It is just another weekday. You and your child have just made it in time for their class!
As you settle down after all the hurry-burry, you wonder: “Why is my child struggling with getting ready on time?”
How young children perceive time can be closely related to their everyday routine.
Unlike adults who perceive time using a clock or watch, they understand time through their activities such as time to wake up, breakfast time, dinner time, homework time, etc.
Therefore, it becomes essential to introduce time and, at the same time, inculcate the habit of time management.
In this article, we will explore what time management means for children, why it is important to introduce it at a young age, and ways in which we can do so!
(PS: It will take less than 10 minutes to read this!)
Understanding time management
This is the ability for an individual to plan their time for specific tasks on a day-to-day basis.
To manage time doesn’t mean you cannot be spontaneous, but it is about inculcating set routines that can help a child in the long run.
As we enter a fast-paced every day, which is inherently digital, managing time becomes an essential life skill.
This is the ‘work-life’ balance for kids as they balance between the structured routine (like in a preschool) and unstructured routine (free play, idling, etc.)
Thus, it becomes important to nurture time management skills in children.
Before stepping into time management, let’s understand how to introduce time.
How to tell time?
1.5 — 3 years
Children have just started to understand numbers as patterns and are more aware of concepts such as ‘one or many’, ‘less or more’, etc. This is still peripheral.
As mentioned earlier, children are comfortable with time based on their activities and routine. Eg: mealtime, nap time, sleep time, etc. So, you can generically introduce time.
> Time of day: Introduce the vocabulary associated with the time of day — morning, afternoon, evening, night. You can introduce these terms through their activities. Eg: We wake up in the morning; We go to preschool in the morning; We sleep at night; The sun rises in the morning; etc.
> Season talk: Introduce them to different seasons. Be descriptive about the seasons. Make use of storybooks to explain this further.
> Time talk: Introduce your child to the vocabulary associated with time such as clock, watch, etc. Show them the clock and talk about how it looks. Keep this simple and don’t fret about introducing them to numbers, the minute hands, etc.
When you are doing a chore together, you can generally talk about time and introduce them to have time passes. You may even point at the clock and describe time. Eg: It’s 5 o’clock, etc.
3 – 5 years
Children are still in the process of learning numbers, but they are somewhat familiar with the quantitative aspect of numbers.
> Show the clock: Show the clock and introduce your child to how a clock works. What the numbers represent. Keep it light. Depending on their age, you can introduce them to minute and hour hands
> Make your clock: Create a simple version of the clock. Draw a clock on a sheet of paper. Ask your child to look at the actual clock and indicate where the big and small hands are in the clock. Keep the time simple: 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, etc. You can draw the indicated time and introduce it to your child.
> Vocabulary time: Encourage your child to talk about the time of the day — morning, afternoon, evening, night — and the seasons. This reinforces the concept of time to your child. Also, introduce the days of the week.
5 – 7 years
> Count the minutes: Use an actual clock and prompt your child to count till 60. Yes, you both have to settle down patiently to count a minute. This enables them to understand how minutes work. Explain how minutes are indicated in increments of 5. It is similar to group counting. (1 hour = 60 minutes)
>Identify ‘o’clock’: Introduce your child to the concept of the hour and half-hour marks. Eg: It is 6 o clock, it is 6:30, etc. Draw different times and prompt them to identify. You can make a collage of their day-to-day activities with the time. This helps them relate time to their activity and the time of day.
> Timely words: Expand your child’s vocabulary by introducing words such as minutes, hours, seconds, etc. Help them form sentences using the verbs and words associated with telling time.
7 years and above
Children generally would have started to identify time on an analogue clock or a digital one.
> Tell the time: Draw different times and encourage your child to identify times such as 6:05 am, 7:10 pm, etc. Reiterate how hours, minutes, and seconds work.
> 12 & 24 hours: It is time to introduce them to the concept of 12-hour and 24-hour clocks. This will be complex and hence, show them how the time changes between these two clocks. It is an essential life skill in the long run.
