Time Management for Kids
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Today's question says, "It seems like kids these days have too much idle time. What are practical ways to teach our children good time management?"
Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast. Where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today.
Today's question says, "It seems like kids these days have too much idle time. What are practical ways to teach our children good time management?" Such an important question to think through. So that's what we're going to dive down deep into today.
But before we do that, if you have a question that you would like answered on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that question by going to foundationworldview.com/podcast.
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Now, this question is a really interesting one about kids having too much idle time and teaching them good time management. Now, as is typical with many Foundation Worldview podcasts, as we think through this question, the question that I respond with is what is the goal in this? As we think through kids having a lot of idle time and also wanting to teach time management, what is the goal? Why would we want to teach kids good time management?
And I think the answer to this question is we want to train our children to wisely steward the very short amount of time they have here on this earth. For those of us who are watching and listening who are over the age of 25, I think most of us would say that time goes so quickly. We know that when we're kids, when we're growing up, it seems like each year takes a very long time. But the older you get, the shorter each year seems to be because the more years we have in our lives.
Even if we live to be 90 or 100 years old, that amount of time is very short when compared to eternity. We know that once a minute passes, we can never, ever, ever get that minute back. So we want to train our children to wisely steward the very short amount of time that they have here on this earth.
Now, recent research on Generation Z, which are kids who were born 1995 to the present. This research has found that kids spend less time on homework. They spend less time on paid work, whether that's chores around the house, or actually if they're older, a job within the community, they spend less time volunteering and they spend less time on extracurriculars than all previous generations.
So they have more free time than any generation in the past, but yet most of those in Gen Z who are age 10 on up will tell you how stressed they feel as if they don't have enough time. Well, researchers have found that Generation Z, and I think this research was with those who were 11 on up. So a little bit older than the ages of many of the kids for parents who are watching and listening to this.
But Gen Z on average spends 2.25, so two and a quarter hours texting, two hours surfing the internet, one and a half hours video gaming and half an hour on video chat. So that is six hours per day or 42 hours per week. That's almost two full days, texting, surfing the web, video gaming and video chatting. And so now this might not be the ways in which time is spent for many of the kids whose parents are watching and listening right now, but we at least need to know that many of our kids' peers are spending their time in this way.
So we want to figure out, okay, how are the children within our care or with that on our sphere of influence using their time? And we want to really have a solid understanding of this. So I recommend that if you're a parent listening or if you are a teacher or someone working with children that you just map out kids' schedules. Obviously parents can do this in the most detail. Just map out how is each hour of the day used for your child.
So map out the hours that are spent in an educational setting. The hours that are spent with homework. The hours that are spent with extracurriculars. The hours that are spent for meals, for family devotions, for everything, for sleeping, all of that, and then actually get an idea in your mind for how is your kids' time currently used? If you're a very visual person, you can do this in all different colors. I love different colors, and so when I map out my own schedule, I do everything in different colors.
Then the first thing that I recommend that you check out is check that your children are getting the proper amount of sleep. When I was a classroom teacher, I was always shocked to discover that each year, many of the parents of kids in my class thought that their children needed the same amount of sleep that they did. That on average adults need somewhere between seven to eight hours of sleep. So many parents of students in my classroom were trying to make sure that their kids got seven to eight hours of sleep where children need much more sleep than that.
So according to the Cleveland Clinic, a leading healthcare clinic and hospital for pediatrics, for children in the US, children ages three through five need 10 to 13 hours of sleep per night. Children ages six to 12 need nine to 12 hours of sleep each night. So if our kids are anywhere from the ages of three to 12 and we're thinking that they need seven to eight hours of sleep, they are sleep deprived right now. And then kids ages 13 to 18 need eight to 10 hours of sleep.
So that's the first thing. We want to make sure that our kids are getting a proper amount of sleep because in order to function well during the day, they need to get an adequate amount of rest. Then we need to evaluate, okay, what is the free time that our kids actually do have and how are they spending that? So I'm just going to go through a list just thinking through kids of different ages and things that we should be focusing on them spending their free time with.
So kids ages four to eight need lots of free play, especially outside, okay? We live in a world that's so focused on screens that time outdoors is really limited, but outdoors is actually natural revelation. It's God's creation. It's part of how God has generally revealed himself to us, and our kids need to be spending lots of time outside. So they need lots of free play.
