As adults, our lives are dictated by time.  Clocks determine when we get up, drive to work, run to a meeting, and go to bed.  This behaviour is learnt as we grow and learn how to read a clock, then gradually we understand how time is connected with the moon, the sun and the tides. Time for a young child is not measured in minutes or in hours. It is measured by the rhythms of the body – activity and rest, hunger and food, intake and output.  

Piece taken from Vital Play in Early Childhood – Gwen Somerset.

Balance or equilibrium is the desired state – sufficient activity to balance compensatory rest, sufficient food to satisfy hunger and adequate adventure balance by a return to protective love.

The need for rest and food has been accepted more readily than the need for play. Yet when rest and play are not balanced a child may be easily upset, demanding or rejecting of parental suggestions or routines.

A child whose day is filled with new interests, discoveries and chances to encounter new problems usually sleeps and eats well.

For adults, the concept of time is measured by hours and minutes, yet this means little to most children under seven. The need to hurry to meet the days demands can become a source of frustration or anger to a four year old who accepts only’ today’ ‘tomorrow’’ yesterday’ ‘before’ or ‘after tea’ as his ready reckoner of time.

The pace of growth differs for each child and so does the requirement for assimilating new experiences through play. An abrupt ‘Come at once’ command can upset a child’s thinking when he or she is trying to fit the correct block into a space. An awkward telephone call can upset a cook’s composure in the same way.

One child will ponder long and quietly, another will move from one activity to another in a regular pattern, a third responds eagerly to every stimulus with concentrated attention while another flits restlessly. Each child has a special pace and uses time in a special way. He or she cannot, with advantage, be hurried. In a play group where free play meets the needs of the individual child the word ‘free’ means freedom to take as much time as is needed to complete a task satisfactorily as well as freedom to choose which aspects of play best matches his or her special pace of growth.