Saturday, 18 July 2015

How long is a year?

How long is a month? A year? When is my birthday? Do you remember when it snowed? How many sleeps until... ?
The passing of time is a difficult notion for little ones to grasp, but essential if they are to exercise some control over their existence. The idea of past, present and future is one that can only be understood through personal experience.
We marked the beginning of 2015 with the introduction of a yearly timeline. Finn had been asking a lot about when Christmas or his birthday would be, so it seemed right to start introducing tools to learn about the passing of time. I found a very good download here but chose to make our labels for days myself as I wanted them to be colourful. Each day has its own colour, which really helps Finn see a pattern when he looks back at past days. Each label simply has the name of one of the seven days of the week handwritten on it.

Every morning, Finn enjoys figuring out what day it is by looking back at the colour pattern and reciting the names of the days. Then we say the date together.

The timeline is very long on purpose, as its length gives the child a visual impression of how long a year is. It covers two of the walls in our bedroom. At the moment it is clearly visible that about half a year has gone by.

We also use the timeline to mark future events like a birthday party, departure for holiday or a relative's birthday so that Finn can easily count the days until the event. I chose to write the description rather than use symbols even though Finn can't read fluently yet. He is curious about writing so this is another opportunity for him to try and decipher.

We store the day labels as well as blank event labels in a compartmented box that is inviting and easy to use. Everything is laminated so that it can be used year after year.
This year I am consciously keeping the timeline simple as Finn is just 3 and a half and it is the first year we have had one. Next year I would like to add photos of events and display them on the wall with a thin line of tape showing the day they were taken. I think adding a new element each year will allow us to keep up with Finn's understanding as well as keeping it interesting for him.  
Do you use a timeline? A weekly/monthly calendar? I'd love to know what other families are doing to help their children understand the concept of time. Please leave a comment!


  1. Elise would really like doing this. She has really responded to keeping a monthly calendar, but I think the "big picture" aspect of a timeline would be especially meaningful. I wonder if we could start whenever or if we should wait until the new year? What do you think?

    1. Hi Anne, I wondered the same last year when considering a timeline. For me it was an easy decision because it was almost the end of the year so I only had to wait 1 or 2 months until 1st january. Being in August now, I'm not sure what I would do. I think I would probably wait until the new year. Do you think it may be confusing for Elise to start right in the middle? I think it would be for Finn. I'd love to know what you decide to do.

  2. I think I probably will wait for the new year - it will seem more exciting then, as well as logical. Also, it will probably take me that long to get organized!

  3. I think I probably will wait for the new year - it will seem more exciting then, as well as logical. Also, it will probably take me that long to get organized!


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