Time is intangible, difficult to understand. However, it is a factor present in the lives of children and “influences” them in their daily work.

How does it affect them in the development of their activities? Of course, time passes inexorably and by itself does nothing. I am referring, rather, to the organization of time that we have done, to how we adults set the pace … because this influences the behavior of children.

In this way, we can say that time is the fourth educator, in analogy to the Reggio concept of conceiving the environment as the third educator. Because time opens a space for the development of an activity. And that there is more or less time to play, that there is more or less time for an activity, more or less time for recreation … will modulate their behavior, just as the space in which the children are modulated.

Hasn’t it ever happened to you that when you say to a child … “2 more laps on the bike and we’re off” or “5 more minutes of play and it’s over …” all of a sudden he says well, that’s it, without running out of the said time ? And there are children who when they are aware that they only have a certain time to do an activity or see how they have to finish something quickly … they say … well that’s it, I can’t handle that pressure. Each child is unique, but putting a time limit on them slows them down in the performance of what they were doing.

Of course, those of us who accompany children in their day-to-day life have to facilitate their understanding of the passing of time, the acquisition of rhythm and routines … But we are also the adults who have to understand the way of being and doing of a child, understanding their own vital tempos.

Because surely you have realized that children live in an eternal present. They care about the here and now. And they are much more united to the feeling of their own impulses and needs than to the adult organizations of the time, which are practical, of course, but they are not innate and spontaneous in them.

For this reason, I think it is up to adults to know how to adapt as well and allow each child to have enough time to develop their own processes.

I wanted to make this introduction to the article to show that when we think about planning children’s day-to-day lives or accompanying their time management, we must bear in mind that we cannot remain anchored in the adult conception of time, but rather we must bear in mind It takes into account the children’s sense of time, taking into account, of course, the age of each one and other characteristics.


How is that language of children over time? How do you manage transitions? How are the times fixed?

And to answer all these questions you have to observe, listen …

It is like this, connecting, listening and observing how we can discover the unique relationship that each child has with time. Do you move quickly from one activity to another? Does it stop for long periods? And I am not referring to leaving a lot of activities unfinished … but rather to the fact that each child has a different time of interest and we must be able to observe and accompany them to allow each child to have enough time space to develop their own processes, without being always marked by tempos of others, often adults.

However, as I said above, it is still a reality that we live in a world very marked by the different time milestones that make up our day to day. School or work are the two great markers of time, inflexible. As a general rule, the arrival and departure times are determined. So, despite the fact that time is frankly relative and that the feeling of being fast or slow is very subjective (linked to emotions, to my degree of satisfaction or not with what I am doing) … the truth is that we have to help the little ones to understand the passage of time, but with the flexibility necessary for the understanding of a child.

So… How can we manage routines without being inflexible? How to respect your internal processes but at the same time complying with the times of life?


1. Turn time into something tangible and experiential

Can we touch time? Surely many of you will answer no … But nevertheless, you wear a watch on your wrist or regularly check the time on your mobile … Time is still intangible … but seeing the numbers helps us to place ourselves “in it”.

The same thing happens to the little ones … and that is why we can provide different elements that help them to observe and touch the time, such as the Waldorf-inspired calendars that have become so fashionable in recent times and that facilitate their understanding.

In the image you can see this precious weekly calendar , in which each day represents a color. Every morning, when he wakes up one day, a little elf comes out of his lair and is out all day until at night he goes back to “sleep”, because the day is over. And so, day after day, the goblin comes out of the day it plays. The calendar is circular so it also invites you to understand the circularity of time. The weeks end and begin again.

You can also use a very visual annual calendar, like this one here, or Montessori-inspired annual chains, like these , if what you want to reinforce is the understanding of the course of a full year. All these beautiful calendars can be found in Jugaia .

Watches for kids who already have an interest in them are great too. Always adapt to the age of each child when providing materials that help them understand the passage of time.

2. Reinforcing transitions

From the moment children are born they begin to understand the passage of time through the different transitions that occur during the day. Through times of food, changing diapers or clothes according to age, etc. the children discover the progress of the day.

How can we reinforce these moments so that the children understand time sequences? Well, reinforcing, through different elements, the moment of transition or passage from one stage to another.

Marked with sounds

Something very instinctive and that has been done for a long time is to sing at different times of the day. Lullabies to sleep, songs to wake up, songs to before meals …

And in many schools different sounds are used to reinforce a specific moment. Percussion elements are used when it is time to collect (sounding a triangle or a Chinese box), or for lunch … Depending on what you want to highlight.

Marked with special objects

The passing of the day can also be marked with special objects. I mean something as simple as putting a nice tablecloth before eating, when setting the table; or place a candle or some flowers in the center of the “rotllana” or run at the beginning of the day, etc. Through these elements we reinforce the start of a new activity and facilitate the completion of the one that was underway.

3. Less activities, more time for each one

Children’s times are much longer than ours. They are not usually in a hurry (except for the Kings or their birthday to come, hehe), they can stop long and hard observing something, playing with a box or a toy … they walk slowly, they stop at everything …

That is why planning fewer activities allows them to display that innate nature of children. It gives them the opportunity to stop much more, to observe more, to be children.

Let us therefore try to have quiet afternoons and not too full of activities so that they have time to develop their games or stories well and without haste.

4. Provide elements and strategies that allow you to return to activity

Children live totally surrendered to the present. Now matters, what happens at this moment, and that is why it is difficult to go from one activity to another.

And sometimes children’s tempos are so long that it is difficult to “pull” them out of an activity when necessary, for example, because it is time for dinner, because you have to go to sleep or any other similar situation that you can imagine.

Can we do something to make it easier for them to finish one activity so they can move on to another?

Well yes, of course. One of them is not ending the activity ourselves, but allowing it to continue at another time.

I already showed you a while ago, in an article on how to promote construction play in childhood , a photograph of how in a living education school they put little signs on a material when the game was not over. Thus, the next morning the children could reprimand that game where they left it.

Isn’t it much easier to leave if you know that the materials are waiting for you to continue playing? In addition, that in this way it is the child who has more control over their activities. The adult does not end, it is the child who will end when he decides that he no longer wants to play with it. In the meantime … you can book that activity.

Can we apply it at home? Of course yes. A pretty piece of wood with her name, her photo, a drawing of her, whatever it is, can help us postpone an activity to reprimand her at another time.

In short, we can do many things to accompany children in the acquisition of the language of time, but I would like to end by highlighting the most important thing for me and that is that we have to allow children to unfold at their own time, which means abandoning a bit our mental image of what each thing should last and trust the processes of each child, giving them the time necessary to enter an interest and develop it.