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“When will dinner be ready?” – Simple Steps to Teach Your Child the Concept of Time

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As parents, we experience that young children always ask us questions such as “Is dinner ready?”, “Can I go play outside?”, “When do I have to go to school?”

Your child does not understand yet that dinner is served at 6 pm, that they need to wait 15 minutes before they can go outside and that the weekend is on Friday/Saturday and any other day of the week they will go to school.

 

For children, time is what they live now; they don’t understand what tomorrow or next week means except that it means it will happen in the future or later. Although your child can feel a certain concept of time from the first day they are born by having a consistent daily routine, they only start to understand the past, present, and future when they get to around two years old. When your child is around three years old, he/she begins to understand the meaning of today, tomorrow, morning, and evening. Until the age of four, most children will face problems realizing time and determining the difference between hours.

 

You can teach your child the concept of time from an early age, so they get used to organizing their priorities, being patient to achieve their desires, and remembering past events in a timeline. The question is: How can we do this?

Try to link the concept of time with your child’s daily activities and use so called “benchmarks” instead of hours. Benchmarks help children to locate events in the course of their day. Being used to a schedule established in the nursery, for example, makes children feel safer when they know what is coming after what they are currently doing.  “After breakfast, we will clean up and then go to the playground” makes more sense to the children rather than saying “We will go to the playground after 30 minutes”. Similarly, “When we finish lunch, we will go to the supermarket” would be easier to understand than ” In 15 minutes we will go to the supermarket”.

Invest various occasions to teach your child the difference between past, present, and future. For instance, tell your child a day before that his/her birthday party will be tomorrow, later you can recall the details of the party by saying: “It was a nice party yesterday”.

Once your child grasps the overall concept of time, you can start teaching him/her other details, such as the difference between hours and minutes. For example, allow your child to observe the hourglass that moves slowly, and then ask him/her how many activities they can do until this hourglass has run through completely. In addition, when children start nursery, they learn faster. They can tell seasons, days of the week and months of the year through the benefit of educational songs, books and games.

 

Finally, even after your child learns the concept of time, he/she will still dislike sudden surprises. Therefore, alert your child that play time is about to end and what is coming up next instead of suddenly saying it is time for bed. Remember, your child may make mistakes in estimating time or may forget some relevant concept but with your support as a parent they will learn to understand more each day!   

 

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