6 Tips For Teaching Kids To Tell Time

August 11, 2019

As adults, there’s a bevy of skills we take for granted; ones that seem innate and are carried out without a second thought. However, everything from tying shoes, brushing teeth — and yes, telling time on an analog clock — is learned through hard work and perseverance growing up. You may seldom think of the mental reasoning required to tell time on a traditional clock, but it can bubble to the surface after you have children.

Teaching kids how to tell the time correctly on an analog clock is by no means an easy process. As mobile and digital technology proliferate, more young children will see digital clocks daily, further complicating the task of teaching how to tell time the old-fashioned way. However, hands-on play, games, visual support, practical exercises, and lots of practice can go a long way in teaching kids to tell time.

How Old Should Your Child Be When You Teach Them About Time?

As a child’s brain develops, their neural connections become stronger and better equipped to comprehend concepts once too abstract or advanced for them. An example of this is object permanence (peek-a-boo, anyone?) or understanding the reality of dangers and consequences. Those mental grasps that become tighter apply to telling time, as well.

That said, there are a few critical ages where you should teach kids about time. Here’s a look into the incremental process in which children should be able to tell time — and be receptive to its teaching:

5-6 years old: Children should be able to read the hour and half-hour markers on an analog clock. Additionally, they should be able to draw the corresponding times.

6-7 years old: Children should know the number of minutes in an hour as well as hours in a day. They should be able to tell and draw time in five-minute increments.

7-8 years old: Children should be able to read an analog clock and be comfortable using time-specific vocabulary, such as o’clock, a.m./p.m., and general times of day (morning, afternoon, noon, night, and midnight).

While this timeline is a general snapshot of standard progress, it’s by no means ironclad. As one of the best preschools in Bucks County, PA, we understand that children learn at their own pace — and they need help along the way! Try some of these tips to make learning to tell time easier and even fun for your kids.

Teach Them to Count to 60 and By Fives

Your child won’t be able to learn time without understanding how to count to 60 or how to count by fives. Counting to 60 is easy to teach; have your child write the numbers 1-60 on a piece of paper, then hang it somewhere prominent. Take opportunities when you’re out and about to point out higher numbers, such as price tags, and have your child tell you what number it is. As for fives, use that same list your child used to count to 60 and have them clearly mark each increment of five. In both cases, using a catchy song can help and make learning more fun. You can look for a song on YouTube or make one yourself!

Place an Analog Clock in a Prominent Location

They say the best way to learn a language is immersion, and when you think about it, time is kind of like its own simple language. Pick up an analog clock or two and place them in visible locations in your house, such as above the living room TV. Your child will get used to seeing time in analog format. Plus, it’ll make other tips on this list easier!

Make a Paper Plate Clock

Time for some hands-on fun! Buy a couple of paper plates — one for you and one for your child. Spend some time creating paper clocks together. Start by labeling the hour numbers, then trace your hour and minute hands on a decorative piece of paper. Punch a hole through the middle of the plate and through the bottom of each hand, then use a brad (those little brass fasteners) to hold it all together. Now, you can use these paper clocks to quiz your kid on the time.

Discuss the Time at Significant Points Throughout the Day

Use that analog clock to your advantage of talking about the time during significant points throughout the day. For example, your child might know their bedtime is 8:30 pm. When it’s bedtime, ask them what number the little hand is pointing to. If they’re ready to go further, ask them about the big hand. They’re learning by relating important times of the day to the numbers on the clock.

Point Out How Much Time Certain Activities Take

In a similar vein to the previous tip, inform your child of how long daily activities take. For example, you could tell them brushing their teeth takes two minutes. Or perhaps you have to leave in a half-hour. Let your child know you have 30 minutes until you have to go and ask them what time it’ll be when it’s time to leave.

Avoid Figurative Expressions

“I’ll be there in a minute” is easy for us to understand, but nothing’s more confusing to a kid than using time terms in this fashion. Do your best to avoid saying “in a minute” or “in a second” until your child has a thorough understanding of all the basics of time.

Right Steps Education: Your Kids’ Resource for Education and Lifelong Skills

Our staff is committed to helping enrollees develop the skills and engage in the activities necessary to learn, grow, and of course, develop healthy relationships between parents and children! From helping your child learn how to tell time to exposure to a variety of opportunities for reading, writing, and much more, our programs encourage students in a fun, educational environment. Ready to learn what our boutique preschool and childcare center can do for you and yours? Reach out to us today for more information!

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