Time is a very difficult concept to grasp, even for adults. A lot of adults I know are having difficulty estimating how long things will take. Imagine how hard it is for your kids!
Remember, the brain is pessimistic by nature. When kids sit down to do their homework, they think with will be doing homework for the next 5 hours. On the opposite end, time flies for them when they play computer games or spend time with their friends.
Here are the two great solutions that can help your kids to get a feel for time and become better at time – management and homework.
I really like this physical timer from TimeTimer.com
It allows kids to see the time as the arrow moves along the face of the watch.
Time Timer’s signature red disk and oversized numbers are visible under a clear lens, promoting visual cues for efficient time management while silently counting down. Its durable case includes a handle for portability. So kids can take the clock with them to school or library.
Using this watch will help kids track how much time has elapsed and how much time is left.
How to use it: If your child ever resisted putting his or her toys away, getting off the computer, or turning off the television, timers may help. Young children especially have difficulty breaking away from something enjoyable. It is even more difficult for them when they are not prepared and find out by surprise that their fun time is coming to an end. Using a timer is a great way to prepare your child for these situations. For example, you can set the timer, place it somewhere they can see it and say “In five minutes turn off the computer and start your homework.”
Why does that work? You are not just arbitrarily telling your kids that the fun is over. The timer is. They can’t blame the timer!
This is an amazing way to get the most out of your school or work day. I highly believe in breaking up your time into manageable sections. Chunking my time lets me focus more on the task, and accomplish more! I stay focused for 25 minutes and then take a break for 5 minutes. I usually get off my chair, walk around, refill my water, stretch. No screen time. In 5 minutes, the alarm lets me know that it’s time to get back to work.
The timer is free, can be used online, or downloaded!
How to use it: For example, your child has 20 math problems for homework. Each problem will take about 2-3 minutes to complete. You can start a Pomodoro timer and say, “Try to complete the first ten problems in the first Pomodoro (25 minutes). Then take a five-minute break to do something of your choice. Then do the next ten problems.”
As soon as you start the Pomodoro Timer, it starts ticking. Make an agreement with the child that he or she is not allowed to check the phone, get distracted or leave the table for the next 25 minutes until the break starts. Make sure your child has everything he or she will need before starting the task (scrap paper, calculator, ruler, etc.). Explain what it feels like to be laser focused on math problems only. Perhaps, use a favorite superhero analogy.
Check in with the kid after 25 minutes, right in time for the break. Praise him or her for working hard during the Pomodoro. Set the timer for five minutes (the well-deserved break) and make sure the child can see the timer so they know exactly how much time is left.
Why does this work? This is a great method for encouraging work completion because children like to work towards something fun. Many children also need a mental break and will work more effectively when they have the opportunity to take one. Using a timer takes the ownership away from mom or dad. The adult is not arbitrarily telling the child that the break is over. The timer dictates the length of the break. This leads to less resistance from the child.
If you are doing an open-ended activity, such as studying or practicing an academic skill (like reading or typing, try setting the timer for one Pomodoro and say: “We will practice for 25 minutes, take a five minute break to do something of your choice, and practice for another 25 minutes.” In this case you would use the timer to let the child know how long the practice/study session will last and how long the break will last.
Some children need suggestions for the break (e.g., when you take your break do you want to draw or do jump and jacks). If you are offering suggestions, pick things that you know your child would want to work towards. Preferably, not a computer game. Any screen time is very bad for their attention and leaves a cognitive residue in the ability to focus. You can adapt the number of minutes as some children can work for longer periods, some need to work for shorter periods, and some benefit from longer or shorter breaks. Work with your child/student to see how much time works best for him/her.