Weatherford Democrat

October 13, 2013

EXTENSION NEWS: Helping children understand time


Weatherford Democrat

— By KATHY SMITH

Young children don’t understand the passing of time. Words like yesterday, today, tomorrow, hour and minute have no meaning to them. This can be frustrating for children and their parents.

Because children don’t understand time, they find it hard to understand what it means when we say, “You can eat dinner in an hour.” It doesn’t make sense to them that they can’t eat now.

Helping young children learn about time by setting up a daily regular routine. Give children playtime, rest, meals and snacks at regular scheduled time so that they don’t become too tired or hungry.

Kids who are tired and hungry tend to misbehave, so having a regular schedule helps kids to behave their best. Children are more secure with routines. They predict what will happen next, and through this they begin to understand time.

Have you ever been upset when someone tells you to do something right now or to stop doing something? Children feel frustrated as well, when they are told to stop playing or to get ready for bed. They don’t want to stop playing because they are having fun. Discipline problems are common when children need to change from one activity to another.

You can reduce these problems by giving children a warning that they will need to stop in 5 minutes. While young children don’t understand the meaning of “5 minutes,” they soon learn that it means a change is coming.

Let children know what is coming next. You might say, “It will be time to go to bed in five minutes. You can choose two stories to read before we turn out the light.” When children have something to look forward to, it helps them to finish up more easily. Ask children, “What are you going to do to finish your play?” Giving them time to finish up will make them more cooperative.

Warn children of any changes in your routine before they are going to happen. “Tonight we are going to have dinner at grandma’s after school, and there won’t be time to play when you get home. It will be time for your bath and story and then bed.”

By letting your child know what the new routine is you help build their flexibility. Children are much more accepting of changes they know are coming.

Source: Penn State Better Kid Care Program.