It's one thing to tell time, but another to understand the fluid relationship between time passing and getting stuff done. Both my kids struggle with the idea that they have to adjust what they're doing (or the speed at which they're doing it) based on how much time they have.
I've written plenty about how much we love timers. But timers only provide information about the current snatch of time (how long it is, when it's over). Clocks help kids learn about the general passage of time, and how to fit their tasks into the flow of a given day.
In our family, this skill gets pounded hardest during the get-ready-for-school routine. My daughter, who's almost finished with second grade, knows what she needs to do but still has a hard time remembering that she needs to leave time for the teeth-brushing and the backpack-wrangling in order to get to school on time. She needs to:
- know how long these tasks take
- know how many minutes she has left till "out the door" time
- compare those two amounts to decide if she needs to speed up her routine
To help her with this thought process, I've added a new tool to our current time management arsenal (the written routine and the timer): the labeled analog clock. Digital clocks are fine for telling time but don't visually represent the passage of time as well the classic big-hand-little-hand clock.
I've labeled our old clock with Post-it Notes to remind her which direction is clockwise and to point out when she needs to brush teeth in order to get out the door on time. (In fact, Post-it Flags work even better, but I ran out.)
The labels are easy to move, change for different tasks, and rewrite, and they don't damage the clock. Not only does this help her see the relationship between different tasks and the passage of time, it gets her in the habit of checking the clock, not waiting for the timer (or me) to prompt her to move along. The goal is to eventually wean her off the timer as she learns to manage her own time.
You can get cheap analog clocks at places like IKEA and Target — in fact, you've probably already got one sitting around the house. I suggest hanging them all over, especially the bathroom, the kitchen, wherever your kids usually sit to eat and/or do homework, and near TVs and computers. Being able to quickly glance at the clock makes it easier for integrate time management into everyday life.
How do you teach your kids to manage their time? Does it ever get easier?!