Kindergartners always seem to want to know what time it is. That's because they are beginning to understand that certain things, like the start and end of the school day, happen at defined times each day. Kindergarten children learn about time through observation and recording. That's one reason why the calendar is such a popular item in kindergarten classrooms.
However, the concept of time is still difficult for 5 and 6 year olds to grasp because it's so abstract. As your child experiences the world of people and things, her concept of time becomes integrated into her everyday life and vocabulary. The words yesterday, today, and tomorrow are only understandable when linked to specific events or activities that make the concept of time concrete.
During this developmental phase, your child is learning to understand more and more abstractions. Whether it's memorable events (a party or trip) or the familiar schedule of the day, these events give children something temporal to hold on to.
In the Good Old Days
Perhaps the most confusing time concept is that of past, present, and future. As you can imagine, these words are even more abstract than yesterday, todayand tomorrow. Five and 6 year olds are at a stage where they're beginning to understand that things their parents did were in the "old days." They're still pretty confused about this, as evidenced by Susan who tells her grandmother that she must have "rode to school on a dinosaur in the old, old days!"
Clearly Susan understands that dinosaurs came from a time in the past, but at the same time, she's not sure how far back her grandma goes! Your child can begin to understand this approach to time by exploring the old and new way to do things. For example, discuss the way people travel from place to place. The old way (in the past) might be to ride a horse, and the new way (in the present) is to drive or fly. Ask your child to predict how people might move from place to place in the future!
Of course, the parts of the day are the most basic way children become aware of the passage of time. Your child's capacity to learn about time increases as she becomes aware of how events recurring at specific times structure her days. These are the repeating patterns of morning, noon, and night, and the elements of minutes and hours. Here are some fun ways to increase your child's awareness of time:
- Make a photographic timeline for your child's typical day. Mark each event with a picture of the clock at that time and the time written numerically. You will be giving children an easy reference tool for understanding that "No, it is not time to go to school until after you eat breakfast."
- Use the "language of time" to define activities. Emphasize words such as soon, later, early, yesterday, today, tomorrow, next week, morning, noon and evening. Point out concrete experiences to illustrate the words.
- Talk about the weather. Weather and the seasons are perfect observable (and changeable) events to use to mark the passage of days. Your child can remember that yesterday was sunny and today is cloudy. She can even make a prediction for the weather tomorrow.