Teaching Kids To Tell Time: 19 Practical Ideas To Try

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Children may learn to tell time at any age. However, teaching time to kids can be quite tricky. Imagine if your child could look at the clock and follow their routine themselves. Won’t that be lovely? So the quicker they learn, the better it is for you. If the children are young, you may use analog clocks.

But you don’t have to stress too much about it because we have compiled a list of some useful ideas and tips to help you teach time to your children. Pretty soon, it might be your children reminding you that it’s getting late for school!

What Is The Right Age To Teach Time To Your Child?

There is no right age for teaching children how to tell time. Every child learns at a different pace. However, you can use this guide to teach time to children.

1. Ages four and five

Teach them how to tell time to the hour and half past the hour. They should also be able to draw the hands of the clock to show these times.

2. Ages six and seven

They should be able to tell the time to five minutes, including 15-minute past or to the hour. You can also teach them the number of minutes in an hour and the number of hours in a day.

3. Ages eight and nine

They must be able to tell the time using an analog clock, even one with Roman numerals. They can also learn to use a.m. and p.m. in sentences and compare different units of time.

4. Ages ten and above

You can teach them how to read 24-hour clocks and convert 12-hour time to 24-hour time and vice versa using both analog and digital clocks.

19 Ideas For Teaching Time To Children

Teaching time to kids might seem like a complicated task, but these ideas can make it fun and simple to understand.

1. Get a digital clock or watch

Children learn to read numbers pretty early on. So they will find it easier to tell time on a digital clock. A preschooler can easily read the numbers and tell how late or early it is. This is one of the first steps towards teaching a child to tell time.

2. Put an analog clock where they can see it daily

When children tell the time on their digital watches, point at an analog clock and tell them where the hands are at. This gives them an early idea of time. If possible, display clocks having Roman numerals on them as well.

3. Name the hands

Naming the hands of an analog clock helps children learn how each hand moves and how each hand tells time. For example, the second hand moves fast, and each rotation around the clock is one minute. The minute hand is the longest, and it moves forward by one minute when the second hand completes one rotation. And when the minute hand finishes one rotation, it denotes an hour. The hour hand is the shortest and moves at the slowest speed.

4. Start with the hour

Talk about time at every opportunity you get. When they come back from school, point to the clock and tell the time. When stepping out somewhere, tell them the time both while going out and coming in. Do not bother with the minutes and focus on the hour.

5. Make a paper clock

Make a paper clock, teaching time to kids

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You’ll find many printables on the Internet that will help you teach time to your children. You can easily make one on your own too using cardboard, construction paper, and some markers. Use brass fasteners to attach the hands of the clock, and you are done.

6. Teach a.m. and p.m.

Make a schedule of your day by writing down the hours on a sheet of paper. Ask your children to fill in the sheet with the activities they perform from midnight to midday (AM) and midday to midnight (PM). This is a great way to teach the concept of a.m. and p.m. to your children.

7. Break time down

This is related to the previous point. For this, you have to talk about the four times of the day – morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Then, introduce the activities we do during specific times of the day. For example, we go to school in the morning, and we sleep at night. Next, proceed by asking your child which activity takes place at what time.

8. Teach duration

Keeping track teaching time to kids

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It is essential to let children know the duration of each activity they do. Tell them how much time it takes to eat breakfast or to get dressed. You can also teach them duration by telling them they have a specific amount of time for a certain activity.

For instance, tell your child they have ten minutes at the book store, or that they can play for five more minutes at the park. Children understand this, and they would soon start associating time with specific periods.

9. Use time phrases with them

Instead of making time an abstract concept, talk about time to your children regularly. Tell them you will take a 15-minute trip to the supermarket or they will have to go to bed in ten minutes. Mention the time for every activity, and they will soon start associating time with everything they do.

