Time is a difficult concept to grasp for children. There are many adults who never seem to be able to show up to work promptly who also seem to have difficulty grasping time. Time is something that must be taught gradually and consistently for children to learn it.
One mistake many parents make is to forget that their children are listening and learning from everything they do and say. When the parents say “I will be there in a second” or “I am running into the store for just a minute,” they do not mean to tell a lie or to give a false impression, but they do. If your one-minute grocery story trip usually lasts about fifteen, can your blame your kids for being confused when you give them five minutes to pick up their game? The kids will fully expect that five minutes should take over an hour. Parents should be more conscientious to say what they mean.
One great way to teach children about how long a minute or five minutes takes is to use a kitchen timer. If you have more than one child, a timer is a great way to take turns with something they both want to play with at the same time but cannot. Start with small amounts of time for younger children. Timers can also be used for time-outs for unruly children. A rule of thumb is to have one or two minutes in time-out for every year of a young child’s life. A child should be told how long they will be in time-out. Also a timer can be employed at play time or chore time as you try to complete some task in a “beat the clock” manner. Make it fun or even funny by setting the clock to a challengingly low time sometimes. Laugh and get silly with it.
When teaching hours in the day it is handy to have some analog clocks in your house. An analog clock is the kind of clock with a face and hands. You can point to the clock and say it is lunchtime when both hands are up at the twelve. All analog clocks will have the two hands to mark the hour and minutes. It is also nice to have the faster hand that marks the seconds, that the kids can actually see moving. By having your kids on a fairly regular schedule for lunchtime, nap time, bedtime and more, you have the advantage of the children beginning more quickly to grasp the concept of time. You can teach them time relative to the things they expect to happen at the same time every day.
Days are also a concept of time to be taught. An advent calendar at Christmas is a great teaching tool and the same concept can be used for other occasions. When helping to distinguish yesterday, today and tomorrow cite incidents like “we were at the grocery store yesterday, and today we are staying at home.” Tomorrow can be explained as the time it will be after a child goes to bed and wakes up in the morning.
Kitchen timers, analog clocks and calendars are all handy tools for teaching children time. Most of all you must teach your children about time a little every day. It is a difficult concept to grasp and it takes a lot of practice to get a feel for what a minute or five minutes is.