# How do we explain to a little child that a date in 2020 and a date in 2021 are not necessarily a year apart?

I talked with my friend on December 29 2020. Then I talked with him again on January 03, 2021.

Q: What was the year when you last talked with your friend?

A: 2021.

Q: And what was the year the previous time you talked?

Α: 2020.

Comment: So dutifully doing the arithmetic, $$2021\, (-) \,2020 = 1$$. This means that 1 year has passed right?

This is an almost universal joke around the change of the year ("it's been a year since we last talked", etc). But how to explain this to a little child?

• How old is the child? What does the child understand about being a year older than the day before on his/her birthday. Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 15:35
• @AmyB There is no specific child here. And essentially what you ask is exactly my question: how to help understanding that the one-unit change in the "year-counter" does not mean that "one year has passed". Both are valid, but they don't mean the same thing. Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 15:47
• My approach (as a parent) was to let the child explain it and try to understand their explanation (through discussion). Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 16:04
• Being a year older on birthdays is a more familiar context to a younger child than the change in year. When trying to explain things to anyone it is helpful to have a more familiar context). Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 17:14
• Even if there is no specific child - you should still specify an age range. A 3 year old, 6 year old, and 9 year old would all be dealt with differently. Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 17:15