As a busy parent, you know how to juggle work, errands, activities, and meals with room to spare for driving the kids to basketball practice and catching a few Zs. But for kids, estimating how long activities will take, and being able to balance a schedule accordingly, is anything but a snap.
In the early grades, kids learn to tell time. But by fifth grade, using those skills to calculate elapsed time in hours and minutes is imperative. In the abstract, that’s confusing, but if you use concrete examples, kids find the concept easier to understand.
By using your child’s own activity schedule, you can strengthen his understanding of elapsed time, and get him organized along the way!
What You Need:
What You Do:
- Begin this activity by sitting down with your child and taking stock of all the activities that he does on a regular basis. Ask your child to make a list of six or more of his weekly activities. School, sleeping, and meal times should make the list, but make sure to include time spent on homework, extracurriculars, and "screen time" (time spent using the computer or watching television).
- Next to each activity have your child write the time the activity begins and the time it ends. For some events, such as a trip, an estimate works fine. Ask your child questions such as: "What time do you get home from school?", "When does your drum lesson begin?," or "When do you really fall asleep?"
- Now work with your child to help him find how much time elapses from the beginning to the end of each activity. Drawing a clock face and having your child count the hours will help him visualize time passing. Start with the easy ones, like a music lesson that begins at 4:00 p.m. and ends at 5:15 p.m. Then proceed to the harder examples. To find the exact amount of time spent in school, suggest to your child that he count the hours first and then add up the minutes. For example, if he arrives at school at 8:45 a.m. and leaves school at 3:15 p.m., have him count the hours from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then have him add up the minutes, 45 + 15. Have him convert minutes into hours when appropriate.
- After figuring out the elapsed time of each activity in his day, have your child subtract that number from 24, the number of hours in a day. Is there time left over for a couple hours of playtime? How about visiting a friend or spending time with siblings? Discuss with your child whether his schedule is too tight, or just right. If you decide that he needs more free time, negotiate with your child to free up his day. Consider dropping a dreaded activity in exchange for him limiting his television time. Or, if he's got tons of time to work with, talk about an activity or project he might like to do.
By evaluating and discussing how much time is in your child's day, you're not only helping him practice time-telling and math skills: you're teaching him how to balance his time, a critical skill to middle school success, and beyond!
Sally is an experienced educator, with over 14 years of teaching experience. Over the last ten years she has created educational materials, including ancillary, textbook, and test items, for Grades K-8 for major educational publishers.