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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Marnell, OTD, MBA

Time Management: Top 5 Tips for Kids of All Ages!

Updated: Jun 26, 2019

The Challenge:

With the new school year upon us, children (and parents and teachers) face many changes in their schedules. At home: Summer feels far behind us as we transition into a new morning routine, a new evening routine, homework, chores (when do kids fit those in?). At school, teachers, therapists, counselors have set their schedules and have to communicate these schedules to students . . . When exactly is lunch, and how many minutes do we have to eat?

In general, kids are busier now than they were in the summer, both at home and at school. Understanding and getting used to a new schedule can be stressful and difficult for kids. Managing their time and getting tasks done can be tough.

The Research:

A research study completed in November of 2013 shows that when a group of high school students learned time organization techniques, they reported less stress, less depression, and felt more confidence about their knowledge of time management strategies (Burns et al. 2013). (See the link HERE.) Granted, these were high school students, but what is KEY for our younger students is this: Researchers who completed this study cite that time management skills often build and improve over time, so that teaching young children to start to manage their time, may help them not only this year, but in future years as well.

The Plan:

As a pediatric OT, my approach tends to always center on using more than one modality and/or approach to support children as they learn and eventually master new skills. So keep in mind that children learn in different ways. For example, one child may do a fine job talking to an adult about his morning routine, and will be able to verbally list a sequence in which to get tasks done. Another child may need and benefit from a visual schedule. See what works for kids, but when in doubt, try to employ verbal, visual, and even kinesthetic supports for a child's learning. (Note: A kinesthetic support for learning may include crossing off items on a checklist or clapping hands when each task is done.)

1- Set a schedule and post it, both at home and at school:

This step may seem obvious for school, but it is important at home as well. In both settings, make a list of 4 to 8 of the most important transitions, write it in big letters on a poster or dry-erase board, and add pictures.

2- Teach Kids to Plan:

At home a young child may have one hour until it's time to leave for a birthday party. What does she have time to do in one hour? What would take too long? How long will she need to brush her teeth right before she leave - kids need to understand they must set aside time for these types of tasks. At school, a teacher can tell children they have fifteen minutes until lunch and explain that they have time to complete a given math or music task.

I often use a small dry erase board or a notepad and guide children through making a quick schedule. Teaching older kids to plan might include making a schedule for the evening's homework or a timeline for their morning routine.

3- Get Kids Used to Clocks!

In our digital age, we adults tend to glance at our phones and tell children how much time they have to get a task done. From now on, try to point to a digital or analog clock (even if kid cannot read clocks yet), then tell kids what time it is and how much time they need before a transition. Do this at school as well. Not only will this help children understand

that adults use clocks to manage their time, but it might even motivate kids to try to read clocks themselves!

4- Use Checklists:

This kinesthetic strategy was touched on above, but the actual act of completing (and checking off) checklists helps many children organize not only their time, but their thinking, planning, and sequencing as well. One of the best feelings as a parent or teacher is when a child begins to take responsibility for his or her own schedule and manages getting his or her tasks done on their own.

5- Have Set Bedtimes:

As a teacher, there isn't much you can do in regards to a child's home routine, but talking

about bedtimes may motivate children to start thinking along these lines. Ask them why sleep is important. Help them understand the physical benefits sleep has for our bodies and brains!

One Final Thought:

Getting a handle on time management has HUGE benefits to our mental well-being. Isn't it awful to be late for a meeting? What about that feeling of terrible regret when you have wasted time and now you can't do something you enjoy? Kids suffer with these struggles as well, and as the study cited above mentioned, good time management can reduce feelings of stress and depression - for kids of all ages.

I hope this is helpful and feel welcome to share any time management strategies that you use. I would love to hear them!

Are you following me on Facebook Pinterest or Instagram? Please do! Keep up to date as I post more tips to help teachers and parents help kids master skills!

Lisa Marnell MS, OTR/L

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