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Helping Kids Understand Dates, Times, and Money

“Mommy, when will Daddy be home?” asked 4-year-old Michael. 

“5:30!” his mother quickly answers.
 What does that mean to Michael? 

It's late in the evening and Max tells his children, “In twenty minutes, it will be bedtime.”
  An hour later, the children go to bed. What did they learn about time?

“When are Grandpa and Grandma coming?" the twins ask simultaneously.  

“In two weeks!” their mom says. How long is two weeks?

“Can I buy that?” the daughter asks.

“Only if you have enough money!” her sister tells her. How do they know?

Children find it difficult to learn the abstract concepts of time and money. They struggle to understand that certain activities occur at defined times during the day, month, or year. They want to know how money works. Let's look at ways to provide opportunities for them to learn these concepts and to build their vocabulary.  


Read books about time. Emphasize words such as morning, noon, evening, soon, before, and after. Make picture charts of the sequence of the day’s activities. To understand the "passing of time," use a timer when giving them a set amount of time to complete a task.

As children become more aware of time, introduce the analog clock. Digital watches and clocks fail to help children to visualize and comprehend time. Together, make a paper analog clock, talking about the "hour hand" and the "minute hand" and the concept of the hour, i.e., 2:00. When they ask about what time an event will take place, show them the time now and how the clock hands will move until the event is to take place. When they can count to 60 and by 5’s, begin teaching time on the clock.

Use visual cards with the time, i.e., 3:20, 7:45, etc., to connect the concept. Once they can manipulate the clock, begin fractional concepts by dividing the clock in half and then fourths, adding quarters to visualize "half past," or "quarter 'til." 


In order to understand the value of time, children must also know about the passing of days. Calendars help children to visualize yesterday, today, tomorrow, next week, or next month. They allow children to look ahead to upcoming events, like birthdays and holidays.

Provide a yearly calendar for your child. With stickers or drawings, mark special days in the month. Show them which day of the week is "today." Talk about what day was "yesterday" or what day is "tomorrow." If Grandpa and Grandma are coming in two weeks, circle that date and have your child put an X on each day until the arrival date. Count how many days are left. Help them to memorize the days of the week and the months of the year. 


Start early by setting an example for them to follow later. While young children won’t completely understand the value of money, it is a fundamental skill they can learn. Many hands-on activities can be made or found on the internet. Here are a few ideas.
  1. Sort coins
  2. Name coins
  3. Assess value to coins
  4. Play store
  5. Make game boards and Tic Tac Toe boards with money stickers
Develop the concepts of saving, sharing, and spending. Give them a piggy bank to start saving. Teach them about sharing – perhaps with a church, charity, or even someone they know who needs a little help. Allow them to buy simple items. Forming a good money value foundation leads to responsible adult decisions.

Contact the Nebraska Dyslexia Association for information and support for struggling students:
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