What is time? What do we understand by the ‘passing of time’? How do we teach our children to be ‘on time’, to ‘tell the time’ and to ‘manage’ their time? In this article we will focus on how to help young children develop an understanding of time and a suggested sequence for teaching ‘telling’ the time.
Beginning with toddlers through to ten-years-old children, the following may be applied.
- Talk with your child using adverbs relating time to events. Use words such as ‘when, then, now, after, before, soon, later’. For example:
- When we finish playing with this toy, we will put it back on the shelf.
- We will wash our hands and then we will eat.
- Now is a good time for a story.
- After we have cleared the table, you can play with the play-dough.
- Before we go to the park, we will put on our coats and hats.
- Soon it will be time for lunch.
- We will do this later, when the baby is in bed.
- Use the names commonly given to specific times or periods of time such as:
- Bath-time, bed-time, dinner-time, lunch-time, today, tonight, tomorrow, yesterday, next week, last week.
- Days of the week can be related to weekly events, e;g; ‘On Fridays we go to the Library.’
- Days of the week can be crossed off on a calendar each evening or morning.
- Talk about and read books about the seasons.
- Birthdays, Easter and Christmas and other festival days can be related to months of the year and can be marked on a calendar with the child looking on.
- Count how many weeks or days will pass before a special event.
- Invest in a wall clock with numbers 1 – 12 (an analog clock), hands that move and minutes marked on the clock-face.
- Begin with statements such as ‘When the big hand gets to the 6 it will be time for us to leave.’ Bedtime is when the big hand is pointing to the 12 and the little hand is pointing to the 7.
- Teach the ‘o’clock’ times, then the ‘half past’ the hour, then ‘a quarter past’ the hour, then ‘a quarter to’ the hour. Show the child that the small hand moves from one hour to the next hour while the big hand moves right around the clock (always in the same direction which we call ‘clockwise’).
- Count the minutes around the clock (60) and show how five minutes pass as the big hand moves from 12 to 1, 1 to 2 and so on. Count in 5s going around the clock. Teach how to tell the time using minutes past the hour.
- Compare a digital time-keeper (watch or clock) to an analog clock.
- Show how to write down the time using the analog clock and also using the digital clock. Eventually the child can be shown how to write down times using the 24 hour clock.
- Show the child how to read time-tables (bus or train) and TV guides.
Being able to ‘tell’ the time and having a sense of how much time has passed during an activity are skills which help children to organize themselves and achieve worthwhile goals.