Online Tips for Teaching Kids to Tell Time

by Niclas Marie

Why not give your child a colorful toy clock to get used to learning about time?

Teaching children how to tell time has a reputation for being a challenging endeavor. While not the easiest lesson to impart, it can also be endlessly rewarding, as time-telling skills can significantly increase a child's cognitive abilities. Thankfully, guiding a child towards time-telling mastery can be made easier by simply appealing to his or her innate creativity and interests. By incorporating his or her favorite items and activities into lessons about time, concepts can be quickly grasped and understood. Read on for ways to make learning about time easy and fun.

Start by making it easy and fun

When teaching a child time, it can be a good idea to start by introducing him or her to abstract concepts rather than immediately delving into numbers. This will help your child get a feel for what time increments mean before he or she learns their numerical counterparts. Make a habit of announcing when certain events will take one, five or 15 minutes, and announce when they're over. You may find that using a stopwatch, alarm, or kitchen timer can help speed the process of learning. Time some of your child's favorite activities to help him or her personally connect with the intervals. Once these basics are learned, have your child progress to counting in groups of five. You can use interesting items, like building blocks or even bits of candy, to make this type of learning easy and fun.

Understanding analog clocks before digital

Digital and analog clock
Digital and analog -
the best of two worlds

After your child has demonstrated a basic understanding of time increments, incorporate an analog clock into your teaching. While a digital clock may seem like an easier instruction tool, the analog variety allows for the better comprehension of time by providing hands which consistently move. These traditional clocks will also help your child apply their newly-acquired ability to count by fives. Learning time on an analog clock may even help children grasp more complex abstractions, like spatial reasoning, sooner. Later, when your child is ready to learn how to tell time on a digital clock, take advantage of the "up" and "down" buttons to quickly show him or her different times for identification. Since the transition between analog to digital clocks can be a bit difficult for kids, print out worksheets that will help your child match times on analog clocks to their digital clock counterparts.

Learn the numbers from one to sixty

One of the best ways to prepare your child to learn how to tell time is to have him or her memorize numbers up to 60 in their correct order. Double-digit numbers can be especially challenging for children to assimilate, so it can be a good idea to regularly review them and their correct order, as well as their pronunciation. Mistakes or confusion in any of these areas can delay the learning of time-telling. Point out double-digit numbers to your child anywhere you see them in public, like in a grocery store, and have him or her repeat the numbers for you.

Grasping concepts of time

Incorporate general concepts like morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night times into your lessons. Let your child know when activities occur during specific times of the day. You may want to say, "We eat breakfast in the morning," or "We go to bed at night," to assist your child in learning these designated time blocks. Quiz your child every so often by asking them when certain events happen. Use some of your child's old word flashcards to show them an activity or setting that has a specific time block associated with it, and have him or her identify it.

Avoid figurative expressions at first

To avoid confusion while teaching time, consider choosing your words carefully while you're around your child. Relying on figurative expressions, like "in a minute" or "just a second", to convey ideas or actions may inadvertently make learning time more difficult for your child. Once your child has successfully mastered reading a clock, you can reintroduce him or her to these figures of speech. Until then, however, it can be important to differentiate between literal time concepts and decorative language.

Use storybooks to teach while having fun

Mother reading to her child
Once upon a time...

While teaching time is no easy task, it's an accomplishment your child can master with the benefit of your commitment and an active appeal to his or her interests. It's usually easier for kids to grasp the concept of time the sooner that they are introduced to it. Consider buying storybooks that feature time-related concepts, so that these lessons can be indoctrinated even while your child is still a toddler. In this way, your nightly "Once upon a time" can easily turn into daily lessons in time-telling.

Useful links for learning more

Visit these links for lesson plans and more tips on how to teach children time:

About the author

is the founder and CEO of TimeCenter Online Scheduling and lives in Helsingborg, Sweden. He loves to code beautiful and simple web apps, and occasionally enjoys a game of blitz chess.

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