For the child of three years, life is one big holiday. He gets up at an odd hour, plays throughout the day to his hearts content, eats whatever he likes whenever he likes and sleeps when he is tired. He even visits the loo for the big job when he feels like it! Children up to the age of three are used to unstructured time, and left to themselves will grow up to believe that the day is a commodity
For the child of three years,
life is one big holiday. He gets up at an odd hour, plays throughout
the day to his heart's content, eats whatever he likes whenever he
likes and sleeps when he is tired. He even visits the loo for the big
job when he feels like it! Children up to the age of three are used to unstructured time, and left to themselves will
grow up to believe that the day is a commodity to be whiled away
Importance of structured time
Many parents, more so grandparents think that pre-school children are 'too small' to be strait-jacketed in a routine. Even before children learn about objects and things, even before they learn the three R's of education, they learn the concept of time, instinctively. Some parents may follow a set pattern in their day-to-day activities with their children, but such loosely structured schedule may not be enough to instill a sense of routine and discipline among them. It is a great idea to go about it more methodically, so that small children learn to value time early in life. An hour or two of pre-school or nursery is not enough to establish a routine, leave alone help grasp the concept of time in school-going children.
Times of the day
Over a period of time, a child will start sensing
the contours of the day - morning, afternoon, evening and night, even
without being told so. Initially, help him associate the four time
zones with his activities and that of the family members to establish a time-activity correlation. For instance, let him know that morning time is a busy time - a time for personal grooming and breakfast. It is also a hustle-bustle time when family members are preparing to set out for work.
Soon he will learn that noon time is time for a bit of relaxation and leisure. It is a time for low-key activities like reading or watching television, and for a catnap. Evening is time for tea and snacks, before the child is taken out to the playground for some sport or physical activity with friends. Back home, night time is for family get-together at the dinner table before winding up for bed with a storybook.
Being aware of the loosely structured day helps the child understand
that he cannot do just about anything at any odd time. He will come to
realise that in the adult world there are some rules and regulations to
be followed. He will learn that time is not an endless commodity, but something that needs to be compartmentalised efficiently.
Reading the clock
But his hazy concept of time can be heightened by consciously making
him aware of what 'time' really is. Get him started on reading the clock as soon as he learns to recognise numbers by the age
of three or earlier. Of course, these days, digital clocks have made
time-reading simpler, but even then teach him to read the traditional
clock with two hands. He'll enjoy figuring out the time for himself. It
proves to be an interesting activity, one that will give him a great
sense of achievement when he can read the clock
on his own. Initially of course, teach him to recognise full hours, and
gradually, the quarter, half and three-quarters of an hour. That should
be enough for his practical purpose. For him, the importance of the concept of time is
more in terms of duration rather than the exact time. At the same time,
it must be mentioned, that awareness of time will also help develop the
quality of punctuality in your child.
You can teach him to read time by the clock
in your home, or through books and board games. If you have a
grandfather clock or a cuckoo clock which tolls, then there is nothing
Being able to read the clock is not enough to make the child realise the importance of time; that will come by following a fixed routine
set to time. As the child grows up a little more, maybe when he is four
or five years old, sit with him and draw up a time-table. Make it an
activity. Starting from wake-up time (6 or 7 a.m.) and ending with the
bed time (8 or 9 p.m.) make a schedule of the child's daily activity.
Fill it up with work and play in equal measure. Within the play time,
let him decide what he would like to do at a given time, whether he
would like to read or play board games. This will give him a feeling of
controlling his routine and planning his day himself, making him feel important and responsible.
Most importantly, ration television and computer time. You'll find this
is easier when you make a time-table where you allow an hour or two of
fixed television time. He will be impelled to switch off the television
himself if you point out the time and gently remind him of the
time-table that 'he' prepared. Consciously encourage him to stick to
his calendar and time-table from time to time, till he falls into the
habit. But be accommodative within the regulated parameters. For
instance, if your child wants to catch the 4 o' clock 'Tom and Jerry'
show, when the television time is
between 2 and 3 p.m., tell him that he must do the 4 o'clock activity
at 2. You'll be surprised, but he'll understand and comply with
Chart your routine
Further, you can make a calendar within a time-table. For
instance, make a weekly menu-chart taking the child into confidence.
Keep the chart simple so that a child can read it too.
For instance, simply write in bold: Monday - 9 o' clock - Breakfast -
Eggs and Bread.
Be sure to make provision for junk food like chocolates and biscuits, too! Similarly, make another chart for games and activities
for the week. This will ensure that a child sits for a while with one
game for a reasonable amount of time, enough to apply his mind to it,
and not just flit from one game or activity to another. It will help
him gradually extend his attention span.
It must be emphasised here that these time-tables
and charts are not hard and fast regulations to be adhered to at all
costs. The idea is certainly not make daily activities
seem a tedium or an automation. There must be an amount of flexibility
in this. Remember, first and foremost, this is just a short-term
activity to instill a sense of time and discipline in the child and is
not recommended as a way of life.
This sense of herding or goading will go a long way in
making the child time-conscious so that he is able to manage his time
well even as he goes through college and career.
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- The Indiaparenting Team