Give them enough free time in their daily routine so that they can relax, play, and enjoy their downtime.
Not only will they be given a chance to rest and recover from their hard work, they will also learn to treasure time as a precious resource by making full use of it.
Time Management is an Important Life Skill
Time management is a life skill that helps us to be more effective and impactful at work. When children understand and actively practise time management early in their lives, they will be better prepared to shoulder more responsibilities when they grow into adults.
Of course, learning soft skills like time management is only half the battle; to give your child the best chance to succeed in life, they will also need to earn their academic qualifications that demonstrate their knowledge as well. With Geniebook’s online learning suite of AI-personalised innovations and tools, we help primary and secondary students to learn smarter and do better. Feel free to find out more about our products, get to know our teachers better, or just ask us for a demo.