In a household with two professional parents and four kids, planning and time management are incredibly important. Knowing who needs to be where with what and when as well as what needs to get done and when it has to be done is key to keeping our family functioning.

Yet, the toughest skill that we’ve had to teach our kids wasn’t riding a bike or learning how to swim, but time management. And to be completely transparent, it’s still a work in progress, perhaps because we as adults are continually learning how to better manage time to avoid that dreaded feeling of being overwhelmed. The need to help our kids learn to manage their time became even more urgent as we balanced virtual work and school with the demands of a family of six stuck at home together full-time.

Working with our kids on time management has challenged our skills as innovative parents because one solution does not work for all, especially when two of the four children were non-readers.

Our initial observations were pretty basic. Each kid had appointments that they needed to attend, asynchronous work to complete, contributions to the family to do, and a desire to have some time for themselves.

Identifying our values was also a pretty easy step. We knew that the more independence that the kids had, the greater the likelihood that we would get our own work done and keep the house running as smoothly as possible. We also wanted them to get the most that they could out of their learning experiences, regardless of what that looked like. Finally, we knew from our own personal experiences that learning some time management skills early on would pay dividends for them later in life.

Our experiments in time management grew out of the idea that some form of calendar and checklists were key to making this work. We brainstormed about what that would look like for each child. Options included Google calendars, worksheets, and even announcement from Alexa.

While it might have seemed obvious that each child needed their own approach, it did take a little while to realize that we could not do this by using a cookie cutter approach. Each kid ended up with their own unique tools that we continue to work with them to tweak and develop. Here are few of the ideas that we tried out:

  • Alexa reminders for appointments
  • Different colors in their digital calendars for live vs. asynchronous events
  • Visual to do lists with icons for specific tasks or kinds of tasks
  • Blocking off time based on estimates of how long something would take
  • Daily check-ins with a parent to follow up on assignments

The last tool we developed was a series of graphic organizers to help them block and manage their own time. Fill out the form below to try them out with your own kids.