Use music as a time management tool for kids

My 7-year-old daughter is like a cute little sloth. She loves to take her sweet time when it comes to getting things done around the house, from eating and cleaning up, to getting dressed and brushing her teeth. Showering in particular is a major concern – if I forget to check in with her when she is taking a shower, she can be in there for over an hour!

At first, I tried to check on her every 5 minutes or so, but that didn’t help her realize how long she had spent in the shower. And it’s crazily time consuming and energy draining for me. Then, I put a clock in the bathroom so she can keep track of her own time. But that didn’t go well at all, because it’s too easy for her to forget to check the clock, and the concept of time doesn’t mean much to her at this point.

Next, I set a kitchen timer and left it in the bathroom, so she could see the countdown while showering, and hear the beep when her shower time is up. It worked well at first, because she needed to get out of the shower to turn off the alarm when the set time was up. But after a while, she just ignored the sound, or had not paid attention to the time and rushed to wash herself when she heard the alarm. It was very frustrating, and I was desperate to find a solution.

I came across the idea of using music as a time management tool when I was compiling a list of relaxing songs for my daughter to listen to when she goes to bed.

Music is an integral part of our everyday life. We may not realize it, but we listen to music all the time, sometimes consciously and sometimes subconsciously. We listen to music consciously when we attend a live concert, listen to our kids’ lovely singing, or watch our favorite musician’s music videos. We “listen” to music subconsciously through the background music in commercials, the ambient music in stores, or the random music playing on the radio when we drive.

But did you know that music can be more than just pure entertainment? When I majored in music education and music therapy in graduate school, I learned that music has the power to do much more than entertain. Along with lifting your mood and enriching your life, music can also be used as a tool to achieve non-musical goals.

The non-musical goal I am focusing on is managing the amount of time my daughter spends in the shower. I used a series of songs to guide her through her shower. So far this method has worked like a charm!

How to use music as a time management tool?

  1. Set your goal(s).
    • To manage the time my daughter spends in the shower.
  2. Determine the total duration of music you need.
    • Approximately 15 minutes.
  3. Pick your songs (see Note below) and make sure the total duration of all the songs is close to your pre-determined duration.
    • 5 songs (Total duration: 16 minutes 14 seconds)
      • (1) Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Spring (Allegro) — 3m21s
      • (2) Haydn’s Symphony No. 94, 3rd movement — 4m16s
      • (3) Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 2: Chanson du Toreador — 2m56s
      • (4) Piazzolla’s Libertango — 3m10s
      • (5) Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1: Prelude — 2m31s
  4. Load your songs onto a device (a Bluetooth speaker, a phone, or a stereo) for your kids.
  5. Explain to your kids how the songs correspond to the tasks.
    • When you hear song (1), you should be shampooing your hair. When you hear song (2), you should be conditioning your hair. When you hear song (3), you should be washing your body. When you hear song (4), you should be finishing up the shower. When you hear song (5), you should be drying your body and putting on your clothes.
  6. Guide your kids through the process, at least once, or until they understand the correlation between the music and their tasks.
  7. Sit back and relax to your favorite music, without having to micro-manage your kids!


  • Pick songs that are interesting to your kids! And make sure your kids can tell the difference between the songs because the songs serve as crucial guideposts for this time management technique. Also, the last song or two should be very different from the rest to indicate the end of the “working period”.
    • The first 3 songs I picked are Classical music, and the 4th song is a more exciting modern song (which my daughter knows well) to let her know it’s time to wrap up the shower. The last song, which is Yo-Yo Ma playing the famous Bach’s prelude (which my daughter is currently learning to play on her cello), is calmer than the rest to wind down the entire process.


  • This time management technique using music can be applied to tasks as simple as washing hands!
    • Hard to get your kids, or even yourself, to wash hands (thousands of times a day!) for 20 seconds during this horrifying coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? Here is what you can do:
      • Find a few short catchy (or silly) songs.
      • Time your kids, or yourself, singing each song and washing hands to decide if the songs are long enough (at least 20 seconds).
      • Sing one of your songs (out loud or just in your head) and wash your hands with joy every time!
      • You can stick to one song, or rotate the songs. For example, one song for washing your hands in the morning, one for the afternoon, and one for the night.
      • Remind your kids, or yourself, to sing the song at the same pace every time. If your kids insist on singing fast, they may need to sing the song twice, or sing a longer song.

What song(s) do you sing when you wash your hands?

Do you listen to music when you shower?

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