The Ambiguity of Time

by Early Math Counts

This is the time of the year when very young children are reminded that something special is coming (Santa Claus, presents, time off, a vacation, grandparents) but they aren’t quite sure when these things are going to happen. They often say,”Santa is coming tomorrow,” much in the same way they say, ‘My birthday is tomorrow,” even though it is months away.

Our adult understandings of time have developed over years of experience.  We know exactly how long a day, a week, a month, or a year is, and we can plan accordingly. For young children, days are broken into chunks rather than hours and minutes.  The week is divided into school days and home days, but this is a faulty system as they usually need reminding each day upon waking about which kind of day it is.

This ambiguity is supercharged when something exciting is coming as well as when something bad is coming.  Since they do not know for sure when these events will transpire, they need reminders and reassurances.  Just as you remind a two-year old that her parents will return after the afternoon nap each and every day, you must reassure all the children that, “Yes, there will be days off of school, but we will all see each other again.”  Small calendars with visual cues that indicate when upcoming events are happening may also help.  Be sure to count the days until the events using the calendar. Each day, the number will get smaller as the date approaches.


One Reply to “The Ambiguity of Time”

  1. Hi Jen !

    I will pass this on to the young moms in my family-
    I was chatting with one of my nieces- over the phone yesterday ( a lovely self-respecting four -year-old who lives in Houston). She is convinced that the North Pole is really in Chicago because there is so much snow when she comes to visit for the Christmas – Of course, as soon as we get to our house she is ready for Christmas to begin

    I\’ll let you know how this calendar count down worked with her this year – thanks for the tip

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