Got games to play, places to go, people to see? Here are six ways to work the concept of time into conversations with your cutie in ways that even the littlest munchkins can understand.
1. Keep a schedule. Babies love consistency, and having a sense of what happens and in what sequence helps them feel secure. That doesn’t mean you have to be completely rigid and a slave to the clock yourself, but in general, if your little one knows that breakfast is followed by playtime, then a walk, then a nap, it helps to create a feeling of control in her little world.
2. Provide a framework. Because kids can’t grasp the concept of what 15 minutes or an hour means (just try telling a hungry tot that his mac and cheese will be ready in five minutes!), it helps to put the events of his day into context for him. Say things like “After we go to the store, we’ll eat lunch,” “Daddy will be home after your nap,” or “Eat your apple, and then your mac and cheese will be ready.” This will help teach your child patience…eventually.
3. Recap your day. Tots will say that everything happened “yesterday” regardless if they really did see Grandma the day before…or a month ago. To them, yesterday is an all-encompassing word for the past. By recapping your day, you’re providing context and helping them remember what happened and begin to understand the concept of the past. At bath time, try something like “We went to the store before we had dinner,” or “Yesterday you wore your red pajamas; tonight you’ll wear your blue ones.”
3. Toy around with time. Brightly colored toy clocks are a fun and age-appropriate way to introduce timepieces to young children. Though it’s way too early for them to learn to tell time (that’s a skill most children don’t master until they’re closer to seven or eight years old), they can still learn about numbers—and many clocks feature different shapes and lots of colors.
4. Watch time pass. A two-minute hourglass timer is an excellent visual display of the passage of time. Since no toddler will have the patience to sit and actually watch the hourglass for 120 seconds, try seeing what your tot can accomplish in that time: Can he do a peg puzzle? Find his shoes? Read Pat the Bunny?
5. Point out easy-to-spot cues for the time of day. Chances are, your tot has you up in time to catch the sunrise. Why not watch it together? Point out the soft hues of the sun rising over the horizon, and the majestic hues at sunset—if you’re both still awake. In the middle of the day, show her how high the sun is in the sky. After all, time is more than just a number on the clock.
6. Look forward to morning. Hang a calendar in a central location. Every night before bed, make a big deal about placing a hand-drawn red heart over the day that’s just passed, or discard that day’s page on a page-a-day calendar. Both methods help tots understand the passage of time and encourage them to look forward to the next day.