Teaching kids how to plan – Impaq Education
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Teaching kids how to plan

5 min read   •   
Lorian Phillips – Clinical Psychologist

As parents, we want our children to do well, succeed and be the best they can be. However, one critical question that we often leave out is, do they know the steps needed to accomplish this?

I spent a lot of time telling my children to study, and then they would go to their rooms for hours on end and produce something that I consider underwhelming at best.

It was only after years of parenting in this no-win mode and assisting my children with their ADHD difficulties that I finally got it. The most important thing that our children need to learn to study is how to plan their work before going about it. This includes many skills including:

  • time management,
  • goal setting,
  • future thinking,
  • prioritising, and
  • organising.

Only after these skills are in place can specific study skills be taught.

Plan to succeed

If children do not have a plan for how to go about their work or how to get started, how will they succeed?

Planning can be taught in simple ways from a young age. When our kids are still young, we can start casually introducing the idea of planning by talking about how we would plan leisure activities. For example, if we were going to the beach, ask your child how they would pack the cooler box. It might look something like this:

  1. Fruit at the bottom
  2. Hotdog buns on top of the fruit
  3. Cooldrinks on top

The example given above is an example of poor planning. In essence, planning reflects the ability to think logically and sequentially to achieve a goal. Teaching this from early on equips our children for many aspects of life. Seeing as so much of life is about planning effectively, mundane as that may sound.

“In essence, planning reflects the ability to think logically and sequentially to achieve a goal.”

Set realistic goals

Planning is the first step in goal setting and becomes more complex as the child gets older, and there are more responsibilities and less time. Your child needs to be equipped with the necessary skills to embark on their work efficiently. These vital skills include:

  • planning,
  • prioritising,
  • organising, and
  • time management.

The middle years of primary school, around the time Grade 4 begins, the workload increases, and new subjects are introduced. This is the ideal time to start teaching planning in a more structured way.

At this stage, homework is no longer work that has to be completed for the next day, but there may be a test in a few days, a project or speech for the following week and so on, which requires adequate planning.

Whatever we are trying to teach our children should ideally be done in a fun way to increase their motivation and get their cooperation.

Also read: Encouraging your child to succeed the do’s and don’ts

Stay organised

Going with your child to the shops to buy a planner or personal organiser that looks appealing to them, or even making one together can be a fun activity to get started.

The most important thing when teaching our children planning is not just about writing out what is due but showing them how to create the time to slot the work into the rest of their lives. They need to take the following into account:

  • homework,
  • extracurricular activities,
  • appointments, and
  • social arrangements.

Too often I had heard the cry of “I have plenty time” only to find them in tears the day before because they didn’t realise how much work they had to do or how long it would take.

Start with the due date

Therefore, the first thing to write on the planner is the due date for the task, assignment, or test. Using a brightly coloured marker to draw attention to it is also a good idea. After that, start to work backwards, filling in their daily activities, extracurricular activities and so on. Remember to block out the weekends in which they should not have to do any work if your children are still young.

Write in the planner with your children by your side, giving their input to involve them as that is the best way for them to integrate it and show them how to have a realistic view of the time they have vs what they think they have. There is often a mismatch between the two!

Plan backwards to move forwards

Once the initial planning schedule has been done, which can be summarised by the phrase ‘plan backwards to move forwards’, then similar steps can be done daily. Sit with your child and see what homework they have for the day and decide whether they want to get that out of the way first before doing the work expected in a few days or vice versa.

Again, this starts to give them the concept of planning within the day, prioritising and finding out for themselves what works best for them. These are skills that will stand them in good stead throughout their learning journey.

Also read: There’s more to life than academic achievement

Develop a good work ethic

What I have learned is that results truly do not count until Grade 11 BUT what makes a huge difference is our children developing a good work ethic from as early on as possible to carry them through and to make the final few grades as pain-free as possible. Planning is the beginning point of developing that work ethic and the sooner your child gets the concept of it, the better prepared they are for academic success.

Who knows, it may help you, as the parent, to be better prepared too!