Now, I'm not saying that they should never be in front of a screen or that you have to limit all of their video games, but most of their time should not be spent in front of a screen. It shouldn't be spent in front of a tablet. It shouldn't be spent playing a video game or even just playing with a toy that has one specific purpose.
Our kids really need time, especially when they're eight and younger, to have free creative play. We need their imaginations to be used. We need them to be able to think creatively and to just enjoy the gift of childhood that God has given them.
So really encourage you think about what is the free time that your little ones, ages eight and younger have. And how much of that time is actually devoted to free play, where they can be creative versus how much time is either structured, whether it's in a certain structured sport, or how much time is spent in front of a screen. Also, kids at this age, we need to read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read to them.
If you're not in the habit of reading to your kids, highly recommend you check out the Read Aloud Revival podcast as well as the Foundation Worldview Book Club to just get ideas of books that are really going to engage kids and get them involved. Because when we train our kids to read, when we read to them a ton, when they're little, they're going to learn to love reading.
My sister-in-law has done the most amazing job of this with her four kids. And they have, my brother and sister-in-law have two boys and two girls. They're close in age. I think right now they're six, four, three and one. And her kids, especially the boys, are very, very energetic and need to be moving at all times.
But she has read to them so much that the minute anybody opens up a book, even if my nephews are charging around the house and fighting with plastic swords, they will immediately come and snuggle up next to you on the sofa and just listen, because my sister-in-law has trained them to love reading.
So we want to make sure that kids at this age are developing a love for books because reading is so important because as Christians, we are people of the book, and God has revealed himself to us through the written word. So we want to develop in our children a love for the written word because that is how they're going to be seeking God all the days of their lives.
Also, at ages four to eight, we need to make sure that our children have basic responsibilities in the home, that even a four year old should be doing basic chores around the house because they are a vital member of the family. And when we don't require our children at ages four or even age three to have some chores around the house, what we're basically telling them is that they are not needed in the family. That we are the ones that are needed and they are not needed. And so we need to help them recognize at an early age that they are a vital member of the family and that they have responsibilities as a member of the family.
Now, I know for many household tasks, it's easier just to do them ourselves because we know how to do them well. We know how to do them in ways we like them to be done, and we know how to do them quickly. But we can train children to do household chores well, as long as we're constantly modeling and doing it with them and requiring them to do it the right way.
I learned this in my own classroom. Now, I was working with children a little bit older. I was working with eight year olds, but in my first few years of teaching, I was so stressed out because I was doing everything in the classroom, and that's because I hadn't trained my students to do anything well. So whenever I gave them a job, they did it poorly or they did it halfheartedly, and then I ended up just having to come over and clean up their mess.
Where probably around my fourth or fifth year of teaching, I would give my students one job each, and they would keep that job for the entire quarter. So for two to three months of school. I would train them. I would keep them in for the first five minutes of recess three days in a row. The first time, I would just model for them the job, and I would explain to them everything that I was doing, and then I would ask them questions about it.
What did I do this time? Why did I do it that way? Why is this important? And then they'd go out to recess and the next day I'd keep them in for five minutes and I'd say, "Okay, I want you to remind me what you saw me do yesterday," and have them walk me through that. Then together, the two of us would do the job, and I would ask them some questions about it.
Then the next day, I would keep them in from recess for five minutes and I would say, "Okay, I want you to show me how to do this job well." And they would do it on their own. Then I would ask them questions and have them explain to me what they did and why they did it that way. Then after that, they were trained to do the job.
Then if at any point throughout that quarter, I saw the job not being done well, not being done according to how they knew it should be done, I'd say, "Oh, you know what? I think you've forgotten some of the things about this job. So tomorrow I'm going to keep you in for five minutes of recess and we're going to practice it together."
And so then we'd practice it together, and then I'd say, "What do you think? You think you're ready to do it the right way on your own?" And without fail, when I kept them in for those five minutes of recess to retrain them, after that they would always do it correctly. So even our little ones can be trained with basic responsibilities around the home.
Now we're thinking of kids nine to 12. They still need to be using a lot of their free time to play outside. They need playtime. They need to be outside in God's creation. During this time, this nine to 12 year old time, this is when we can also teach them to set goals, whether it's like, "Okay, what is your goal this afternoon when you're going to go outside and play? Are you going to build a fort? Are you going to spend time on the trampoline?"
