While there are plenty of digital options to make things easier, it’s still important for kids to learn how to tell time. Telling time for kids is a basic skill (like learning to tie shoes) that requires no further follow-up once they’ve mastered it. Plus, it can be a lot of fun. You can use your own wall clock as a good example or even purchase a simple clock at the store. Teaching kids to tell time may be a little frustrating at first, but once you figure out the best method to try, the pressure will lessen significantly.
Granted, teaching kids to tell time may be a challenge if they’re a bit reluctant. After all, many elementary kids have their own smart devices that’ll alert them to everything from when it’s time to eat to when school is over. But wall clocks still exist in many classrooms and homes, and being unable to identify the time is a setback.
Aside from sheer practicality, teaching your child how to tell time can be a joyful experience. All you need to do is think up a dynamic telling time game.
Telling Time Games for Kids
The website Education.com has a lot of free online games to help kids tell time. You can also create your own at home, though. Taking a clock, ask your child to move the big hand and little hand at certain times for practice.
- Another telling time game involves dice. Roll two of them and see where they land. If you roll a six and a two, ask your child what time that might represent (6:10 or 2:30 would both be correct.)
- If the weather is nice, you can even make your own clock outside using a hula hoop and some chalk. Ask your child to draw a clock face in it. Depending on their size, they can be the two clock hands as you call out specific times. Or you can simply use it as an oversized visual.
- Or you can make the kids use their bodies to enter the world of time. Draw a giant clock in your driveway, but don’t give it any hands. Instead, make some children be the hour hand while the rest are minute hands. Each time you want to show a time, have two of the children lie down on the clock and create it. By giving kids a chance to be part of the clock, they can build a better understanding. Sometimes, being incorporated into the learning process creatively can make it less intimidating.
- Cut out paper watches with different times and place one on each child’s wrist. Have the kids walk around and write down each other’s time on a piece of paper. Then check each kid’s list. The one with the most correct answers wins a prize. The children can also decorate and customize their paper jewelry, as long as they don’t obscure the face of the watch.
- To help reinforce what different times look like, give each child a time. On a big clock, move the big hand and the little hand to a specific time. When the child’s time is on the clock, that kid must stand up and make a dance move. When certain actions are associated with numbers, this helps kids remember the different times. Once everyone has gone, have multiple rounds to help reinforce the children’s understanding.
Best Methods to Teach Kids to Tell Time
Before you break out the clock, you’ll want to make sure your child can count up to 60. Otherwise, minutes may be a bit difficult. You’ll also want to practice counting by fives, as that’s very important. After your child has memorized these, the process will be a lot easier. It’s also imperative that your child knows how time breaks up in the day. For example, they should be able to distinguish between morning, afternoon, and evening.
Many kids may depend on the sun to figure out the time of day, but that’s not always the best method with Daylight Savings Time in play.
Expectations in Teaching Kids to Tell Time
MathGenie writes that the process should ideally start around age five. By that point, they should figure out both the hour and half-hour markers. It’d be great if they also broke that time into 15-minute increments, but that may take some time (#NoPunIntended) to grasp.
Don’t push roman numerals on your children too early, as that may scare them off. Yes, many clocks feature roman numerals. But while they’re helpful to know, it’s more of an advanced skill that you shouldn’t focus on when first teaching your child to tell time.
It may seem easy for parents, as we’ve been telling time for decades. We might have even forgotten how we learned. But this is a new skill for your child, and like everything, it might take them some time to master. Practice makes perfect. Once they master telling time, though, it’s something they won’t forget.
Make it fun and easy, and be prepared to quiz them when they start building confidence. If you’re out in public, you can point out a clock and ask your child what time it is. Eventually, all the pieces will come together in their minds.
This article was originally published on