How To Start Teaching Your Child To Tell The Time

Telling the time is a key skill that is needed in everyday life and something that all children must learn to do.

It can be a tricky skill to learn, but with lots of practice, your little one will be able to tell the time on their own. Here are our top tips for teaching children how to tell the time, one step at a time.

Create An Awareness of Time

To learn how to tell the time, your child needs to first understand what time is and how it relates to the past, present and future. They might naturally know that it’s time for lunch or dinner, but most children will not understand what time is as a concept. 

To help them understand time, you can point out what time it is at distinct stages of the day. For example, try stating ‘It’s 12 o’clock, which means it’s time for your lunch now’. 

Meal times are a great place to start, but you can also use other notable times in their days, such as nap-time or bath-time. By associating specific events with particular times, your child will start to visualise time. This will help them make sense of their routine and daily occurrences.

After a while, you might be able to ask your child, ‘what time do we have lunch?’ and they should be able to give you an answer. 

Make A Game Involving Time

By involving time in a game or activity, you will further introduce your child to the concept of time.

For example, you could make an obstacle course and use a timer. Get your child to time you and then ask them how many minutes or seconds it took for you to complete the course.

Another activity could be to do baking using a timer. They’ll certainly have their eye on the clock while waiting for their baked goods to come out of the oven.

Why not also read time-themed storybooks as part of your children’s bedtime routine. This will build awareness around activities that happen at certain times throughout the day.

Increase Confidence with Numbers

In order to start learning to read the time, your child needs to have confidence with numbers. 

A good starting point is to make sure they can count from 1 to 12, and then 1 to 60. The next big step is to also become an expert at their 5 times tables. 

You can try practising times tables with your child on the way to nursery in the mornings. It’s easier and more fun with music – there are lots of songs on YouTube. When helping them learn, remember to point out that every number of the 5 times tables ends in a 5 or 0.

Use Analogue Clocks at Home

The best way to learn to tell the time is to first start with analogue clocks. This is because of the visuality of the clock face with its constantly moving hands.

If you haven’t already, try and put up an analogue clock somewhere in your house. You could also put one in your child’s room, so they become familiar with one. Your child will naturally start to recognise the numbers on the clock when they wake up each morning.

You can also purchase a teaching clock that allows you to move the hands around to create different times, which can help your child learn.

Make an Arts and Crafts Clock

Children learn best when they are having fun. A creative activity you can do with your child to get them excited about learning the time is to make your own arts and crafts clock at home.

Get a paper plate, and use cardboard to create a short and long hand. You will need a split pin to secure the hands onto the plate to still allow them to move around.

Your child can write the number on and decorate their clock. You now also have a useful tool to help your child practice learning the time!

Understanding The Clock Face

By now your child should be familiar with a clock face, but it is time to learn what each part means.

You can start by showing them the big numbers around the clock, and explaining that each number represents an hour. You can also show them the little lines around the clock, which represent the minutes.

Get your child to count the little lines on the clock – this will teach them that there are 60 minutes in 1 hour.

Understanding The Hands

Understanding the difference between the big and long hands is a crucial part of telling the time. 

After explaining that the long hand points to the minutes, and the short hand points to the hour, you can now start practising telling the time. 

Start by teaching your child how to tell the times of each hour, such as 3 o’clock. You can then add in the minutes once they gain confidence.

More About Little Angels 

At Little Angels, our team members are committed to helping your child develop, including how to teach children how to tell the time and the way in which time affects everyday life.

You can get in touch with us here or you can download or brochure here to learn more about us.