We can teach them to set goals for their learning. "Okay, let's look at what homework you have. Okay, what's the goal? How long do you think this math homework should take you? What do we want to have at the end of this half hour of homework?" So teaching them to actually think through what is the goal? So they're not doing stuff haphazardly. They're not just taking as long as they think they want to, but we're actually thinking, "Okay, what's a realistic amount of time to accomplish this task?"
This is the time when we can also assign them more complex tasks at home. We should be assigning them more chores to do and things that are more complex. Again, they're going to need training. Are they going to sometimes huff their breath and roll their eyes? Yes, they may, and they need to be disciplined when that happens because that's not appropriate, but we should be giving them more responsibility at home.
This is also a time when they should be serving at church. Once kids are nine on up and potentially even eight, they should be able to serve some way in the church. Whether it's as a volunteer in the nursery. Whether it's helping on the hospitality team, setting things up. Whether it's being a greeter. Whether it's once a week, making a meal as a family and bringing it over to another family. Really, by the age of nine, our children should be serving at church.
They should not view church just as a place where they go to get entertained because they need to realize, just as they're a vital member of their family, they're also a vital member of the family of God. So we should make sure that we're having them serve. Also, read, read, read, read, read, read, read. We still should be reading to kids at the age of nine to 12, and we should be making sure that they're reading independently.
That reading is a wonderful way to use free time for so many reasons. First of all, as I said before, as Christians, we are people of the book, so we should be making sure that our kids are readers so that they know how to read the book of books, the Bible. Also, it's a way to engage their imaginations. It's a way for them to learn. It's a way for them to grow their minds. That we need to make sure that we are engaging them in books frequently.
Now, you might say, "Oh, but Elizabeth, you don't understand. My child doesn't like reading." Here's what I do understand as a teacher who has taught over 1,000 different students during my time in the classroom. Actually, is that true? Is it over 1,000? No, that's an exaggeration. I've taught, I think somewhere between all the different classes I taught, taught somewhere between five and 600 different kids.
But something to think through is that there is a genre out there that your child will like. Your child might not know that genre yet, but there is a genre that will hook your child. You just have to find it. If you have a reader who is a struggling reader, what you can do, is something I would do for my struggling readers in my classroom all of the time. Get an audiobook and then get the physical copy of the book for your child to follow along with.
So let him or her listen to the book and follow along, because when that happens, your child is going to be increasing his or her reading fluency by following along while also hearing the story read. So make sure that you are requiring reading because eventually, your kids will catch on.
And then when we're thinking about kids who are 12 on up or who are over 12, this is where we really want to start creating some of that independence. Developing and fostering that independence. So help them think through their daily schedule and wise ways to invest their time. Help them think through if they're homeschooled, how long are these different subjects in school going to take you?
If they're not homeschooled, how long is your homework going to take you? What are these other things that you have on your plate? How much time will they take start helping them create to-do lists and schedules? Not that they have to be tied to that, but just to be thinking through how they're organizing their time. By the time they're 12 on up, they should be significantly contributing to household tasks. That they can be trained to do more complex things.
Maybe you're teaching them to cook their own meals. Not that you're going to be eating independently, but that they can help you with some of the cooking. They should be doing laundry. They should be able to be doing some of the cleaning. They should be regularly serving others at church. By this time, they should be used to being in a routine of serving others at church, both during the corporate worship service at the church building, and throughout the week. They should be involved in your small group or a Sunday school class.
They should also be intentionally investing in any younger siblings that they may have. This is the time when you can actually teach them, "I need help with this. Your brother needs help with this. I need you to model this for him because you know what? You're really good at this, and I want your brother or your sister to become like you in this." So giving them more responsibility with their siblings. And also, once again, I would say read, read, read, read, read. We as Christians are people of the book. We want to train our kids to love reading.
So those are just some basic ideas for things to do in this generation of kids that spends less time on homework, less time on paid work, less time volunteering, and less time on extracurriculars. We want to make sure that our kids are not those kids who are spending hours a day video gaming, surfing the web, watching shows, or on Snapchat. We want to make sure that our kids are invested in meaningful activities that they're learning to read well, and to love literature, to love being people of the book.
We're wanting to make sure that we're giving them the time that they need to be creative, to play outside. That we're making sure that they understand they are a vital member of the family and they have responsibilities in that family and that they are serving in the local body and in the community.
Well, that's a wrap for this episode, but as always, as we leave our time together, my prayer for you is that no matter the situation in which you and the children in your care find yourselves, you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.
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