By now you probably have your child's daily routines down pat. You may have noticed that things run more smoothly when everyone has clear expectations for what happens next. But did you know that this is also helping your child gain mastery over his understanding of time? It may be a couple more years before he can read a clock, but your references to time are Teaching him that time is the way the day is organized.
Following routines does more than provide structure; it also helps a preschooler learn about time and sequence. By age 4, Children are able to follow familiar routines on their own. In fact, they thrive on the security and order they provide. You might notice that after a bath, your child automatically reaches for his toothbrush, for example. Or he may bound to the couch for a book as soon as his pajamas are on.
His understanding of the past, present, and future will become clearer this year. He grasps now that night follows morning and that "tomorrow" is the very next day. If he can't do it already, he'll soon be able to gauge the difference between "in a few minutes" and "in an hour.
To reinforce these concepts, try to stick to daily routines and discuss the day's plans with your child: "After we get dressed and have breakfast, we'll go to the library. We can stay for an hour; then it will be time for your haircut." Refer to specific times along with events, even though your child can't yet tell time: "At 3 o'clock, when your sister comes home from school, we can go ride bikes."
Try keeping a family calendar to count down the days to special events. Start about a week ahead — longer intervals don't make sense at this age. And encourage your preschooler's interest in leafing through his baby pictures — looking into the past is another way 4-year-olds gain perspective on time.