How to Teach Time Management to Kids

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Do you have a lazy kid in the house?

You know the one I’m talking about. The one who sits at the table and plays with dinosaurs all day or dilly-dallies the day away while you’re going crazy. And schoolwork sits on the table. Unfinished.

So how do you teach time management to kids like this!

Time management is a skill issue, not an obedience issue.

Handing these children a subject, such as math, and telling them to plan the week is like sending us into a large family’s kitchen that hasn’t been cleaned in a month.

Pizza boxes are piled to the ceiling, flies are buzzing around moldy dishes, and the trash is overflowing. Where do you start?

Break Large Projects into Small Tasks

Often kids have no idea how to break large projects into small tasks, even though it seems obvious to us. I told one child to write the lessons down on his planner and didn’t check back for a week.

That week my child diligently grabbed his books, opened his planner, and stared at the page. He sat there in a daze all week.

We argued. He assured me his schoolwork would get done. It didn’t.

Finally, I checked his planner, everything was written down to be done on Monday. Each day he sat down, looked at his planner, and panicked. How was he to do all this?!?

We spent quite a bit of time breaking his lessons down into manageable bites. Instead of being confronted with all 5 Tapestry of Grace books, his entire science lesson, 5 math lessons, and a pile of Latin worksheets on Monday, we divided and conquered the pile.

Read this book on Monday, complete 2 pages of science, do one lesson of math, complete one Latin worksheet. He diligently began dividing the assignments into small chunks. This was the beginning of learning time management.

Decide When Each Task Should Be Done

Knowing how long a task takes requires experience. Our young middle school students when first confronted with planning don’t always have an internal clock that says math should take about 45 minutes.

Instead, they’ll look at the lesson and think, “I have plenty of time!” and return to playing with Legos for a few more hours.

Add that same absent time management skill to history, science, English, and Latin and you have a child who plays the day away. Sometime around 3 or 4 o’clock they panic realizing the work isn’t done.

It’s time to teach your child to schedule their day. It’s a fairly simple solution. My son and I sat down and discussed what subject he wanted to do during each time slot in the school day.

Suddenly my son found himself sitting down at 9 o’clock in the morning knowing it was time to do 1 math lesson. Most of our problems were solved! There was just a distractibility problem.

Focus on the Task to Be Done

By time point we were to the point of learning to put his nose to the grindstone. I played the game, Race the Clock, that my mother taught me when I was first doing my homework at the kitchen table.

It’s a very simple game. You set the timer for 15-20 minutes.  Then see how many math problems your child can get done. Or you see if your kid can finish your assignment in 20 minutes.

With very young children, I prefer to give them 1 minute to complete 1 problem. Lots of cheering and high 5’s keep the little ones happy. However middle school kids are too dignified for the cheering, so I keep to a simple ‘Good Job!’

It takes time, effort, and patience to teach time management skills to children. But eventually, you do end up with high school students who manage their time well.



teach time management to kids

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  1. These are really great tips I have one of my own dilly dalliers and she definitely works better when her tasks are given to her in spurts.

    1. Small tasks work much better than large tasks. It simply amazes me, constantly, that breaking large projects into small tasks in a learned skill. 🙂

  2. Great post! Encouragement and teaching them the skills they need now will surely prepare them for the future 🙂 Thanks for linking up at Together on Tuesdays!

  3. You made a good point that sometimes it isn’t about being lazy but about time management. I seem to have to drag my kids through their routines and school work. Perhaps it is time to give them ownership and have them realize that it really doesn’t take long if you just sit down and do it. Time to introduce time management. 🙂

  4. My son is definitely like this, although he is young so I don’t have him manage much yet =) He struggles when I have him do a copywork page or math sheet, but I will say that he is better so far this year than he was last year. I didn’t even know how much of a problem it was until my daughter started doing that kind of work and she just flies thought it =) Thanks for the ideas!

  5. Hi Sara, Just roaming around the Internet this morning and came to your page from Chronically Content. Time management and project planning is something children might have be just naturally good at however even these bright little sparks can be given tools to use so that they are even better at it. When they become adults, any spare time created can be spent productively with family or even just having a rest. Thanks for sharing your ideas. Fran

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. You’re right kids do need time management skills in almost every stage of childhood and as adults leaving the house. 🙂

  6. Thank you for this post!…I have to admit that I am naturally this way…I was never taught time management, and grew up in a situation where it was never required…It is very difficult for me to get a lot of things done, and I am aware that I accomplish much less than I am capable of due to poor time management skills…I have come a long way over the years, but still have a long way to go…I do realize from my personal experience how important it is to teach this to our children…It is much more difficult to learn later in life…

    1. Time management really is a learned skill, and one we keep developing over the years. I know I’m still learning new tips and tricks constantly. But it really is much easier to learn at least the basics as children. College and adult life becomes much more manageable. 🙂

  7. Hi, I think this is a wonderful post. I have a daughter who manages time quite well on her own, and a son who doesn’t know how to manage his time at all. I definitely think I’m going to sit down with them and use your suggestions to teach them how to manage their time. It’s actually something that never even crossed my mind and I love teaching life skills I think they’re so important.

    1. Thanks, Jen. Time management is something we don’t always think about as adults. There have been many times I’ve been startled by what my kids were doing and realized they had no idea how to manage their time. Time management is definitely an important life skill to learn! 🙂

  8. Great read! Scheduling the day in homeschooling is most important and difficult thing. When there are no strict rules, it becomes very difficult to utilize the time in a productive manner. I liked your point of saying Decide When Each Task Should Be Done, I often fail at this part. Thanks for this amazing article!

  9. The timer is a great one. Perhaps go on Amazon and let the child pick out their own personalized timer, a cat, dog, chicken timer!

    Love the timer concept, great for us adults too!

    Thanks, Sara!

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