Math Puzzles

Can A Pickle Jar Help Your Child Become Smarter?

The 21st Century’s Busy Kid

The 21st century is no ordinary time for children to grow up. From scoring an A+ in academics to perfecting that move in their dance class – they’re expected to excel in every aspect of life. The bottom line is – children are busier than ever.

multi tasking

No wonder that it has become imperative for you as a parent to prepare your kid to not only achieve different goals but to do so while remaining stress-free.

Children are often not conscious of the fact that time is a limited resource. They want to do everything that comes their way and thus, frequently miss out on doing the important things in life.

Phones and TV screens – you’re not helping us!

The increasing popularity of technology among children is only adding up to the challenge. A report from the Pew Research Center mentioned that a majority of teenagers feel they spend too much time online.

Another research study by Common Sense Media revealed that teenagers spent an average of nine hours a day online. And the figure was 6 hours for kids who were aged between 8 to 12, and 50 minutes for kids below the age of 8.

Hence, children are not only busier but also way more distracted than before.

kids busy with phone


The Pickle Jar Theory – an interesting way to learn time management!

Mr Nair, a retired army officer and the grandfather of Jay, a 10-year-old boy, saw this reality unfold in front of him every day. He watched Jay come back from school and sit in front of the TV. After an hour, it was time for his cricket coaching, and on his way back home, he would go to play in a park too. By the time he came back home and sat down to do homework, he felt very drowsy and his eyes could barely stay open.

So, one day Mr. Nair decided to teach Jay about juggling the various aspects of life through a metaphor that he would never forget!

He got an empty pickle jar. He filled the jar to the brim with golf balls. He then asked Jay –

‘Son, is the jar empty or full?’

Jay was amused and answered with excitement that the jar was empty.

Grandfather took some tiny pebbles out from his pocket and emptied them in the jar. The pebbles filled in the tiny spaces that were left in between the golf balls inside the jar. He asked again –

‘Is the jar empty or full?’

Being sure this time, Jay replied ‘the jar is full now, Grandpa!’

Grandfather now untied a tiny handkerchief knot and revealed sand kept inside it. He poured the sand inside the jar. It went and occupied the voids left in between the pebbles.

Now, Jay was curious to know why Grandfather was demonstrating this experiment.

Grandfather explained that the jar was just like a day in Jay’s life. The golf balls were the things that matter the most to him. He must begin to fill his day with the things that have the highest priority.

Health is the most important, and hence, Jay must eat properly and go to bed on time.

And even then, there is space left in the day to adjust the second most important things, which are represented by the pebbles. After health, academics are the most important. He advised him to finish his homework first and then go to play.

The sand that goes in at the last, represents the things that matter less in life, but are required nevertheless. For example, watching TV or playing video games.

‘What will happen if you fill the jar with sand first’, asked Grandfather.

‘I will not be able to fill the golf balls inside’.

‘Correct!’ exclaimed Grandfather.

‘If you watch TV or play in the park before doing your homework, you will be too tired to do it and will be left with no time. You must do the more important things first and then go to the less important ones and address them. This is called PRIORITIZING.’

 Benefits of prioritizing

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous German writer, once said that “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

Teaching children the art of prioritizing early in life is one of the greatest stepping stones to success. It not only helps them manage their time but also become more efficient.

  1. By prioritizing, various jobs can be finished in a day.
  2. Work that needs more focus and energy can be done first and hence done more efficiently.
  3. Completing a task that is important reduces stress and makes the rest of the day enjoyable.

How to prioritize?

It is important to make children understand what things are important in life. But which aspects need to be paid attention to and what can be taken as leisure?

Children tend to lose track of time often and keep doing something that they’re enjoying; until someone tells them to stop. Hence, the first step is to gift your child a watch. A watch not only helps them keep track of time but also makes them feel more responsible.

However, do insert some element of fun in this – instead of using an ordinary watch or clock, buy timers that look like toys! (Do a Google search for Pomodoro timer).

timer clock

Here are some methods by which children can learn the art of prioritizing –

1. Keep an organizer: A planner/organizer with the sole purpose of managing time should be maintained. Right after coming home from school, children can take 5 minutes to jot down the important tasks to be finished that day (like project work, homework, preparation for an upcoming test).

Also, it is important to make time management activities fun – kids can use crayons and use bright colours to make visual schedules of tasks and activities. No need to write football or cricket – just draw them! And why use notepads? Simply use stickers to mark special dates and events on the calendar.

2. Allotting a time-limit for leisure activities: a limit can be set to leisure activities like playing video games or watching TV, in order to make children focus on the more important aspects of life.

3. A To-Do List: Stick a To-Do list on the fridge or cupboard and strike things off it once they’re done. This will give children a push of encouragement to finish the next item on the list.

4. Differentiate between attention-intensive and non-intensive tasks: Children should be taught to differentiate between jobs that require more energy and attention and those that can be done even in a semi-tired state.

For example, to prepare for an upcoming test, a fresh mind is required. Hence, watching TV must be avoided before that. Also, a power nap preceding the study session can make the process more efficient. Similarly, playing football requires energy and therefore, it becomes imperative to consume energy-rich food and take ample rest prior to the play-session.

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