Time flies when you’re having fun, but if you've ever tried to explain to an impatient preschooler that his birthday is a week away, you'll realize that the concept of time does not come easily to children of this age. To preschoolers, time is completely abstract concept and measuring it even more so.
Here are some things to try at home to build concrete experiences of time:
If you tell your child that he's not going to Grandma's house for a week, be ready for a daily "Can we leave yet?" But a shorter time frame will be much easier for his mind to master. Look for opportunities to give him a countdown to an upcoming event ("We're leaving the park in five minutes"). Then call out the minutes so he'll be more aware of how time progresses. He'll soon learn that five minutes is about how long it takes to go down the slide five more times. Once your child grasps two or five minutes, you can move on to longer time frames, such as 10 minutes. It's helpful to compare a length of time with a certain activity. For instance, if your family usually sits down to dinner for 20 minutes, tell your child that a 20-minute visit to the pediatrician will take as long as supper.
Use “Timely” Words
Use words to indicate time such as yesterday, today and tomorrow when you are talking with your child. When these words are used in context, especially in conjunction with a calendar, it helps make the concept of time more concrete. Talking with your child about his weekly schedule (for example, “We go to gymnastics on Tuesday and that is tomorrow”) and then showing him the day on the calendar will be helpful. Definitions of time such as "next year" become more difficult because it is too long of a time for a child to wait. Words that explain 'next year,' such as 'when you turn 4' or 'when you are in Mrs. Duffy's class' help stage a framework that makes sense to a preschooler.”
Make a Countdown Chain
For those very special days such as birthdays and holidays, you can make a visual and interactive countdown chain to help the time pass more quickly! Simply cut construction paper in 1”x 6” strips and help your child make a chain. Create a circle by attaching the ends with glue or tape and connect the strips by looping them through one another. Make one loop for each day and make the “big day” special by decorating it with stickers or glitter. Hang it in a prominent place and help your child tear or cut a loop off at the end of each day. Your child will delight as the chain gets shorter and the awaited day approaches!