Teaching Time Management to a 3.5 Yr Old?

Updated on June 04, 2011
J.D. asks from Los Angeles, CA
9 answers

I understand that my 3.5 yr old has no concept of time however, I use a timer for many things to let him know that in 5, 2, 1 minute he has to clean up toys, brush teeth, get ready for bed etc. I was wondering if anyone has the following problem and if making or buying some sort of clock with numbers and the arrows pointing to how many minutes; he will learn to understand? It is regarding the morning routine of getting him and myself ready for work/preschool-daycare. I have issues with him not wanting to do things and thought if I showed him how much time he has to do an activity like getting dressed, finishing his breakfast, etc., it may get him going. Any thoughts/ideas would be appreciated. My mornings can be very frustrating :( Thanks.

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answers from Los Angeles on

They make a timer (it's a little more expensive ) that can be found at teacher store or ordered on line that exposes a red secton as you set it. So imagine if you set it for 15 mi it's it would look like 1/4 of a pie. As the timer counts down, the red part gets smaller. The visual might help him. Like he has to beat the red. Good luck

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Honestly I dont think a three year old is going to grasp time management just yet. You have to give them reasonable amounts of time. I have never expected my kids to get themselves up and ready for school by themselves. I get up before them jump in the shower then get them up, get their breakfast while they get dressed while they eat and brush their teeth I get dresed you have to learn to manage your time as well as theirs mornings are a trade off while they do one thing you do another and eventually you all get out the door on time.

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answers from Kansas City on

He won't understand the clock because he doesn't know how to tell time. You could try making a game by playing a CD and telling him that by the time a particular song is over he needs to be done eating.
I don't like to rush anyone's eating so what I really recommend is bathing him at night and having his clothes already ironed, waking up a little earlier, dressing him yourself and giving him breakfast that can be eaten in the car if he's not done eating by the time you're ready. ( A quick portable breakfast could be fresh fruit, toast, bacon/sausage, and juice or milk in a cup with a lid) . HTH :)

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answers from Pittsburgh on

The kids at DS's Montessori seem to understand an hourglass (you can get a big plastic one). But I think the big picture is kids take (what looks to us) an incredible amount of time to accomplish anything. And IMO, if you rush them they go slower. What helped us more than telling him how much time he had left at that age, was racing to start the next thing and making it a game - wow, as soon as we get dressed, we can go play outside, I bet you can't get your shirt on before I count to 10. Of course, you have to help and you have to let them win. DS is 5 and things still go faster if I remember to race, rather than nag about how much time we have left. Oh, well.

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answers from Omaha on

It's good that you're already using a timer.

Break it into concepts he understands--such as a TV show. "In the time it takes to watch Thomas, I need you to eat your breakfast." Turn on your iPod or CD to songs that he knows well and tell him that by the time the song is over you expect "x" accomplished. Or simply sing out loud together while he is doing a task.

Time management, per se, is too abstract for a 3.5 year old--heck, I know many adults who struggle with it.


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answers from Oklahoma City on

It's an uphill battle. He has no brain function at this stage of development to fathom the passage of time. You are going to have to wait until he is closer to 6 or older for him to start to process the idea of time passing. It just doesn't work at this age. The timer and other things you are doing is basically transition tools, so that he is not shocked when you come in and say, honey it's time for bed lights out. You are telling him he has a few minutes to start getting ready and then you come in and his brain has had time to understand time has passed and he needs to get ready for bed. It isn't possible for him to really understand time yet. They don't even introduce clocks and the passage of time very much in Kindergarten but they do it in first grade a lot.



answers from Seattle on

I verbally count down for my kids.

5 minutes to cleanup time
4 minutes "
3 minutes "
2 minutes "
1 minute "
30 seconds "
Then count backwards from 30 to 0.

I always count backwards so the end number is always consistent. I always describe what will happen when I get to zero before I begin counting. (ie: Your breakfast dishes go in the sink at zero, whether or not you're done eating. You are getting placed in the car to go to preschool at zero, even if you're stark naked.)

I also have a visual timer, brand name "Time Timer" that gives a visual representation of the time going away.

Hope this helps.



answers from Honolulu on

Wow. Good luck! You might make it into a game, like make little cards with a picture of his tasks and then set the timer and see if he can get them all done before the timer goes off. He can stuff each one into a jar as he finishes them. If he does it all, he gets some reward (use a sticker chart or whatever so when he gets 10 stickers it means ice cream or something). My daughter used to have problems transitioning from one activity to another, so if she was doing something meaningful to her (an art project, playing with her dolls, etc) I would give a her 5 minute warning, and a one minute warning. It worked pretty well once she got used to it. I did that on the playground too, and set the timer on my phone to beep. I would blame it on the buzzer " the buzzer says it is time to go!" That left her powerless to argue (how can you argue with a buzzer?). It is a constant struggle, but if you turn it into a reward thing instead of a hurry-up thing, the morning routine might be more fun.



answers from Honolulu on

Don't expect, what is developmentally, not his age.

This is too young.
They don't even know, what 10 minutes is. Literally.
They think of something yesterday.. .and it is still current to them.

3 year olds, are like that.
They also do not have, fully developed "impulse control" yet either.

1 hour or 10 minutes to them, is not tangible to them.

Kids need to be assisted at this age. They can't get ready, on time, themselves. So monitor the timing of things, and egg him on, and get ready ahead of time, so that he/you are not late in leaving the house. Do things/get ready, ahead of time. Not down to the wire.
Toddlers, even older kids, dilly dally in getting ready.
My HUSBAND, takes longer to get ready, than ME!
So, with him, he needs to be egged on too.
He has NO concept, of getting ready, ON time, either. And he is an adult.
Amazingly, he is never late for work.

So, keep expectations, age appropriate and per your child.

Young kids and even older kids, getting ready in the morning... can be like pulling teeth. Sure it can be frustrating. But, give it time.
Your son is young.

Kids this age, do not know, "time management."

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