Accurately telling the time requires a sound knowledge of numbers and a grasp of maths that most pre-schoolers are unlikely to have. And yet time, and its passing, is fundamental to our everyday lives. For young children, time is especially important, defining some of their most treasured and favourite pastimes: lunch-time, home-time, birthdays, Christmas, bed-time. They’ll eventually learn how to tell the time at school, but how can we help them understand early facets of this nebulous concept at home? Some ideas here for you to try:
Create a visual timetable
Moving from one activity to the next is often difficult for children. Who wants to put their shoes on and go out when they are having so much fun with their toys? Plus pre-schoolers don’t understand deadlines, so they don’t share your sense of urgency. Help them understand the way the day flows with a visual timetable. Get them to draw pictures (or take pictures) of their day as it unfolds and if they can, to caption it. Use as much detail as possible, from waking up and yawning to breakfast and brushing teeth right through to story time and going to sleep. Laminate it and put it on the wall, then they can tick off the activities as they go.
Use timely words
Talk about your schedule, make plans together and recall things you did at the end of the day. Simply raising awareness of the past, present and future, is a big step forward in understanding time.
Create your own calendar
The generic calendar is meaningless to a young child, who doesn’t yet know about months of the year, religious festivals, phases of the moon and the strange mix of things we peg life to. Birthdays, Christmas, holidays, play dates – these are more meaningful events for children. So help them make their own personalised calendar with a string of beads. Each bead represents a day. Give each month its own colour and mark special days with a ribbon or unusual bead. Mark the passage of time by sliding each bead from the future to the past as its day passes. You’ll find this highly personalised calendar becomes something special for the family to share.