How to teach children about the passage of time?
March 18, 2012 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone direct me to a video, movie, kid's book or comic book that explains the passage of time to a 4 year old? i.e. "This is how time passes from point A to point B." in a visual way? Google/Bing/DuckDuckGo fu all fail and just return how to teach kids to tell time on a clock (useful, but not what I am looking for).
posted by smallerdemon to Education (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are four-year-olds developmentally capable of understanding the passage of time?

Here's an article about how little kids understand time. It has some strategies to help them, but it doesn't recommend any books or videos.
posted by craichead at 8:17 AM on March 18, 2012

I'm older than four, and I don't understand what you mean by "This is how time passes from point A to point B in a visual way". Perhaps could you give a bit more description of what you're looking for?
posted by Flunkie at 8:31 AM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Kids understand the passage of time better than adults. They are not conditioned to believe in clocks, lunch hours, weekends, deadlines, and dinner time. The reason it is hard to find something is that what you are conveying is not simple to express, although it seems obvious to you.

I recommend looking on vimeo for both time lapse and high speed photography. David Attenborough's The Private Life of Plants is also a wonderful engaging way of seeing the passage of time.

Samples: fungi, eagle owl, Norway, chocolate bunny, etc.
posted by stonepharisee at 8:38 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've found, with my now-five-year-old, that passage of time was easier to understand with reference to the position of the sun, which, in many ways, is like a time lapse video, I guess.
posted by bardophile at 9:02 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

For my 4-year-old, "next Friday", "next year", and "500 million years ago" are all equally abstract.

We can get her to understand the past a bit by talking about things that happened when mommy & daddy were her size, but it's still pretty vague.

Recently, we've been having the most success by talking in terms of how things follow along with the seasons. "After winter the snow will melt and the grass will turn green and then it's your birthday. When the leaves start to turn orange it will be your sister's birthday. Then it will snow and melt again and then it will be your birthday again and you will start kindergarten."
posted by belladonna at 9:07 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

bardophile's idea jives with an example I just read about (in this novel so caveat emptor).

A young character is confused about how Muslims can all pray at the same time "If it's morning in Baghdad and midnight in Jerusalem..." opening himself up to a lesson in geography and a demonstration holding a flashlight above a globe.

It's the globe and flashlight trick that I'm suggesting as a basis to help explain passage of time.
posted by carsonb at 10:06 AM on March 18, 2012

Maybe A Second Is A Hiccup might help? I also agree that time lapse videos and books on the seasons can be useful.
posted by gudrun at 11:24 AM on March 18, 2012

To elaborate a little, this was in conjunction with explaining to bardophile Jr that the sun had to set where we were so it could be day where Grandma lives. I didn't go into much more detail than that, but it seemed to make it easier to grasp.
posted by bardophile at 1:00 PM on March 18, 2012

This Book is About Time by Marilyn Burns. It may be out of print but try libraries or used book online shops
posted by ayc200 at 8:50 PM on March 18, 2012

Thanks everyone.

My apologies if it seemed like a vague question. I am looking for something simple, and the A Second Is A Hiccup might be the best option.

Mainly I want my kiddo to understand a little about how things do not always happen "now" or at the moment of mention of thought. i.e. that for something to come into being does not happen instantly. Primarily I want to get across the idea that if you ask for something like food that needs to be cooked that it isn't immediately ready to eat.

And I fully understand that our time construction is somewhat artificial, but I like the idea of trying to explain it a bit more physically and geographically.

Time is a tough concept because it's a mix between the practical (the sun coming up and going down every day at your particular location through the rotation of the earth) and the imaginary (the use of clocks as defining our reality). Largely we are just looking for practical ways to make the kiddo less anxious when waiting and being patient about things and understanding that to get from point A ("I am hungry!") to point B ("Yey! The food is here and I can eat and not be hungry!") takes time.
posted by smallerdemon at 4:10 PM on March 19, 2012

If you want the kid to be less anxious about waiting, make things less nebulous for them. Clocks may seem arbitrary to you (imaginary? I'm not really getting that bit....clocks aren't imaginary) but at this level it may be what your kid understands. If you order food, ask the waiter when s/he expects it to be ready (and point to the kid) and then tell the kid it will be ready in that time (perhaps plus five minutes).

If you want, during the wait, describe what's occurring. "Now they're going to boil water - the water needs to heat they're adding the they're cleaning the carrots" etc, etc.

I dunno, I'm just with the person who thinks that expecting a 4 year old to understand time as an abstract concept is really asking too much of them.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 6:21 PM on March 24, 2012

For the record, I just wanted to explain the difference between "now" and "later" and that there's something in between those things.
posted by smallerdemon at 10:55 PM on March 31, 2012

« Older Garage Insurance   |   If I Save on Skin Care, I Can Send my Kid to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.