Many think that punctuality is a rule that only adults need follow, and that it does not matter if a nursery pupil is a little late. But punctuality is a habit best developed in early childhood. Punctual people show others that they are courteous and have respect for other people's time. And when children put such courtesies into practice, they soon discover that others are courteous in return.
So how do we develop children’s sense of time?
Measuring time without clocks or calendars
Young children in EY1 and EY2 do not yet have a strong grasp of the concept of time. Teachers therefore help to create an awareness of time by establishing a few important daily routines. For example, lunch time comes after Chinese story time; snack time happens after nap time; afternoon outdoor activities then mark nursery day's end. Maintaining a consistent routine lays a solid foundation for the child's developing sense of time.
This is further supported by the use of a visual timetable, affording young learners a pictorial pattern of what comes next throughout the day.
When participating in group activities or putting toys away, our teachers usually play a game of 'countdown' with children to see how many tasks they can complete within a fixed time. Another method is to use different hourglasses to give them a sense of how much time is passing. We also mark time by the occurrence of various lessons. Every week, pupils have PE or library lessons. We ask them to bring a book bag or a PE uniform on those days. This helps them to understand the passage of a week.
Lessons in responsibility
We use time as a tool for teaching the value of responsibility. For example, every Monday morning, parents bring their children to school 10 minutes earlier to attend our weekly flag-raising ceremony. This regular change in schedule teaches our children the importance of being prepared in different situations.
Making a plan
Time management is, in essence, self-management. It is about making choices and prioritising our actions. Adults can help children to make to-do lists that clarify their goals. Using the ABC method to prioritise things is a good way to help them focus on important tasks.
During their weekly independent play, EY4 pupils are required to manage their own time, prioritise tasks and complete activities in all areas in a set cycle.
A High-priority tasks such as daily reading and organising items needed for the following day are designated with the letter 'A'.
B We classify with the letter 'B' any tasks are less urgent but should still be completed, like completing the assembly of a LEGO kit.
C Anything nonessential — playing games on the iPad for example — gets a 'C' classification.
Leading by example
Children model their behaviour on what they see in adults. As adults, if we say we will do something for or with someone at a certain time, we should keep our word. If we are unable to keep our word, we should inform the other person and apologise. This sets a positive example for our children. They must be encouraged to take responsibility for the promises they make.
Being punctual, dependable, and considerate of others' time are all hallmarks of a responsible adult. By encouraging these qualities in our youngest pupils, we are confident that they will grow up with a stronger work ethic, more discipline and more capable of building relationships with others.