“What day is it today?” my son asked early this morning.
“Friday,” my wife said.
“Today is the first day of summer.”
“That’s right,” my wife said, assuming I had told Felix it was the equinox upon waking or last night before bed.
But I hadn’t, and she hadn’t either. So how did the four-year-old figure this out? Earlier in the week, when Felix asked if it was summertime yet, we told him that it would be on Friday, and the little guy must have held onto that fact, waiting for us to tell him that the day had come.
I’ve written before about how parents recognize the passage of time in their children. That’s ground I’m comfortable on — at 35, the father of a preschooler, time seems to be flying, and I often look for opportunities to slow down and take a breather. What’s harder is explaining the concept of time to my son.
Almost every afternoon around 4 PM, Felix starts in with the questions about when mommy will be home. No matter what I tell him — half an hour, twenty minutes, five minutes, any second now — his answer is usually always the same: “Is that a long time?”
I’ve stopped explaining that the concept of “a long time” is a relative one. Believe me, I’ve tried! It’s out of his grasp. Recently, I’ve focused on how to fill the time. “It won’t seem like a long time if we…” read a book, go for a trike ride, play. Except for him, it is. Time is an abstraction, even though we talk about its passage, measuring it by the clock, every day.
Recently, as his recognizing the first day of summer indicates, he seems to have formed a fundamental understanding of the concept of time. Wow, that’s a mouthful, right? Have no fear! Here are a few simple techniques you can use to help your preschooler learn about time.