How can I help my child understand the passage of time?
As part of the daily jobs in the primary community, one older child updates the classroom calendar each morning. The other children gather around to watch the child retrieve the next number tile and place it under the appropriate day of the week. While children often sing about the days of the week or share poems about the months of the year, the passage of time is something only grasped in stages with years of experience.
- 3 years old: Three-year-old children live in the moment! They are still working to understand the difference between now and later. These young children rely on consistent routines so that they know what is coming next (even if they are not associating it with a particular time of day). Young children enjoy using words related to time but are not always accurate when it comes to duration. A child may share, “My tummy hurt a lot yesterday,” but they were sick three days ago. Or, “I am going to visit my grandmother tomorrow!” but the trip is actually planned for the following month.
- 4 years old: Many four-year-old children still live very much in the moment. However, they start to understand time in terms of what is important to them. They now begin grasping the ideas of morning, afternoon, and nighttime, as well as before and after. For example, a child may share, “I am eating lunch now, so that means naptime will come next,” or “After we go playground, my Daddy will pick me up.” At four, children also begin to have a better understanding of the past, present, and future. They may offer, “I used to cry a lot when I was a baby,” or “ When I join the afternoon class, I will be a big kid!”
- 5 and 6 years old: These children are very interested in the passage of days. They learn the order of the days of the week without having to sing the song, and they remember the names of the months as well. They recognize the pattern of numbers 1-31 and can easily update our class calendar. As they turn six, they start to learn the basics of how to use the clock as well.
The calendars below will help children keep track of the days and weeks of each month. Parents are encouraged to take a moment to update the calendar with their children each day. Older children are used to updating the calendar and can easily mark off the days independently. Younger children will need some help. Visually seeing the days marked off will help children better understand the passage of time, regardless of their age.