Time management is an essential skill for students as they continue to navigate through school as well as adults. Children with executive functioning difficulties as well as young children struggle with future-oriented thinking. They also often struggle with a “sense of time” or passage of time. Add this to difficulties with planning and organization and trouble can start to manifest. What can parents and educators do to help children learn time management skills?
- Teach children a sense of time by having them make predictions about how long activities will take or how long it will take them to complete each activity. Use ipad and iphone apps, such as the 360 Thinking Time Tracker, or mark off the start, stop, and check-points on an analog clock using a dry erase marker or post-it flags. They also have pre-made magnets called TrackNets. For parents, don’t forget to have a discussion with children about if their prediction was close to their actual finish time. For teachers, do a student self-assessment (FIP at work!). Have students do a thumbs up (I got it), sideways thumb (I am getting there), or a downward thumb (Need more help).
- Have students visualize the end the result to help create future-oriented thinking. This also helps children determine the steps they need to take to the end result. Parents can ask children to visualize what getting ready for bed looks like, or what the end result of completing chores looks like. Teachers, can ask students to visual what finishing a project will look like and how they will feel.
- Teach children planning skills using a family activity calendar or a classroom calendar. For young children, try using visual magnet calendar. For classroom teachers, bring back the classroom calendar. I often see calendars in kindergarten classrooms. However, after kindergarten, teachers tend to move to making daily lists. I am not suggesting you throw out your list, but I do highly recommend creating a classroom calendar. Students can check in daily to see what is coming up in class. Put on upcoming tests and suggested study days on the calendar, weekly reading packets due at the end of the week, suggested time frames for breaking up large projects or writing assignments, and so on.
- Teach children how to use an agenda properly. For older students, tie this in with a color-coded system using post-its. My last year in college, I only survived by writing my study, work, and grad school application “to do lists” on colored-coded post-its. This strategy was particularly helpful, because when I didn’t complete something I was able to move it over to the next day.