Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What does time mean anyway?

This was the question imposed by 'J' (Age 6) on me few days ago.
In my heart I said I am also figuring that out my dear! But she was waiting for an answer. So I told her about morning, afternoon, evening and night. I told her about weekdays and weekends, I told her about seasons, festivals and months. I told her about birthdays and she said "okay these things I know already; but I still don't know what time exactly is? For example how much is fifteen minutes and how much is six hours"?
I think every parent faces these moments when they would like to enter into their child's mind and fix all those queries or fears or uncertainties by some kind of magic potions.
Well, we cannot do that and we always need to take that long root of kneeling down up to their level, looking into their eyes, explaning as simple as possible yet not distorting the hidden message and then keep wishing that the deliverd message have touched the right chords in their brain.
"Time" is a concept which enters early into a childs life in a very normal way like colours, shapes, numbers and so on. They start recognising a pattern in their life and then after knowing the numbers they start looking at the clock and speak in terms of its big hand and small hand. They learn about O'clock and then about half past hours, soon they also learn the concept of quarter past or quarter to. But I guess it is more of memorising then understanding?
'J' has also learned/accepted those terms. Actually if I go back to my six year old days I only had a mere idea that when I am having lunch other people in other countries might be having their dinner. 'J', thanks to her scattered family and friends all over the world realises this very well.

But now I think she is little overwhelmed about the fact that in a clock (analog of course!)
  • when small hand moves from 12 to 1 it is 1 hour
  • when big hand moves same way it is 5 minutes
  • when it is half past some thing big hand is always at 6 but when we speak about half an hour it does not matter where the big hand is
  • why is it 9 O'Clock when she goes to school as well as when she goes to bed
Also some other time related facts like
  • why even though she is born in January but still she is younger then her friends who are born in March or April (these months comes are after January right!)
  • when it is winter, mum comes to pick her up at 6 pm and it is already dark
  • when it is summer, mum comes to pick her up at 6  pm and it is still day time
  • and recently she cannot understand that why summer time is one hour ahead of winter time
  • she says she doesn't know about all the numbers written as date on the top corner of the class blackboard
And also 6 months is like ages for her although she knows now about one week  and feels comfortable about days.
I told her that soon she will figure out the answers for the questions about clock, as she has learned to count in 5s (in their school they don't memorise times table but they count in 2s, 3s, 5s and so on). She need to use that while looking at a clock.
For giving her the feeling of how much is 15 minutes or 1 hour, I have started (thanks to a close friend of mine who pointed out this idea to me) using timings in my regular sentences like "Now tidy up as dinner will be ready in 15 minutes or we need to get a good sleep of 8-9 hours and so on".
But about rest of her queries, it will take time for me to find a proper and easy way to explain and for her to absorb, therefore I told her to keep those in her mind and slowly as she will learn more about earth and sun, she will find the answers automatically.
After almost half an hour of serious discussion she said with a smile "Okay now I understand better and I will make a log of all those questions in my head".

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