How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Telling time is a tricky business, especially for kids. But as a parent or teacher, you can make learning how to tell time a fun activity by making clocks with your kid. Before you begin making your clocks, make sure your kid knows the basics. Once the clocks are made, you can start teaching them the different blocks of time.

Steps

Part 1 of 4: Getting the Basics down

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Practice counting to 60. Kids need to be able to count to 60 (in the correct order) in order to tell time. Have your child write down the numbers 1 through 60 on a piece of paper. As they write each number, have them recite the number as well. Post this piece of paper on a wall and have them recite the numbers regularly.

  • While you are out in public, like at the grocery store, point out double-digit numbers and have your child repeat the number to you.
  • Use counting songs to help your child practice counting. For instance, you could sing, “100 Bottles of Milk” together. Look for other counting songs online.
  • To encourage your child to learn, make sure to reward them with playtime or their favorite snack for doing a good job.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Practice counting by fives. Understanding groups of five will also make learning to tell time much easier. Have your child write down increments of five on a sheet of paper up to 60. As they write the numbers, have them recite them as well. Make sure to point out that each number either ends in a 5 or a 0.

  • Make a special “Count by 5s” song to a catchy tune your kid can sing along to. You can even add dance moves to the song; for example, at every quarter, you put your hands in the air or stomp your feet. Sing this song regularly with your kid to help them become comfortable with counting by 5s.
  • You can also find song about counting by fives online, such as on YouTube.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Teach them the general concept of time. General concepts of time are the morning, noon, the evening, and nighttime. Familiarize your kid with these concepts by associating each concept with certain activities. Then quiz your kid by asking them when certain things happen.

  • For example, “In the morning we eat breakfast and brush our teeth. At noon, we eat lunch and take a nap. At night, we read a book and go to sleep.”
  • You can ask your kid, “What happens in the morning?” and “What happens at night?”
  • You can post a daily schedule chart so your child has a visual that shows the different things they do during the day. Refer to the chart when explaining the times of various daily events.

Part 2 of 4: Making a Clock with Your Kid

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Grab 2 paper plates and an analog clock. The paper plates will be used to make the clocks. The analog clock will be used as a reference for making the clocks. Place them on a table and sit with your kid at the table. Let your kid know in an excited voice that, together, you all will be making your very own clocks.

  • For example, “Guess what we are doing today? We are going to make our own clocks!”

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Fold the paper plates into halves. Have your child hold their paper plate and fold it in half. Then rotate the plate and fold it in half again. The paper plates should have a cross-like crease in the middle. You will use this crease as a reference point.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Place stickers and numbers on the clock. Have your child place a sticker on the top of the clock face where the number 12 should be. Then referencing the analog clock, ask them to write the number 12 under the sticker with a marker. Repeat this for the numbers 3, 6, and 9.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Fill in the clock. Once your kid has placed stickers and numbers on the 12, 3, 6, and 9, ask them to fill in the rest of the clock. Show your kid the analog clock as a reference.

  • For example, tell them to place a sticker where the number 1 should be. Then have them right the number 1 next to the sticker. Repeat this for each number.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Create pie slices on the clock. Have your child draw a line from the center of the clock to each number. Tell your child to color in each pie slice with a different color crayon.

  • Try starting with red at one o’clock, working upward through the rainbow for each number. This will help make the number progression more intuitive for your child than simply using random colors.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Make the clock hands. Draw 2 clock hands on a poster board—a long one for the minute hand and a short one for the hour hand. Have your child cut out the clock hands with scissors.

  • If your child is not old enough to use scissors safely, then cut the minute and hour hands out for them.
  • You can also make the clock hands with construction paper.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Attach the hands. Place the hour hand on top of the minute hand. Pierce a paper fastener through the ends of the clock hands. Then pierce the paper fastener through the middle of the clock. Turn the clock over and bend the fastener ends to secure the clock hands.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Hold the paper clock next to the analog clock. Note how similar they look to your kid. Ask your kid if anything else needs to be added to the clock. If nothing else needs to be added, then you can move on.

Part 3 of 4: Breaking down the Hours

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Differentiate between the hands. Point to both hands on the clock. Ask your kid what the major difference between the hands is. If they are struggling, you can give them a hint like, “Is one longer than the other?”

