I know that every kid hits milestones at different times, and there's no real "right" age, but roughly when should by son (now 4) start to really understand things like "next month"?

He kind of, sort of, knows his days of the week, but still has trouble conceptualizing "we're going to visit your friend a week from tomorrow... today is Monday. Tomorrow is Tuesday, then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday again, and then Tuesday again, and we'll see her then."

Trying to explain things like "how long until Christmas" seems pretty futile.

At what point should we start to see him being able to make these connections? Are there things that we can do to help him gain a better perspective on time?

2 Answers 2


My seven year-old only differentiates time out to about a week. He understands longer time intervals, but just doesn't care. To him, if it's not until next week, it may as well be next year.

My four year-old often still says "tomorrow" when she means "sometime in the future." However, if I press her, she will admit she didn't mean tomorrow tomorrow, she meant in a long time. She understands there's a difference, but doesn't care. If it's not happening today, it may as well be next year.

Verbally, there's not much we've found that helps. We just use their own categories and say "not for a long time" if it's outside their "temporal zone."

Visually, we have a calendar that my wife Xs off with the kids each morning as part of their routine. When they're excited about an event, we can show them on the calendar. They can usually remember the day even if we don't mark it.

We've found this helps them visualize time intervals better. At the very least, it gives us somewhere to redirect their repeated questions.

I don't know how much of the problem with our four year-old is that she simply isn't familiar enough with the terms yet. That's something you have to explicitly teach. My wife started using this "time wall" to teach it, but it's too soon to tell how much it will help.

time wall


I teach seventh grade (11 turning 12), and though the kids understand periods like months and years intellectually, many don't have an emotional feel for it. Any reward or punishment more than a week in the future is worthless. Anything more is so far in the future that it's insignificant compared to "now".

If you want to help him grasp "one month", like the an upcoming trip to Disneyland, you could post a countdown calendar and cross off a day every night before bed. It might help, but I don't think it would solve a problem because I don't think you have a problem.

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