10. Change to analog as soon as possible

Children are surrounded by digital clocks wherever they look. Mobile screens, TVs, and alarm clocks show time digitally. As soon as your children are able to tell time from a digital clock, replace them with analog clocks. Analog clocks are better than digital clocks in that the moving second hand gives a sense of time passing, unlike digital clocks.

11. Start teaching minutes later

Your child will most likely learn about the hours in a day or two. Hours are easier to learn. Let them practice for as long as they want, and do not start teaching minutes until they start asking for it. For your child to understand minutes, they should be able to skip count by five and tell time to the hour.

12. Teach half hours first

When your child is learning minutes for the first time, teach them the half-hour values first. Do not add the other numbers. Teach them that 6 is :30 and 12 is :00 and that they are at the bottom and the top of the clock respectively.

13. Teach quarters next

Learning concept of quarters, teaching time to kids

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Once they have mastered the half-hour concept, let them practice it for a week or so and then add quarter hours. Tell them 3 is :15 and is “quarter past” and 9 is :45 and is “quarter to.” Let them practice these coordinates for a while.

14. Play games

Introduce games that involve the use of stopwatches and timers. Play these games to teach your children how time is calculated. You can ask them to race or complete particular tasks within the given time and tell them how quickly they have completed the work and how much time they have left.

15. Draw the hands on the clock

Drawing the hands of the clock, teaching time to kids

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This activity gives your child hands-on experience in telling time. Draw different clock faces on the blackboard or a sheet of paper and tell different times to your child. Ask them to draw the hands on the clock faces to denote these times. All they need is chalk or a pen, and they will have loads of fun doing this.

16. Practice minutes after and until

Once your child has mastered telling time to the quarter-hour, you can start teaching them minutes after and until the hour. Teach them to count in 5s and also make pairs of numbers that make the same after and until minutes. For example, 1 and 11 are five minutes after and until the hour respectively.

17. Give them a job

Children like doing things of importance. Give them the job of telling time and reward them whenever they tell time correctly. Ask them to keep time while you do a chore, or ask them to remind you of the time after each hour passes.

18. Allow estimations

Do not insist on exact times, especially when your child is just learning to read an analog clock. Let them estimate the time and correct them only if they are far off the mark. For example, if the time is 4:17, let them tell the time as 4:15 or 4:20. It doesn’t matter as long as they are able to estimate time to the closest minute. It is what most adults do as well.

19. Start later

The older your children are, the better they will understand the different concepts of time. Time has different aspects that children need to learn, and a child who is in first grade will be able to grasp them better than a preschooler or a kindergartener. You can start talking about time early, but teach them only when they are older.

The concept of time, watches, and hands could seem a little complex to a child’s mind. Hence, teaching time to kids would get them enthusiastic about learning the concept. You may start by investing in their favorite themed watch or conducting time-related activities and games. Begin with teaching hours first, followed by half-hours and quarters. Once they gain expertise over this concept, you may progress to teach them about minutes. Remain patient throughout their practice. If they have trouble understanding the time, try a different technique or wait and try to teach them again at a later age.

Key Pointers

  • If you are planning to teach your children how to tell time, being aware of some simple tips and ideas can make this task easy for you.
  • Begin with a paper clock and teach them about a.m and p.m. You may also introduce your child to digital and analog clocks to practice daily.
  • Educate them about the duration of activities and frequently use time phrases to make learning about time easier and more interesting.

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Beth Sullivan

(M.Ed in Special Education)
Beth Sullivan is an education consultant and president of Deep Roots Learning Solutions, Inc. She specializes in literacy instruction and works primarily with students learning challenges, including dyslexia, ADHD and autism. After working in schools as a special educator for more than 10 years, Beth has shifted her focus to supporting individual students and their families through online tutoring. She... more

Nisha Bharatan

Nisha Bharatan is a freelance writer with experience in writing health and finance content for various Indian and international clients. An engineer by profession, she also did content marketing courses to complement her interest in writing. Nisha writes articles centered around kids’ development, their activities, crafts, games, and fun elements that keep children and families entertained. Her research skills and experience... more