  • You can use the actual clock in your classroom to show your students how the second, minute, and hour hands are moving.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Label the clock hands. Once they have identified that the hands are different lengths, then explain the difference. Tell them that the shorthand is the hour hand and the long hand is the minute hand. Have your kid label the hands by writing down “hour” on the shorthand, and “minute” on the long hand.

  • Use differently colored crayons to show the relationship between the second, minute, and hour hands.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Explain the hour hand. Point the hour hand at each number, keeping the minute hand at 12 o’clock. Tell your kid that each time the hour hand points at a number and the minute hand points at 12 o’clock, it is ___ o’clock. Go through each number saying, “It is 1 o’clock now. Now it is 2 o’clock. It’s 3 o’clock…” Then have your kid repeat what you just did.

  • Make sure to use the pie slices and colors to your advantage. Reinforce the idea that whenever the hour hand is in a given pie slice, it is ___ o’clock.
  • You can even associate activities with each number to help solidify the hours; for example, “It is 3 o’clock now, which means it is time to watch your favorite cartoons,” or, “It is 5 o’clock now, which means it is time for soccer practice.”

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Quiz your child. With your kid’s help, pick a day of the week and write down a list of 5 to 7 activities with their associated times. Call out an activity and its associated time. Have your kid place the hour hand on the correct number. If necessary, gently correct your child’s mistakes.

  • Say, for example, “School has ended, which means it is 3 o’clock. Move the hands and show me 3 o’clock on your clock,” or, “It is 8 o’clock, which means it is time for bed. Move the hands and show me 8 o’clock on your clock.”
  • Make a game of setting the paper clock together to match the times of daily activities. Use a working analog clock as a reference tool.

Part 4 of 4: Breaking down the Minutes

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Explain the double meaning of the numbers. Explaining that the number 1 also means 5 minutes and that the number 2 also means 10 minutes can be quite confusing. To help your kid understand this concept, pretend that the numbers are double agents with a secret identity, like Clark Kent and Superman.

  • For example, tell your kid that the secret identity of number 1 is 5. Then have them write down a small number 5 next to the number 1. Repeat this for each number.
  • Make sure to point out that you are counting by 5s. Go over each number’s secret identity by singing your special “Count by 5s” song.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Explain the minute hand’s role. Tell your kid that the numbers’ secret identities come out when the long hand, i.e., the minute hand, points at it. Keeping the hour hand still, point the minute hand at each number and say the associated minutes. Than have your kid repeat the process back to you.

  • For example, point the minute hand at 2 and say, “It is 10 minutes now.” Then point the minute hand at 3 and say, “It is 15 minutes now.”

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Demonstrate how to read the hour and minute hand together. Once your kid has the concept of the minute hand down, you will need to teach them how to read the hour and minute hands together. Start with simple times such as 1:30, 2:15, 5:45, and so on. Point the hour hand at a number, then point the minute hand at a number. Then say what time it is.

  • For example, point the hour hand at 3 and the minute hand at 8. Tell your kid that the time is 3:40 because the hour hand is pointing at 3 and the minute hand is pointing at 8. Reinforce the idea that because the minute hand is the secret identity hand, it reads as 40 and not 8. Repeat this activity until your kid gets the hang of it.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Add tick marks for the non-5 minutes. Once your kid understands 5-minute intervals, add 4 tic marks between each interval. Start by writing 1, 2, 3, and 4 next to the tick marks between the 12 and 1. Encourage your child to fill in the rest of the minutes, counting out loud as you go. Then point the minute hand at a non-5 minute and the hour hand at an hour. Read the time.

  • For example, point the minute hand at the fourth tick mark and the hour hand at 3. Tell your kid that the time is 3:04. Repeat this process until your kid understands how to read the tick marks on the clock.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Quiz your child. With your child, make a list of 5 to 7 activities with their associated times. Have your kid move the hands of the clock to reflect the activities’ correct times. It is okay to help your kid in the beginning. Just make sure to repeat the activity until your kid can point the hands at the right numbers without your help.

  • Encourage your kid by rewarding them for doing a good job. Take them to the park or to the ice cream shop to celebrate a productive lesson.
  • Try to quiz your students every day by asking what time it is.

How to Teach Kids to Tell Time

Make it challenging. Once your kid has mastered the activity on their handmade clock, move to the analog clock that does not have the numbers’ secret identities. Repeat the activity with this clock to see how well your kid has mastered the concept of telling time.

Things You’ll Need

  • Paper plate (2)
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Poster board
  • Scissors
  • Paper fasteners
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