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How to Develop a Sense of Time in Children

Have you ever told your children to get done with their shower in 10 minutes, but they ended up taking 20 or even 30 minutes?

I was definitely one of those children who got too comfortable and lost track of time, and I often got lectured about how much water and electricity I consumed in long showers afterward.

How can we help children to develop a sense of time? This is an important skill to have not just for saving water and electricity in the shower. Having a good sense of time can help us to use our time wisely and accomplish more. In this post, I will talk about what you can do to help develop their sense of time.


Time is an abstract concept. Children slowly develop an understanding of time through various exposure. For more details about the age and stages of how children develop a sense of time in early childhood, check out this article by Susan A. Miller Ed.D., Ellen Booth Church, and Carla Poole.

In most states, telling time is taught as part of the 1st-grade math curriculum. However, being able to tell time is different from having a sense of time. Here are some ways to help children develop their sense of time.

1. Include vocabulary of time in daily communication.

We'll go to the grocery store TOMORROW.

I will pick you up at 3:30.

We'll read this story TONIGHT.

Just like any new concepts, practice makes perfect. By incorporating the vocabulary into your daily conversation with your children, they get to practice more with the words. They can associate those words with real-life experience.

2. Have your child wear a watch

(I know it's kind of old-school, but your children get to practice more.)

How about letting your children wear an analog watch? With an analog watch on their hand, they can practice telling time anywhere. It can be as simple as asking your child for the time instead of checking your phone. Or you can tell your child to do something at a specific time and have them use their watch as their reference. There are an endless amount of practice opportunities.

*Bonus: Give your children a chance to practice keeping track of their belongings before you buy more expensive gadgets like a cell phone. Start your children off with an inexpensive watch, perhaps one with their favorite cartoon character or one from a discount store, to let them show and practice their ability to manage their personal property.

3. Use a Schedule

Schools give your children a schedule every year to provide a good structure for learning. How about implementing a schedule at home, too? Children benefit from a structured program, and you can also use it to teach and practice time with your children. To make it an interactive activity, create the schedule with your children, and discuss how much learning/work time VS playtime they need daily. A pro tip to make sure you and your children can implement the plan smoothly - make sure there are clocks around the house so that everyone can check the time quickly.

4. Play a game about time

One of the best ways to learn is to do it the fun way. I played the following games with my 5th-grade students in the classroom before, and they absolutely enjoyed it. There are two parts to the game.

Part 1:

I instructed students to turn and talk with their classmates about anything for 2 minutes. I told the students when to start, but I didn't show them the timer while counting down. Instead, I told them to raise their hand when they think one minute has passed. At the 1-minute mark, I raised my hand to indicate the time, and students continued to chat until the 2-minute mark.

Part 2:

In the second part, I repeated most of Part 1, except for students' actions. Instead of having students talking to each other, I had them stay in their seats and relax. They could choose to put their heads down and close their eyes. As time passed, students raised their hands when they thought the 1-minute mark was reached, and I announced it verbally when the 1-minute mark arrived.

You can repeat the game with any activity, such as writing, hopping, etc., and duration of time. Some children might say that the 1-minute chatting with their friends felt shorter than the 1-minute silence. Some children tried counting from 1 to 60 when they were sitting down, but their count of each second might be faster or slower than an actual second.

You might want to play this game with your children multiple times throughout the year to test their sense of time and see if they improve. Lastly, don't forget to discuss with your children after the game so that they have an opportunity to conclude what they have learned.


I hope these suggestions can help you to work with your children on developing a sense of time. Time is a valuable and scarce resource, and every child can accomplish a lot if they make good use of their time. Instilling a sense of time is the first step that any parent can do now to support their children.

Do you have other tricks on training your children's sense of time? Share with us below.

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