Does this sound familiar? You are trying to get out the door for school, a party, or errand running and you’re young child (or in my case children aged 3, 4 and 5) is still trying to get their shoes on to leave with you. You think you gave yourselves plenty of time, but why are you always running late?
Young children do not have the same sense of time as older children and adults. For a preschooler, time is an abstract issue. Yet there are things we can do to help our children grasp time and do practical things like get out the door on time. Present time is what is most understood. According to an article by Carla Poole, Susan A. Miller, and Ellen Booth Church at Scholastic.com, preschoolers begin to understand time concepts, when they are related to events. So when your child associates story time with Wednesdays, dinnertime with night, and summer with their birthday, they are showing their growing understanding of time.
Routine and structure within the day also enhance a young child’s sense of time, present, past, and future. When a child does the same thing every day (i.e., gets dressed, eats breakfast, goes to the bathroom, and goes to school) they begin to associate early morning with these events. I do these things, and then I go to school in the morning. Or simply, I do these things so it is a school day. Or conversely, I did not have to rush out the door. I got to play after breakfast. It is the weekend or vacation. Borrowing a time chart from teachers, parents can also provide a pictorial chart for their child that illustrates the order of events. This also reinforces a child’s sense of time, connecting predictable events with time during the course of a day.
Outside of these things, we know as parents that giving ourselves more time to get out the door helps the entire family not to rush. Packing the backpack or snack the evening before makes us not rush to do this right before we leave. When we organize our time, we help our children organize theirs. What do you do to help your child with their practical and abstract sense of time? We’d love to hear your tips!