Then and Now – Developing an understanding of Time

‘It is that time again’.

I had the pleasure of giving the Winter Solstice presentation last week and observing how each child has a different grasp of the concept.

We deal with time constantly – every season, year day and is something everyone thinks they understand. After all we all know it passes.

However, a definition of time can be tricky and elusive. It is clearly not an object or substance we can touch or see. Neither is it merely a dimension or a concept. Time has many aspects and appears to represent different things to different people in different circumstance. The English idioms for time number in the hundreds from ‘killing time’ to ‘turning back the hands of time’, ‘time flies’ and ‘the big time.’

The one constant in time, on which all cultures agree, are the geographical events of the annual orbit of the sun by the Earth; the rotation of Earth to give day and night; the tilt of the Earth in orbit giving the seasons and the change of the tilt on the solstices and the midway of the journey, the equinox.

For young children, learning about their world through their senses, their experiences of time are through the consequences of the events that take place in their lives. The shorter days of winter solstice are noticeable and the placing of the Christmas festivities near the summer solstice added to handling a globe and a ‘sun’ help the children to make sense of events.

The understanding of time is a long time coming and needs many repeated experiences in as many ways as possible. Beginning with past, present and future in a child’s birthday book or a photo album to a time line of a child’s day when they order the events. Followed by the birthday child walking around for their birthday as many times as they are old because it takes one year to for Earth to orbit the Sun. To patiently watching a sand timer, talking about the change of weather and the changes in nature; to adding a day to the perpetual calendar and crossing off a day on the calendar; making an advent calendar or ‘sally worm’ to count down to a big event; observing the changing shadows on a sun dial and ‘reading’ the time.

Time cannot be dealt with ‘in one stroke’ and nor can childhood!