Beyond Games: Develop Good Scheduling Habits

The busy schedules of 21st-century children seem to be both a curse and a blessing. These days, scheduling is a necessary skill for success long before adulthood. Older kids and teens frequently need strict schedules in order to be on top of their schoolwork and keep up with sports and social events. In this edition of the LearningWorks for Kids Beyond Games series we suggest strategies that can help a child develop good scheduling habits.

Schedule activities and responsibilities. Start with three or four categories such as a specified wake-up time in the morning on school days, a time to do homework, and a time to go to bed at night. Having your child take an active role in making this schedule could increase his willingness and capacity to keep it. She might enjoy personalizing the schedule with pictures, artwork, or graffiti and using different-colored markers to prioritize activities. She could add items to the schedule as she demonstrates the ability to follow a basic schedule that includes weekend activities, sporting events, art lessons, and/or music practice. The simple act of monitoring one’s actions often results in improvement in these behaviors.

Designate a “time-sensitive” spot. Post everything that has a due date or that has to be completed soon in a spot that the whole family knows about and has access to. Be it a magnetic pad on the refrigerator, a corkboard next to a computer station, or a blackboard at an exit in your house. As the parent you are responsible for keeping it up to date and working with your child to make sure all time sensitive tasks are posted, checked, and completed.

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Schedule a family day. Include your child in planning a family trip or activity to exercise her time management and planning skills. She can help you calculate the distance and time the day’s events will take. Ask her to to consider when people would need to wake up to be ready to leave on time, how to manage issues such as the amount of time necessary for meals, potential delays such as traffic hold-ups, and venue hours.

Mind your own schedule. A family’s time management habits predict a child’s time management habits. Maintaining a predictable and consistent weekly schedule is likely to boost your child’s ability to manage her time more effectively. She could then model your schedule and learn strategies to help her organize and use her time. Demonstrate the ways you adapt to unexpected changes in schedules to help her learn real-life time-management skills.

Acknowledge your own shortcomings. As implied above, any children who struggle with time management have parents who experience similar problems. Recognizing and acknowledging your own difficulties and improving your time-management skills sets a great example for your child. Establish small, realistic goals and discuss them with your child; you might choose to make school lunches the evening before school rather than in the morning so that you have more time to get everyone up and ready for school the next day. Posting an extra-large calendar in a public area to display how you are working to improve your time-management skills sets an example your child will respect and learn from.

Practice what you preach. “Verbal modeling” examples might include: “First I’ll get the water boiling for the pasta, then I’ll start on the salad. After I put the pasta into the water I’ll finish the salad, heat up the sauce, and then drain the pasta so that we can eat dinner.” Explain to your child why you include visits to the bank and grocery store on the same trip and encourage her to verbalize strategies for managing workloads, chores, or homework more efficiently.

Complementing these core strategies with the use of apps, websites, and other technologies often leads to the best solutions to improve a child’s ability for scheduling. Some of the best tech tools to help a child with improving scheduling include:

TimewinderTimewinder is an app that aids in building three important executive functions for successful schedule-keeping: planning, organization, and time management. It is possible to schedule an entire day’s worth of activities and responsibilities, be it walking the dog, checking email, snack time, or homework time.

Verbalizing the steps necessary toward completing tasks and goals is an invaluable skill for successful time management. Practicing that skill in very specific areas enhances self-awareness and planning and makes for good schedule-keeping across disciplines. An app like Endomondo Sports Tracker allows, among other things, users to keep track of distance and time, which can help kids visualize, and therefore verbalize, how much time they put into exercising their bodies and connect those kinds of calculations other types of tasks.

Sometimes scheduling issues are specific to executive function disorders. That’s where apps like Picture Planner come in. Picture Planner is a program available on mobile devices, as well as Mac and PC, that allows for the creation of daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly schedules that are composed almost entirely of images. Picture Planner may be just what your family is looking for, but only its trial version is free, with mobile access and full desktop functionality at $199.


Featured image: Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski


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