Temporal Awareness: Understanding the Timing and Rhythms of Life

From catching a ball to tying their shoes, children need to master the basics of temporal awareness.

Temporal Awareness: Understanding the Timing and Rhythms of Life

Temporal Awareness

Temporal awareness is one of the building blocks of perceptual motor skills, or movement-related abilities that children need to learn, grow, and interact with their environment. This includes everything from knowing the names and functions of certain body parts to understanding left and right to responding appropriately to sounds and visual changes. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the importance of temporal awareness, how it impacts children’s coordination, and what you can do to help your children practice and build on their temporal awareness skills.

Teaching tossing a ball to a student


What is temporal awareness? 

Temporal awareness is the development of an internal timing structure that helps children (and adults) recognize the relationship between time and movement. When temporal awareness is well developed, children can understand the rhythms of life and recognize patterns in time, such as the differences between day and night or one minute versus 10 minutes. 

It has also been shown to positively impact children’s ability to learn. Research shows that understanding how to distinguish rhythms in speech can improve children’s knowledge of grammar and their ability to appropriately sort language into words and phrases. 

Among the most important benefits of strong temporal awareness, however, are hand-eye and foot-eye coordination—the body’s ability to process information received through the eyes to perform necessary tasks related to the hands or feet. This includes everything from walking and eating to sitting or riding a bike. 

Uniting visual and physical motor skills with hands and feet is an essential part of day-to-day life. It enables children to be safe while engaging in physical activities and allows them to feel more confident moving into new or unfamiliar environments.

Understanding the importance of hand-eye coordination

Hand-eye coordination is the ability to perform activities that require the simultaneous use of your hands and eyes. This skill starts in infancy as babies begin to grasp and manipulate objects around them. And it continues as children get older, allowing them to perform tasks like stacking blocks, snapping buttons, tying their shoes, and much more. 

Without temporal awareness and the means to recognize timing patterns, children can have difficulty developing hand-eye coordination, impacting their ability to perform certain basic activities, like dressing themselves or writing their names. This can discourage them from being active or engaging in certain types of play with their peers. It can also negatively affect their overall physical and cognitive development. That’s why it’s important to find fun ways to help children practice and develop their temporal awareness and, ultimately, their hand-eye coordination. 

How to improve hand-eye coordination

Although temporal awareness occurs naturally as children grow and play, there are still fun games and activities that parents and educators can utilize to help children practice and improve their hand-eye coordination. An app like brightwheel’s daily activity report feature enables childcare providers to easily record activities and developmental milestones, keeping families updated on their child’s progress throughout the day.

Throwing and catching a ball 

One of the best and most common ways to practice hand-eye coordination is tossing (or rolling) a ball to your child and having them catch it and send it back. It’s important to use age-appropriate balls; you can alternate between balls of different sizes as children’s abilities improve. 


Bowling is another great way to incorporate balls into your hand-eye coordination lessons. Purchase a set of child-sized bowling pins (or make your own by filling up plastic bottles with a small amount of water). Have children take turns rolling their ball down the lane to knock over the pins. 


Puzzles not only help children develop better hand-eye coordination, but they also help with problem-solving, shape recognition, and logical reasoning. They’re a great multi-purpose aid for building essential cognitive and fine motor skills. 


Whether they’re drawing, writing, or just scribbling, performing activities with their eyes and fingers is another simple and fun way for children to practice hand-eye coordination. You can give them a predetermined task, like outlining their hands and letting them design the picture. Or let them freestyle and create something entirely their own. 

Building blocks

Building blocks are an essential toy for every child because they promote fine motor skills and increased attention spans. From Legos to stackable wooden blocks or even large foam blocks, allowing children to practice building is a great way to help them learn to take their time and develop better hand-eye coordination. 

Balloon toss 

Having a balloon toss is a simple and fun way to help children improve their hand-eye coordination. It requires movement and fast thinking as children use their eyes, hands, and feet to keep the balloon in the air for as long as possible. This brings us to another vital motor skill: foot-eye coordination.

How to improve foot-eye coordination

Foot-eye coordination is the ability to perform activities that require the simultaneous use of your eyes and feet. It’s a necessary skill for basic daily functions like walking, running, or going up a flight of stairs. This ability is crucial for young children as movement can greatly promote physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development (especially when paired with music).

Much like hand-eye coordination, foot-eye coordination is a product of temporal awareness and can be improved upon through activities that allow children to move around and use their feet. Activities like kicking a ball back and forth, playing hopscotch, jumping rope, or even dancing can promote improved foot-eye coordination in young children.

Temporal awareness and perceptual motor skills

Developing coordination and timing are key aspects of temporal awareness. Still, they’re just a piece of the overall perceptual motor skills that children need to perceive their environment and improve overall movement. Other skills like body awareness and spatial awareness help children understand how their bodies move and how much space they take up around other objects and people. 

These skills collectively help children learn to move confidently in the world and encourage them to stay active. Temporal awareness is a key part of the process and one that parents and educators should reinforce by teaching children about the physical and mental aspects of timing and rhythm.


Teaching temporal awareness effectively involves making children aware of the speed and rhythm of their activities and how the passage of time impacts or translates to particular moments. It’s important to speak literally about time expectations so that children develop a stronger frame of reference for concepts like fast and slow or a short time period and a long time period. 

Once children master the basics of temporal awareness, they can better predict when a certain event, person, or object will arrive, whether it’s catching a ball or waiting for dinner time.

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