Teaching Children the Concept of Time

13All children are born into the world with no concept of time: eating and sleeping on their own schedules. As they move from babies to toddlers, to preteens and teens, their sense of time often remains distorted, not having learned the necessary skills to manage their time. In today’s busy world of trying to squeeze in just one more activity, two of the most important lessons you can teach your child are the concept of time, and how to use that time effectively.

Teaching time

Time has a tendency to go by very quickly when we are having a good time, but slow to a grinding halt when we are bored. The same thing happens with children – an hour spent waiting by the door for a friend to arrive passes by very differently than an hour spent playing in the backyard with that friend, or watching TV. So how do you help your child understand the concept of time?

Make a list of everyday activities and sort them into different categories: second, minute, hour
Compare lengths of time: “We are baking cookies, which takes about as much time as doing a load of laundry.”
Post a daily schedule for your child to see.
Relate the clock to your daily schedule – “When the big hand reaches the 8, we will be going to the library.”
Give your child a stopwatch so they can watch time pass.
Keep a calendar with holidays, birthdays and other special days marked and count down the days regularly.

Teaching priorities

Children are not naturally capable of balancing all of the activities in their lives – school, home and other commitments. Teaching children how to prioritize and use their time wisely is a skill that they will use throughout their lives. Make sure to talk to your child about the distinction between what is important and what is urgent. Important tasks will help them achieve a higher quality of life. Urgent things need to be taken care of immediately.

Make a chart with a hierarchy of priorities that they can refer to when making decisions about how to utilize their time. Purchase an academic calendar for them to write down their schedule and keep organized.
For school projects, have your child write down the due date and divide the project into parts. Then have your child set goals for each of the portions to be completed.
Talk to your child about taking on too much, and how it can negatively affect all areas of their life.

Be a role model

The best way to teach your child about time management is to practice it yourself. We sometimes forget that children watch our every move, including how we manage our time. They will learn how to effectively use their time by watching you make effective use of your own time. That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect! Parents make mistakes too–whether it’s as serious as being late for work or simply being late to the start of the basketball game. Those are great learning moments for your children. Ask, “What could Mom have done differently to make it on time to your game today?”

Effective time management is a learned skill, and it only gets harder as life gets more complex. That is why it is so important to start children learning effective time use in their early years. Teaching your child that not every task is equally important or urgent will help them determine what can wait, while passing on the necessary skills to improve productivity for years to come.

Image credit:  Ivan Prole