> Language hour: Encourage your child to speak using the words relating to time. Introduce them to AM (ante meridiem = before noon) and PM (post meridiem = post noon), which are associated with 12-hour clocks. Help them to communicate the time for 12-hour and 24-hour clocks.
Why teach time management skills in the early years
When we start young, there is more time to learn, repeat, and reinforce any skill.
Just like any skill — learning to ride a bike, brushing teeth, etc. — time management is a skill that children can learn from a young age.
So, how does inculcating the habit of time management impact a child:
- understand planning, prioritizing, and organizing
- enhances focus and concentration
- track time better
- understand cause and consequence
- delay instant gratification
- reduce anxiety
- better sleep routine
- triggers analytical and reasoning skills
- enhances self-image and self-confidence
Imagine the next time, your child is all set and ready for their class on the dot and everything goes smoothly.
So, what are the ways to introduce time management to children, from a young age?
9 Ways to teach time management for kids
1) Create a calendar
Time to make a visual calendar for your child. This can be a reusable weekly calendar.
Cut out pictures/doodle pictures of your child’s activities for the week. Help your little one place the cut-outs on each day of the calendar.
Say if they have 10 activities for the day, talk to them about it with the calendar on each day.
Don’t overschedule as this will tire your child out and will cause tantrums.
This will impact their relationship to time management negatively in their later years. Eg: Work-life balance; commitment to a task; etc.
2) Family time
Even week, settle down with your family and create your weekly family time.
Put it up as a calendar. Do activities that encourage you to spend time as well as set aside the time, say 1 or 2 hours.
Keep this a screen-free time. Even if you do use screen, let it be a wholesome family screen time!
3) Create an activity chart
In this you, your child and you can talk about their activities.
Make it a daily chart where your child’s daily must-do activities are listed. As and when your child completes a task/activity, you can add a star for each day.
This enables them to understand that they are some activities that they cannot skip.
This brings in the structured aspect of time management skills. Ensure there are not too many activities.
4) Time to reward
Rewarding helps inculcate a habit as there is positive reinforcement.
This can be a weekly reward where if your child completes ‘x’ number of tasks, they get a reward. I
t is okay if they don’t complete the tasks, but do encourage them to complete them.
Allow them to take their time to do their activities/tasks.
Related: 16 Simple & Creative Ways To Reward Your Child [Must Try!]
5) Time their activities
Set aside time for each activity such as homework, painting, etc. It is okay your child initially doesn’t stick to the allotted time in the beginning.
For younger children, you can mention the time quantitatively. Eg: ‘Less’, ‘more’, etc.
For older children, you may start to mention how much time is left, like 5 minutes, etc.
This brings in the idea of the time limit, which is essential in the long run. Allow free time where there is no restriction as well.
6) Use physical timers
Make use of timers for activities that you and your child do together and are time-dependent such as baking, painting, etc.
This enables them to understand that keeping a tab of time is important whenever there are priority tasks.
You can also have a rule where they have to complete at least ‘x’ number of activities using physical timers.
It helps them understand time at a practical level.
7) Fill the bowl
Collect pebbles/stones of different proportions or roll some newspapers into different proportions.
Take a fruit bowl. Encourage your child to place the rolled newspapers/stones.
Show them how bigger proportions mean they cannot skip these activities and smaller proportions mean these activities are for certain days or for certain times.
This enables them to understand how to prioritize their day.
8) Practice waiting
To wait is difficult for adults and children alike in this digitally-driven world. Everything in a click of a button.
However, there are tasks or activities that go on for a considerable period of time.
So, it becomes imperative for children to learn this from a young age.
Try simple activities, in which your child could wait and receive the end result.
9) Pretend play
Imaginative play is a fun way to talk about time and time management.
You can narrate stories and give situations where time matter.
How about pretending to run a restaurant or narrating a story about a character who needs to plan an event?
Tickle your child’s curiosity and get set time!
To conclude: A mindful time
Managing time is a life-long skill and starting it early has many benefits!
One of these is how children and adults alike can ease into their activities or tasks throughout the day.
So start early, keep it simple, repeat, and reinforce in a fun manner!
Do share the time management tips that you have tried with your child!