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Toddler Time Management

The Early Bird
For my family, rush hour begins at home. The morning, demonstrating a brazen disregard for privacy, crashes our slumber party disturbing the peace. As a parent with young children, you instinctively stumble out of bed struggling for some level of coherence before the kids awaken to the sounds of morning. You navigate through the darkness with the stealth like skill of a drunken blindfolded raccoon rummaging through trash cans. Inevitably you step on a squeaky misplaced toy or unleash a primal scream after stubbing your toe on the clothes dresser that clearly must have been relocated while you slept. Like a cosmic shock wave, the ripple effects of your auditory disturbance usher in a chain of events resulting in chaos. Another school day begins.

My son, a brilliant yet defiantly independent 3 year old, enthusiastically opts to not follow the regimented routine his beloved parents have meticulously crafted to get him dressed, fed, and on time to school. Generally speaking, toddlers are like tiny bohemians living in their own vision of Utopia. Time has no meaning. It’s essentially all spontaneous play, eat, sleep, play, any time of day. Given this premise, the question really becomes how should parents meet the challenge of teaching toddlers time management?

Since my present parental experience has been based on my own young children, I’ve recently evaluated and come up with a set of ideas on how to productively tackle the introduction of structure to a toddler’s concept of time as it relates to the school day.

  • Teach them the days of the week. A seemingly obvious yet overlooked tool in a parent’s toolbox. If your child knows he/she goes to school on certain days it will help motivate him to take action.
  • Begin to teach them how to read a clock. Make it a game. Ask them to tell you the time throughout the day. It can become their job to be the timekeeper.
  • Advise them the night before of what the next day will hold. It plants the idea in their minds.
  • If possible, prepare breakfast for them before they are awake in the morning. Especially if you are the sole care provider for the day responsible for the care of more than one child. It will free your time to focus on other tasks that need to be addressed without monitoring the kitchen.
  • Check the weather report the night before to prepare what they will wear accordingly for the next day. Again, a huge time saver when trying to maintain order in the sometimes chaotic environment of the morning. You could even choose to include them in the process of choosing their clothes.
  • Try to establish and maintain consistent sleep and wake times. A huge obstacle to tackle, especially when the holiday season rolls around and routine falls by the wayside.
  • Factor in at least an additional 30 minutes to your morning schedule for the unexpected. With children, anything can and will happen. At least give yourself the luxury of extra time to meet those challenge.

Please feel free to comment and add to the list. Join the discussion.

  • Suzy Kim

    I’m not a dad so I kind of feel like I’m crashing a bachelor party… That being said, I like your suggestions on time management and will share them with the father of my almost fourteen month old. She’s not as defiant as your little guy (at least not yet) and not going to school just yet but it’s never too early to start proper time management.

    I love your website. Rock on!

    • Thank you for your kind words. And thank you for reading CuteMonster!

  • Scott

    My 3 (almost) year old loves to make suggestions like “I’ve got a good idea dad, let’s build a castle” just as we are about to get dressed to leave for pre-schoool and work. I stare at him in disbelief and he just looks back and says “well… can we”. Amazing.

    I assume you are using a digital clock to teach time telling?

    • The castle building suggestion is very funny. Perhaps you have a budding architect or engineer on your hands! Regarding a digital clock, yes, my wife and I make use of one often in teaching our son how to tell time. Especially since it’s currently the most pervasive form of time being displayed in our home. Yet we do on occasion try to incorporate the good old fashioned analog clock as well. The basics are so important in my opinion.

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  • MSH

    After 4 years I am still trying to figure out how to manage our time so as to be on time for school, activities, etc. Perhaps I am trying to achieve the impossible!!