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Education Matters: Parents can play major part in teaching children about time

By By Estella de los Santos and Barbara Patton
Oct. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.


How many times have you heard your child ask, "Are we there yet?"

For most parents, it is a question frequently asked on driving trips with their children. By using a few simple techniques, parents can avoid some of the questions and teach their child about elapsed time.

Parents can help children by simply talking about time. As parents plan their day, they often think it will take 20 minutes to do this or an hour to do that. If parents start talking out loud about time duration, then children will begin to see that not only is it important to know what time it is, but it also is important to use time to plan the day.

Parents mentioning time will help children become aware that time is a measurement. Saying "it will take me 30 minutes to drive you to your T-ball practice," gives the child a baseline sense of time.

If the student loves a certain cartoon show that lasts 30 minutes, the parent could mention that the cartoon will last 30 minutes or a half hour. By using 30 minutes and half-hour interchangeably, it also will help the student to focus and learn that our time system is often discussed in a fraction form.

It would be best to start with small intervals of time, such as things that take about two minutes. Brushing teeth would be about two minutes. Commercials during a favorite TV show also typically last about two minutes. Gradually move to longer periods of time.

Try to personalize teaching time by using everyday examples, such as it takes five minutes to drive to a convenience store. It is best to not teach a large number of things with varying times.

Start with one interval of time and move on as your child grasps that concept.

As you progress, the child will likely be asking questions about the time elapsed to do things, such as "How long does it take to drive to Grandma's house?" or "How long does it take for me to take a bath?"

When looking for examples, try to keep in mind the child's likes and dislikes. For the child who is successful and loves school, an eight-hour school day is short and goes by quickly. However, for other children, an eight-hour school day seems like an eternity.

Time is a form of measurement, which can be viewed as a barrier in many ways for children of all ages, especially as they enter the state testing grades.

If the child has been exposed to multiple situations about time, he or she will be more likely to grasp the concept. The more opportunities parents provide, the more comfortable children will become with the concept of time.

Estella de los Santos is a mathematics professor in the UHV School of Education & Human Development. Barbara Patton is an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in the education school.

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