While youngsters quickly grasp the concept of space, they find it harder to understand how time passes. They start to become aware of this concept between the ages of 4 and 5, regularly asking their parents “When will it be tomorrow?”, “Is it morning or evening” and “Is it winter?”.
Young children begin by identifying the daytime through key indicating moments: breakfast, going to nursery, lunch, tea, bedtime, etc. It is up to you to emphasise these by explaining, for example, "You are putting on your pyjamas, so this is nighttime".
As they reach the age of 5, they will learn the names of the days of the week, the months and the seasons. When they start primary school, they will familiarise themselves with the calendar and use words such as "tomorrow and "yesterday" correctly. This grasp varies, however, depending on the child: at the age of 6, some know how to use a timetable while others still do not know the order of the days of the week!
So there is no need to panic if your child is taking a while to understand…
Helping your child to grasp the concept of time
To help your child understand how time passes, show them pictures of their close relatives when they were younger. Seeing their big brother as a baby or their father as a child will help them grasp this concept. As we approach the festive season, you could also buy an advent calendar: children will love opening a little window each day before Christmas and finding a sweet! To ensure your child does not confuse the different seasons, create a picture together for each one. Cut pictures out of magazines and stick them to sheets of white paper: sun and swimwear for summer, snow and scarves for winter, etc.
Learning how to tell the time
Do not put pressure on your child too early: this is difficult to learn and will happen over time between the ages of 6 and 8.
- To help your child familiarise themselves with clocks, give them an educational watch with different coloured hands indicating the minutes and hours.
- It is better to avoid digital watches: your child will have no interest in learning to tell the time on a clock!
- There are also many clock books featuring children's favourite characters. The idea? Telling stories while turning the hands of a clock. These books help children to learn about the different stages in the day and the times that correspond to them.