Big Rocks, Little Rocks, and Sand

“Mama, will you help me figure out a schedule for my art project? I keep getting distracted. I plan to watch movies for 30 minutes, but then the show is really good so I keep watching. Then a friend comes over to play, and then the day is gone and I haven’t done my project.”

I could see the frustration on her face. She’d been talking about this particular art project for days, but couldn’t seem to get started.

“I have that same problem sometimes,” I empathized. “Let me tell you what helps me, and then you can decide if you want to try it, okay?”

“Okay,” she nodded.

“Big rocks, little rocks, and sand.” She gave me a quizzical look.

“Let’s say you have some big rocks, some smaller rocks, and some sand,” I continued, “and you need to fit all of them into a glass jar. What would you put in first, to make sure they all fit?”

“Sand!” she answered promptly. Then she paused and reflected. “Wait a minute … if you put the sand in first, it’s going to make a kind of wall. So it’ll be hard to put the rocks in.”

“Right!” I encouraged her. “So what do you need to put in first?”

“The big rocks!”

“Yep. And then what?”

“The smaller rocks. And then pour the sand in, and it’ll fit in around all the rocks. So everything fits.”

“Yes! You got it.”

“What does that have to do with my art project??”

 “Well, the big rocks represent the things that are super important to you. If you put those in first, you’ll be sure to get them done. The smaller rocks are important, but not the most important. And the sand is everything else, that you can fit in around the important things. What are your big rocks?”

“Art,” she answered promptly. “That’s my biggest rock. Movies are another big rock, but not as big as art.”

Pause. Then sudden enthusiasm and excitement. “I get it!” she exclaimed. “I’m going to do my art project first thing today! I can hardly wait!”

Etta sketching

Veronica Beck

Veronica Beck is a technical writer, blogger, and formerly reluctant parent.

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1 year ago

Yes! And I love it that you didn’t tell her, but told her what helps you and let her decide if she wanted to try that. And then the illustration of big rocks that helped her see how to schedule. Gosh you’re a good mom!

Christina Halas
Christina Halas
1 year ago

Love this! Thank you.

JeAnne Waters
JeAnne Waters
1 year ago

Uh oh, are you trying to tell me something, Veronica?

Jeanne Waters
1 year ago

This still holds true.

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