Time-Management Tips By Age


Effective time management yields success, but how do we teach kids time management — a skill many adults struggle with?

Laura Vanderkam, Philly-area author of several time-management and productivity books, reminds us to be patient with children. “Kids learn to manage time like they learn to manage money. It is an ongoing process, and your expectations should match where the child is developmentally.”

Time-management tips for toddlers: Routines & schedules

Daily routines are a new mom’s saving grace, and they may just train your toddler in time management.

Vanderkam says, “Little ones don’t understand the concept of time, but they can learn routines. First we get dressed and brush our teeth, then we can play.”

Time-management tips for preschoolers: Music & games

Have you heard a child sing the alphabet while washing his hands? This trick teaches kids how long to wash hands, while it reinforces letters, too.

You can use timers in many situations to introduce and reinforce time-management skills. Kimberly Kelly, a guidance counselor and teacher in Cinnaminson, NJ, suggests that parents play games like Beat the Clock to teach children how long a task should take: “Put the timer on and say, ‘Let’s see if you can beat the clock. You have 10 minutes to pick up your room!’" She adds, “Some children love this challenge!”

Time-management tips for school-aged kids: The calendar

Children are busier than ever, and a calendar can keep them from feeling overwhelmed.

EJ Curran, busy Delaware mom and MomSpeak blogger, knows just how important a family calendar can be. “One of my five kids has high-functioning autism and thrives on routine. He has a detailed schedule at school,” she says. When Curran made a summer schedule for him, she found that it worked for all of her children.

She explains, “Since I work from home, teaching five kids to manage their time is vital. Kids need to feel organized, too, so I think it’s important to have them on the same page with a planner they can reference at any time. It teaches them how the day can be broken up and instills the idea that certain things should be accomplished in a given period of time.”

Kelly agrees that calendars are mighty. Her advice to parents: “Get into the habit of looking at the calendar with your child each night to preview what is coming up, and verbalize how you will plan for it.”

Vanderkam adds, “It is often easier to talk about number of times doing things versus number of minutes. We have had more success with piano practices by telling the kids to practice their songs three times each versus saying, ‘You need to practice for 15-20 minutes.’”

Time-management tips for teens & tweens: Independence

Encourage your teen to use a paper or electronic planner. “Just like adults should do, teens can get in the habit of looking at their calendars ahead of time to see what’s coming up,” says Vanderkam. You and your tween or teen also can share your calendars electronically. “Discuss the family calendar with your child and how her life and activities fit in there,” Kelly suggests.

Vanderkam also notes that failure may sometimes be the best teacher. “If your kid stays up too late and is miserable at her summer job the next morning, you can be a sounding board about how she can avoid that happening in the future. Maybe she will have ideas about how to correct it (e.g., ‘Mom, can you remind me to start winding down at 10:30?’), which makes it far more likely to stick.”

Kelly urges balance at all stages: “Kids are so busy these days, it can sometimes be difficult to balance schoolwork, activities and family time. Together with your child, prioritize everything that needs to be done and choose what you think you can handle.”

Janet Tumelty is a South Jersey mom and freelance writer. 


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