Your boss wants to know why you were running late (again), and all you can come up with is, “My son took 25 minutes to put on his shoes and socks, and when I buckled him in the car seat, he announced he wasn’t wearing underpants.”
That’s the oldest excuse in the book (or at least in your book), right? But reasons like that aren’t foreign to parents, and they usually are true. It’s also true that bosses don’t always understand the trials and tribulations of raising small kids, and you need to be on time to work. So how can you help your children learn time management so that everyone can be on time? Try these simple time tips early on to prepare your children for success in life.
- Map things out for your child. Create a chart to hang in the bathroom to illustrate your child’s daily hygiene routine. Use pictures or words (or a combination) that represent the set of tasks your child must complete each day, like brushing teeth, washing hands and face, putting dirty clothing in the laundry, getting dressed, etc. This will teach your child how to efficiently finish a set of tasks without any guidance from you. In the beginning, you may need to use a timer to help remind your child how much time to set aside each day for hygiene tasks.
- Manage screen time. Glowing screens eat up a lot of our days, and it’s easy for even adults to lose track of time in front of a computer or phone. Set a screen time limit each day and have your child choose what amount of time will be spent watching television, playing a game or using a computer, tablet or smart phone. If your children have television programs that they don’t want to miss, review the guide with them and write down which shows happen at which times (or record them on the DVR). Write down (or draw) your screen time plan by blocking off half-hours. Keep the plan in plain view and have your children mark off when they have watched a show or completed a half-hour of game play. This makes your children more aware of how much time they are spending and makes them responsible for managing it.
- Create a family timeline. On a long strip of paper, create a timeline for your whole family. Let your children mark a particularly memorable experience for each year of their lives. If your children can’t write yet, have them dictate. This visual reminder of time can help the abstract concept of time become clearer for young children.
- Make a checklist of chores. At the beginning of each week, write down all the chores that must be completed each day. After your child finishes a chore, allow him or her to check off that day (or give your child a sticker to put on that day). This helps children track duties and deadlines and gives them a visual representation of time.
- Use a timer. For simple tasks like picking up toys, use a timer to remind your child when the task is supposed to be done. Have your child set the timer with you and talk about how much time is allotted. Let your child turn the timer off when it goes off. This gets you out of the habit of reminding over and over again (because we all know how effective that is) and teaches your child to take responsibility for his or her time. Eventually, your child will learn how much time 5 minutes actually is and be able to complete tasks without the reminder.
At Sparkles!, we teach time management by reminding children how much time is left before transitioning to another activity. For older children, we practice time-telling skills. We use other techniques, too. Ask your child’s teachers for more time management teaching ideas. They would be happy to help.