After a long and deep sleep in the afternoon, on getting up in the evening, many a times my daughter has felt that it's morning and a new day has begun. She asks with a somewhat unhappy tone, - "Do I have to go to school now?"
Her confusion always makes me ponder on how abstract the concept of time is and how difficult it is for children at this age to differentiate between dawn and dusk. Children do not rely on clocks or calendars to know the time or the date; they depend on us.
So how do we familiarize our children with the concept of time? Let's look at some of the ways to do so.
The Vocabulary of Time
Just like we use the terms day and night so freely with the children, use other terms related to time as well. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, week, month, year, in the morning, at night are all terms associated with time. Let the terms a.m., p.m., quarter past, half past, noon and midnight also fall into their ears right from an early age. Associate these terms with the daily routine. There are many routines which are fixed as far as time is considered; like brushing the teeth in the morning and at night.
Create a calendar by marking the important events associated with the child like birthdays, Saturdays, Sundays, important holidays, festivals and school performances. Whenever he is impatiently waiting for an important event (like his birthday or some important guest's arrival), show him how to mark off each day with an "X" before he goes to bed. This way the countdown becomes fun and intriguing.
Fundamentals of Astronomy
Read to the child stories on clocks that were used in the early days and how people started keeping time. Books on how the Earth rotates on its axis, which leads to day and night have always charmed readers of all ages. Through these books, they get an idea that time is bound not by a clock, but by a 24 hour cycle of the nature. Show them how the revolution of the Earth around the Sun gives one year and seasons occur when Earth is at different positions of the orbit. Try and choose books that have simple illustrations that they can explore on their own.
The Duration of Different Units of Time
Give them an idea of the duration of different units of time by asking them to think of different things that they could do in one second, in one minute, in one hour, in one year, in one week, in 3 hours, in 2 weeks and so on. Another similar activity is to guess how much time a particular activity will take. Like we boil an egg for 7 minutes; bake a cake for 40 minutes; to complete one round of the park takes 25 minutes; we sleep at night for 8 hours and so on.
Then there are many rhymes on the days of the week, the months of the year and on clock that helps in grasping the concepts of time well.
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