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Your 4-year-old: Grasping time

Your 4-year-old: Grasping time


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Your 4-year-old now

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.

Your 4-year-old now

Following routines does more than provide structure; it also helps preschoolers learn about time and sequence. By age 4, children are able to follow familiar routines on their own and actually thrive on the security and order they provide. He now grasps that night follows morning and that "tomorrow" is the very next day. He'll soon be able to gauge the difference between "in a few minutes" and "in an hour" (if he can't already).

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, and then it will be time for your haircut." Refer to specific times along with events, even though your child can't yet tell time: " When your sister comes home from school at 3 o'clock, we can go ride bikes."

Try keeping a family calendar to count down the days to special events. Start about a week ahead because longer intervals don't make sense to children 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.

Your life now

Around age 4, most kids are now big enough to ride in a car seat that faces forward, though experts at many organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that children ride in a rear-facing convertible car seat until they outgrow the manufacturer's height and weight limits. Children should ride in the front-facing car seat until they exceed those limits.

When your child outgrows the car seat, make sure he uses a booster seat every time he rides in a car – and always in the back seat. To a child's small body, an air bag is more of a danger than a protection. Always use the booster seat with a shoulder belt as well as a lap belt.

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