Defining the meaning of the terms today, tomorrow, now, before and after is not easy for adults. So what are children’s perspectives of these concepts?

 Defining the meaning of the terms today, tomorrow, now, before and after is not easy for adults. So what are children’s perspectives of these concepts? Young children are concrete thinkers, who don’t understand the passing of time. Children’s readiness for learning about concepts of time is based on the stages of brain development. Talking about the days of the week and the calendar isn’t logical to children until around age 11.

 Young children learn things best when they can touch and see them; time is not tangible.

Children feel frustrated and don’t understand what it means when parents say, “You can play outside at 3 o’clock.” This message does not make sense to children, which can be frustrating for parents. You cannot assume that children understand time in the same way as adults.

 Children perceive time differently depending upon their ages, and learn through real-life experiences. Parents can help children learn about the passage of time by establishing regular routines. This improves children’s behavior and boosts their feelings of security.

 Giving children advance warning about changes in their routines can minimize frustration and confusion and build cooperation and flexibility. For example, when we ask children to get ready for bedtime, they may not want to stop playing because they are having fun. But if we give children a five-minute notice, they learn the forewarning indicates change is coming even if they don’t understand the meaning of five minutes. Children will learn they need to finish playing and get ready for bedtime more easily.

 Using dinner time for conversations with your children can help reconnect the family. This is also an opportunity for parents to use learning about their children’s activities for the day to teach the meaning of words like before, after, yesterday, today, tomorrow, day and night.

 For more information about child development, contact Dr. Nina Chen at 816 252-5051 or chenn@missouri.edu or visit your local extension office at 1106 W. Main St., Blue Springs, Mo., or extension.missouri.edu.