' Dr Ell's Math Blog: February 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Measuring Time

     Our family has a large cloth Advent calendar with pockets sewn on each day. The kids always took great delight in moving a little felt mouse from pocket to pocket leading up to Christmas Eve. It built suspense but also served as a way of keeping track of 'where in time' we were relative to the big day. Helping our children develop a sense of time and natural rhythm is a great gift. It's comforting to know what to expect and when to expect it. Patterns are natural, both as a physical reality-- sunrise, sunset; fall, winter, spring, summer; weekly rhythms, etc-- and as a psychological reality too. We all need to be able to find our way in time as well as space.

     The calendar pictured here was made by five year old Zach who took great pleasure in choosing pictures, filling in the month name, and numbering the days. This was a monthly project, but a daily exercise in noticing the number of the day, the day of the week, and how many days to go to some given event-- Christmas, birthday, Saturday soccer game, and so on.

     There are dozens of books for children that address the business of time and seasons. Here are some examples:
Pajama Time (Sandra Boynton)
The Best Time of Day (Eileen Spinelli)
What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile? (Judy Sierra)
The Year at Maple Hill Farm (Alice and Martin Provensen)

     Developing a 'sense of time' on a smaller scale is also important and can be done with all sorts of games. A simple stopwatch makes a wonderful toy and a great tool for experimenting with time. Events can be timed. A game of prediction involves starting the stopwatch behind your back then trying to stop it at 30 seconds or at least seeing how close you get to the target time. Similar games can be played with timer clocks. Sand dials, digital watches and clocks, traditional toy clocks, etc, are all helpful. Learning about time should be natural and gradual and 'part of the landscape' so to speak. The dog has to be walked at eight. It takes an hour to drive to Grandma's house. The cookies go in the oven for fifteen minutes. It's easy to take all that for granted and forget that it needs to be verbalized for our children.