how long is an hour if “a second is a hiccup”?

I am not proud of this: But whenever my son asks “how long is that, I’m never quite sure how to answer. As in, I tell him there’s an hour before bedtime and he asks “how long is an hour?” Or I tell him that we need to wait 15 minutes for something and he asks “how long is 15 minutes”? So everytime, even though I hate doing it and even though I know it is not at all helpful to him, I give him a television comparison. 15 minutes is the same as one Dinosaur Train. 30 minutes is two Dinosaur Trains or half a Sesame Street. And hour is a Sesame Street. Of course, this doesn’t help at all because he has no sense of how long these things are. It’s also unhelpful because the relative nature of time is hard to explain to a three year old. Even if he had some idea of how long Dinosaur Train lasted, those 15 minutes surely go by faster than 15 minutes at the dentist. Once or twice, I’ve opened my mouth to try to explain that, but then I bite my tongue. I often find myself having to remember that he’s only three.

So I was really excited to see this book! It explains the concept of time in a way kids can understand. And while he still likely has no idea how long an hour, month, or year is, this book has given us some kind of common language with which to talk about it and visualize it.

Title: A second is a hiccup
Author: Hazel Hutchins
Age: 3 and up
: Picture Book, Nonfiction, but in a fun, fiction-y sort of way

Some things you could do with this book that would be really fun: get near a clock that ticks loudly if you have one. If you don’t, you could sit by a large clock with an easy-to-read second hand, but the ticking noise would probably be easier for a child. Then practice counting seconds: you could count to five, every time the hand moves. Or you could follow the script of the book and make a hiccup sound for every tick. Or even more fun: give mom a kiss every second! I’m sure you can think of lots more ways to practice noticing the seconds tick by!

What about a minute? The book suggests a minute might be “one small song / Chorus, verses, not too long”. So why not try it? Sing a few songs with your little one and a stop watch? Or while watching the second hand go around? Or if you are getting to that point in the day when you really want the kids to get some exercise, how about another one of the book’s ideas–60 hops to make a minute?

What about you? Any ideas to teach time to the little one? Or are you waiting so that on those days when you are tired, you can put them to bed at 6:30 instead of 7:30 and hope they don’t notice the difference? 🙂

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