How do we convey to our little tykes that uniquely grown-up and abstract concept that is the passage of time, the ephemeral nature of human existence, and the idea that after 17 rounds of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, it’s time we stop and move onto something else?
In other words, is it possible to teach our kids to keep time before they are able to tell time?
In my experience, the answer is a resounding YES!!
Train them to get the feel of the passage of time. Training can begin as soon as your kid is old enough to toddle into the playground by herself. Why the playground? Because that’s one of the classic battlefields where the best veteran parents get reduced down to a piteous, shamefaced, grovelling mess when confronted by their screaming, brawling child!
But it doesn’t have to end that way. Set the stage for the baseline: tell her that she has 30 minutes to play before heading on home and promptly let her go.
Establish little milestones. Call her over after 15 minutes and let her know that half the time is done and she’ll have another 15 minutes to go. Thank her for coming and let her go promptly back to the playground. Repeat this when 10 minutes have elapsed and tell her that she has 5 more minutes to go. Do this with the help of a timer and be on time!
Time’s up! Being timely and consistent with your promises and follow-ups is half of your parenting battle. Now that time is up, do follow up on your promise and promptly call her over for the last time. Let her know that it’s time to leave and wait for her acknowledgement.
If she is whinny and complaining, be firm about your timeline and immediately leave the park. If she is compliant, I’m almost always tempted to “reward” with a “one more time down the slide” as I’m packing up to leave. Chances are, if you go about this as matter-of-factly as possible each time, she’ll cherish her “one more time” and follow you quickly along.