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This is a guest article from Arabella Greatorex, from Exeter Family Activities, which has listings for playgroups, ideas for local days out, attractions, baby shopping, antenatal classes, breastfeeding support, baby activities and postnatal exercise classes.
When your baby was born, she had no concept of time - she simply did not understand the difference between night and day. One of the first lessons you taught her was to distinguish between day and night.
As you help your toddler to understand the concept of time and how to actually tell the time, you will simply be continuing this early lesson.
Most toddlers will love learning about time, especially as it is so easy to turn it into an interactive game. They will have already learnt many of the skills they will need and will be able to apply them to this new concept.
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Using an analogue watch or clock, you can show them how the second hand goes round and they can listen to the tick tock. They can adjust the hands and practise setting an alarm and guessing when it will go off.
There are lots of time related activities that you can do with your child, particularly when you are in the kitchen, out shopping or playing a game.
Play timed games - set the alarm to go off in 1 or 2 minutes and see how much of a picture can be drawn or how many toys picked up in that time.
You could make a pretend clock and as well as the hours, show events that your child will relate to such as meal times, bath time, favourite programmes etc. Showing this to your child when the event happens will soon teach them the concept of time, essential to actually learning to tell the time.
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There is no need to make this a formal occasion, as with most “lessons” for toddlers, repetition is the key. Bring time into your child’s everyday routine and she will soon understand what it is all about.
Talking about the concept of time is easy. Ask your toddler to think about how long it will take to wash the dishes, when will their favourite programme be on, what time do you normally go to the park, how long will it take to walk to toddler group.
There is no right or wrong time to start teaching your child about time, it is a concept that will be grasped over a period of time, so start as soon as you think she is ready.
Toddlers can deal with small concepts long before big ones, so keep the “lessons” easy to start with. Try sticking to “we will read a book together in 5 minutes when I have put the washing out” for a while, then move on to longer term projects such as “we can bake some biscuits tomorrow” and then “we will go to see Granny next week”.
It is vital that you are consistent whenever you talk about time. If you say you will be only a minute and are gone for 10, your child will become confused about timeframes. This is very easy to forget when you are talking on the phone or to a friend but toddlers need consistent repetition if they are to learn effectively.
Time is a complex concept and a toddler will not grasp it overnight. If you spend time talking to your child about time as you both go about your normal routines the concept will gradually become clearer and soon will be second nature.
And finally, don’t forget toddlers learn best when they’re having fun, so enjoy this early lesson with them.
© Arabella Greatorex 2007
About eParenting: eParenting was started by Jacqui O'Brien in 2004. At the time her kids were 1 and 4 and kept her nice and busy. Now they are teenagers and still keeping her pretty busy!