How do you teach children how to prioritize?

                                                             (Two Minute Read)

Last week Monday, I had to make a choice: Do I celebrate my birthday with my kids or do I write and send out my weekly blog post? I chose to celebrate and figured I’d write the blog post when I get back home. But then I had an even bigger dilemma when I came home late that night. Do I write the blog post so that I remain consistent each week, or do I go to sleep as I was too tired to even think? Well, you know what I choseā€¦ Sorry about not being consistent and choosing to get some rest instead.

So how do we teach children to choose what’s more important and prioritize their responsibilities?
Oftentimes, kids have to choose between eating breakfast or catching the bus on time. Or finishing homework vs. going to sleep. Or calling a friend vs. preparing their backpack for the next day.

I play the Priorities Game which goes as follows. On a stack of index cards cut in half, I write down all kinds of tasks and responsibilities a student or child might face. Each card gets another task. The list includes items such as the following:

  • It’s time to take a shower.
  • I have to go to the bathroom badly.
  • I want to get my Rubik’s Cube.
  • I want to go to the bathroom because I didn’t go for an hour.
  • I’m in the mood of reading.
  • I need to make my bed.
  • I want to play Kugelach.
  • I want to listen to the Story Hotline.
  • I want to answer my classmate’s question on the group chat.
  • My friend is calling me and I want to chat with her.
  • My bedtime is in 10 minutes.
  • My bedtime is in 1 hour.
  • My bus will be here in 20 minutes.
  • My bus driver is honking outside.
  • I got a message to go speak to the principal.
  • I want to organize my desk.
  • The recess bell rang and my teacher is walking into the classroom in less than a minute.
  • I’m thirsty and want to get a drink.

We then play the game. All cards are turned over, mixed well, and stacked in a pile. We take turns picking two cards and reading the options aloud. Each player has to quickly decide which is more important and slap their hand down on that card. For example, the two cards might read “I want to organize my desk” and “I got a message to go speak to the principal.” Or another two cards might read “The bus driver is honking outside” and “I’m thirsty and want to get a drink.” (If the cards don’t make sense as a set, we replace one or both of the cards. For example, “My bedtime is in 10 minutes” and “My bus will be here in 20 minutes” wouldn’t happen in real life. So one of the cards gets replaced.)

Each player explains why they chose their card and why they think their choice was more important. This leads to a bunch of great mini-lessons on what’s more important and why. The focus is not on preaching to kids what’s more important but rather to have them hear different perspectives.

Have a fun week!


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