Before we know it, Christmas decorations will hit the shelves (in October!) and the school year will wrap up. We will rush around shops, take photos with Santa and attend holiday celebrations. Before hurtling into the hectic silly season, consider what the growing anticipation and ‘counting down the days’ means to your child.
Time can be a difficult, confusing concept for children. We mark time by minutes, hours, weeks and months. We divide months into seasons. Seasons are associated with weather changes. However, many primary school students struggle with days of the week and ‘today’, ‘yesterday’, and ‘tomorrow’. Children have limited understanding of months and why they vary in length. In summer, we wear t-shirts so why is Santa wearing fur, surrounded by fake snow? To top it off, adults use vague terms like ‘soon’, ‘in a little while’, ‘later’ and ‘shortly’. Does ‘soon’ mean 5 minutes or 5 sleeps? To children, ‘shortly’ relates to height or clothing, not time!
Before the 2016 festive season, there will be another occasion coming up in your child’s life, such as a birthday, holiday or school camp. To prepare, try out the following and repeat before future events:
- Maintain routine – it helps children mark time and make sense of their world. Routines often change significantly before an event.
- Explain the events of the day at the start and as each event unfolds.
- Use simple, visual supports – cross days off the calendar or show times on a clock picture.
- When there are several activities in a day, talk about ‘now’ and ‘then’. For some children, it’s more appropriate to use ‘first’, ‘next’, ‘then’ and ‘last’.
- Avoid using ‘before’ and ‘after’ – they mean different things depending on whether they’re at the start or middle of a sentence!
Take the time to keep your child aware of what is about to happen, and everyone will have a more enjoyable experience.
Call Box Hill Speech Pathology Clinic on 9899 5494 if you have concerns about your child’s understanding of time.
Content by Vicky Andrews and Genevieve Callister
Editing by Nicola Anglin (Speech Pathologist)