Children live in the now. Their brains are wired to enjoy the present and not worry about the future, even when it’s already staring them in the face. This is because young brains are not yet fully developed enough to comprehend the concept of time and organisation.
Science explains that the part of the brain responsible for executive functions like telling the time and organising things are the last to develop. The neuron networks in this region take many years to mature, even way beyond college years for some. When it comes to time management and organisational skills, the root of our problem is that we expect children to behave like fully matured adults.
We cannot rush the brain to speed up its normal course of development. What we can do, in the meantime, is to use external aids that can hone children’s time management and organisational skills. Repetitive actions form routines; doing things a particular way at certain times can become habits.
1. Teach your child how to plan. You can start by providing your child with a planner. Let your child be there to choose when you buy it or download it from the internet, so they will be excited about using it. By giving your child their very own planner, you show them that their time is valuable. This will also encourage them to create a schedule.
Then, set a routine time to plan. This will help your child form a good habit of preparing ahead. For example, after snack time every day, they can sit and write down the things to do for the rest of the afternoon until bedtime. This way, they will have a visual guide on how to estimate time in relation to the activities to be done.
You can model this behaviour by showing your child your own to-do list. When they see you making lists and ticking things off, they will follow your example. Encourage your child to stick to their timetable and to cross off each item on the list as soon as it is finished. Checklists will help your child learn how strategise and manage time well
2. Use calendars and clocks. Buy or print a calendar where your child can see all the things they need to do for the month. Place it in a prominent area, preferably in their line of sight. Encourage your child to write their own entries, ideally about school activities such as exam dates and project deadlines. Your child should learn how to refer to the calendar when making plans. Manually crossing off every day will also reinforce the passage of time and develop anticipation of the days ahead.
Using analogue clocks is better than digital ones because your child can actually see their progress as the time ticks by. Analogue clocks will help them determine the amount of time they have been working and the time left to do a task.
3. Assign responsibilities that involve sorting or categorising. Sorting out their school papers, putting things in their proper places, arranging toys in their own cabinets, and other similar household chores are great examples of organisation.
Provide bins and organisers for your child’s use so they know how to categorise by type, colour, or use. Stress the point that having things in their proper places will make it easier to find them, thus reducing the time spent searching for stuff. This will make your child appreciate the value of organising things at home or in school.
Emphasising the importance of proper time management and organisation to your child is a must. This is part of their development that they will make great use of in adulthood. The opportunity that arises while teaching this skill will also be a venue to learn about cognitive, communication, and language skills, among others. The way your child thinks about, writes down, and discusses their plans will also enhance their vocabulary and speech. These are added incentives for you to strengthen your interaction together–all for the benefit of your child’s overall development and a well-mapped out future.