Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash
Did you ever notice that the concept of time is really tough for kids to understand– all the way from birth up until they are like 7 or 8?
It’s a real problem, because we use time to manage everything in our lives! When to wake up, when to go to daycare or the babysitter’s, when to the store, when to eat, when to nap, when we come home from work, when to celebrate holidays, when to go to parties, when to take a bath, when to go to bed….
And through all this, our poor children don’t even know what we’re talking about when we say, “We will get to have bath time at 7 o’clock. Please wait til then.” The closest thing they have to rely on is the ol’ routine- like, we usually have bath after play time and before bed time. Don’t get me wrong- it’s better than nothing.
But then what happens on that one day when the routine is all screwed up?
You know, when someone has to work later than usual, or family comes into town, or you have a doctor’s appointment during snack time?? The poor child just doesn’t understand it, and they’re left to struggle along as we get the things done that are necessary.
Case in point-
I was feeling so sad for my poor daughter the other day. She was getting so frustrated because she couldn’t understand why it wasn’t time to eat dinner. Having a family dinner is very important to us, so I was hoping she would wait a few minutes for my husband to get home from work. But some unexpected projects came up at work so he had to stay later than usual.
My daughter also seems to be fighting bedtime lately- wanting to stay up for one more story, or one more sip of water, or she has to go potty again and again… I’m sure she just wants to be with us a little more and have more fun. But I need her to sleep for my own sanity, and I know that she needs the sleep to be the happy little girl that I know she is.
I did what every mom does- I complained to my friends about our problems. My awesome sister-in-law Monica (an amazing mother of four who I really look up to) gave me the best idea!
She said that she had heard of a tool that you can make at home, DIY, for less than $20 that will help children better understand time.
Ummm…. YES PLEASE!!!
I took her suggestions and added my own twists. I call it our “Routine Clock.”
I’m focusing on two parts of our daily routine- eating times (snacks and meals) and sleeping times (nap and bedtime) by marking those events on the face of an analog clock for my child to see.
Do you have any great ideas on how to improve this “Routine Clock”? Tell us about it! Comment below!
Step 1: Gather materials.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A cheap analog clock
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- A screwdriver
- Stickers, paint, or any other fun decorations your child might like!
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- Not required… But there were tiny screws that are easy to lose, so my husband’s magnetic tool tray might have come in handy. I wish I had thought of it beforehand.
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Step 2: Remove the minute hand (or at least mark the hour hand).
The overall goal with this clock is that my child can watch the hour hand approach a marked time for a snack or a meal or nap time to visualize when those events are getting closer.
The problem is that the minute hand crosses each of the marked time slots every hour of the day, while the hour hand only crosses them once per day (once per day during the hours that my child is awake anyways…). So I really want my child to watch the hour hand, not the minute hand.
By removing the minute hand or at least marking the hour hand, my child knows which one to keep an eye on.
You’ll have to remove the clock face for this step. It was super easy to do- just take out the screws on the back of the clock.
The minute and second hands were easy to cut with scissors. I did leave a small bit of each hand so that I could set the time on the clock.
If you would rather not cut the minute hand, just mark the hour hand with a sticker or by painting it or using a sharpie to change its color. This will help it stand out so that your child knows to watch the hour hand.
Step 3: Use a sharpie to mark the times of various daily activities on the face of the clock.
Replace the face of the clock. Again- so easy, just screw the face back on.
I tried light-colored sharpies so that my child could still see the numbers under my markings. As my child practices with the clock, I would like to start teaching her how the numbers correspond with the time, which corresponds with our daily activities. I really didn’t want to cover up the numbers with dark colors.
I found that the light green and yellow sharpies were too light. You could hardly see the color. But the pink and darker green were perfect!
****Idea- One limitation of this clock is that it still only works to help my child understand the daily routine, not to prepare for curve balls that life throws when the routine is thrown off.
If you want the clock to change based on what your plans are for the day, don’t use sharpies. Try using dry erase markers so that you can add different tasks or activities based on what new things are going on for the day! Then just erase it at the end of the day so that you can put the next day’s tasks on the clock!
For my purposes, I color coded the clock using green and pink. Pink marks are for meals and snacks. Green marks are for naps and bedtime.
My child usually goes to sleep at 7pm and wakes up at 7am, so I marked from 7 to 7:15 in green to mark bedtime/wake up time. Her nap is around 1-3, so those times are marked in green.
Breakfast is between 7:15-8, lunch is between 12-12:45, dinner is between 5-6, and snacks are from 10-10:30am and 3-3:30pm. Those times are all blocked out in pink.
I chose to mark out a whole range of time when we generally eat or sleep. I am hoping having the entire time marked will allow some flexibility, rather than only marking a specific time when we must start eating or sleeping.
Step 4: Decorate it!
I have not been blessed with a talent for drawing, especially on a curved surface like the face of a clock, so it was surprisingly difficult to make my clock look cute! In the end, I decided I’d better go simple. I outlined each different task in black sharpie to make them nice and defined, added a boarder, and called it good.
But let’s be real- kids aren’t judgmental. They love you no matter what, and they’re excited about new things with pretty colors. So I had nothing to worry about.
If my little one were a little older, I would probably invite her to decorate it herself, but right now I know she would only scribble on it. 😊
Oh, and I also added labels on each routine so that my awesome husband knows what’s coming up next. He always wants to help but doesn’t always know how. Win Win!
Step 5: Set the time.
Just follow the directions on the package!
Step 6: Put your new tool to work!
Well, we completed our clock about a week ago.
My daughter is catching on fast. I make sure to show her the clock each time a snack, meal, nap, or bedtime comes up. She is starting to point to it all on her own when we are getting close to one of those times in our day.
I chose not to hang it on the wall. Rather, I keep it on the counter. When a meal or nap is coming up, I hand it to my daughter (she loves to hold it) point to the color coming up. I ask her, “Do you know what’s going to happen soon?” or “Do you know what’s coming up next?”
Then we talk about it and I give her a 5-minute opportunity to finish up whatever she’s doing before it’s time to transition.
I have noticed frustration levels for both me and my child decreasing every day! It’s so nice to have a simple way to help her look forward to what’s coming up next in her routine.
Did you try out this “Routines Clock”? How did it go?? Comment below!
Do you have any great ideas on how to make these clocks better? Tell us about it! Comment below!
I hope this resource helps some cute kids out there!
And parents, as always, keep up the good work!
(As a total side note, I recently learned about another amazing tool to help children with time! This one is a clock that lights up green when it is “wake up time.” If the child wakes up too early, the light is off so he knows to keep resting or engage in a quiet activity until the light turns green signaling that he can begin his day! AMAZING!)
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Please share this post with a parent who could use some help teaching their kids about time!
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