Teaching your child to tell the time? Here are our 9 practical tips and tricks to help you get started

Learning how to tell the time is something we all remember from kids and is as important a skill today as it ever was. 

It can be especially difficult today, as both us parents and our kids rely on smartphones and devices for everything. It’s not uncommon for there to be no traditional, analog clocks around a modern home – which can make this important skill all the more difficult to start getting to grips with. 

Time is such an important concept, which makes it good to teach and build familiarity with as early as possible. And while it can be tricky, at least at first – with a little effort, you’ll have your little one telling the time, in no time at all!

So, without further ado – here are our 9 practical tips and tricks to help get you started with teaching your little one to tell the time. 

9 practical tips and tricks to help your child telling the time

1. Get them to count up to 60

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to get your child counting up to 60 – if they can’t yet do this, there’s not much point in starting to teach them how to tell the time. 

Typically, children should be able to do this at some point between the ages of 5 and 7 – but that said, of course, it doesn’t hurt to do what you can to speed this process along. 

So, before you do anything else, spend time helping to get them confident in their counting. Count with them, write out the numbers 1-60 on a sheet of paper, invest in a few counting wall charts – whatever it is that helps to get them ready to start telling the time. 

2. Get them counting by 5’s

Once you’ve got past step 1, the next thing is to get them used to count by 5’s. It sounds easier than it is, as while you might not realize it, you’ve been teaching your children to count in multiples of 10 – which can make the switch to counting in 5’s a little confusing at first. 

At this point, you’ll also want to introduce them to the concept of time telling. You can do this by grabbing a clock and starting to explain to them what all the various hands and numbers are all about.

After a while – and once they’re confident counting by 5’s – you’re ready to get to the actual time-telling.  

3. Get an analog wall clock and hang it in a prominent location

If you don’t already – go out and invest in a few clocks. You might want to hang a dinosaur clock on their bedroom wall, a hallway, or in the living room. Look out specifically for clocks designed to make learning to tell the time easier, as these will go a long way to making your job as a teacher much more straightforward. 

It’s also worthwhile getting them a dinosaur watch, letting them take a clock with them wherever they go, giving them the ability to practice and refine their time telling ability on-demand, with or without the help of mommy or daddy. 

While it should go without saying – we’ll say it anyway – you want an analog clock, not a digital one. Your house already has plenty of digital clocks as all over the place. On microwaves, video and DVD players, smartphones, and tablets – so there’s no need to invest in any of these. 

4. Why not make a paper plate clock

Another great teaching aid when helping children learn to tell the time is to make a paper plate clock. They’re really easy to make. Just pick up a few paper plates, grab a few popsicle sticks for hands, and grab a pen and start writing the numbers on the clock’s face. 

With your newly constructed paper plate clock, you’ll be able to quiz your child on time – moving the hands and asking them to tell you what it says. This simple, 2-minute craft will be one of the best secret weapons in your time-telling toolbox. 

5. Bring up and discuss the time throughout the day

Now that your home is equipped with a prominently displayed analog wall clock – make as much use of it as possible! If it’s bedtime – point it out on the clock – lunchtime, dinner time, whatever it is, use these significant points throughout the day as an opportunity to turn to the clock and get a bit of time telling practice in. 

Once your child starts getting the hang of telling the time, ask them what time it is, instead of calling it out yourself. Let’s say it’s coming up to their bedtime – ask them to tell you what time it is by looking at the clock. All of this offers a practical, day-to-day practice that will get your little one confidently telling the time in no time at all.

6. Try to point out how long certain activities take to complete

Another tip – and one quite similar to our last – is to point out how long certain activities take, helping them to appreciate better and understand time, making it more relatable to daily, real-world activities. 

For example, maybe when they brush their teeth, point out that they need to do it for two minutes – or if you have to attend to something, maybe in the kitchen, or do other chores around the house – let them know that you’ll be busy for the next 30 minutes before you get started. 

Doing this will help make time telling real – making it far easier for your little ones to relate better what they see on the clock with the world around them. 

7. Do your best to avoid the use of figurative expressions

Learning to tell the time can be confusing at first – so do your best to avoid expressions like “I’ll be there in a minute”, to prevent any unnecessary confusion. 

In general, avoid saying “in a minute” or “in a second” as much as possible. Do this, at least until your little one has started to get to grips with the basics of time-telling. 

8. Remember to keep it simple at the start

It’s crucial to keep things as simple as possible, at least at the start, until your child shows signs that they’ve really started picking up the basics. 

We mean by this to start off with hours – forget the minute hand until they’re ready. Once they’re comfortable with hours, kick it up a notch to 15-minute increments, then 5-minute increments, then on to minutes. 

9. Practice makes perfect

As with any skill, the key to perfect it is plenty of practice. Your little one is going to need time to develop mastery of time-telling, so it’s important as parents to make a habit of going over the basics with them again and again until they do. 

And doing so can be pretty straightforward; just incorporate it into your usual routine. For example, the next time your child asks what time dinner will be ready, don’t just tell them – use this as an opportunity to go over telling the time again. The more you do this, the easier they’ll find it.

Final thoughts

Well, there you have it – our nine tips and tricks to help get your little one telling the time like a pro, in no time at all.

Telling the time is a pretty important skill, and while most of us are reliant on our smart devices and digital clocks for the time these days, it’s still essential to know, and something that is very much a right of passage when growing up. 

We hope that this article has been useful and that it shows you that it doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact, learning to tell the time can be a pretty fun activity that you and your child can have plenty of fun together with. 

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