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How to Teach Time to Kids

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Teacher teaching kids time.

Why does your preschooler need to tell time? Well, how many times have you said, “5 more minutes,” and then your child had a complete meltdown when it was time to leave the park?

Kids – little kids especially – have a different perception of time than adults. Their internal clock is in need of fine-tuning. That’s why it is essential to teach time to kids.

But how do you get started? Let’s take a look.

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Why Teach Your Kids to Tell Time?

A kid learning time.

If your child is going to learn how to tell time in the first grade, why waste your time teaching them when they’re 3 or 4? Well, it’s not a waste of time. In fact, it’s crucial.

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Remember that little internal clock we talked about? Telling time is a skill that helps to fine-tune a child’s internal clock. The more they practice, the better they will become at estimating how long it will take to do things.

This is a critical life skill. After all, none of us want our children to be late for their first major appointment because they can’t estimate how long it will take to get ready!

In addition, kids who can tell time are often better able to:

  • Manage their time
  • Handle transitions
  • Follow schedules
  • Be independent

All of these skills will come in handy as your child grows up and enters the school system.

6 Benefits of Teaching Your Kids the Basics of Telling Time Before Grade School

There are several advantages to introducing your preschooler to telling time before they enter grade school. Chief among them is the fact that it can help to ease the transition into a more structured educational environment.

If your child is used to following a schedule and telling time, they will be less likely to be thrown off by the bells and whistles of a formal school setting. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of giving them a leg up.

1. It Helps with the Transition into Kindergarten or Preschool

Preschoolers sitting on the floor.

If your child has been exposed to the concepts of time at home, they will be less likely to be confused or overwhelmed when they start kindergarten or preschool.

They will be used to following a daily routine and will understand that there are certain times for certain activities. This can help to minimize separation anxiety and make the transition into a new educational setting much smoother.

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For example, if your child is used to having lunch at 12:00 PM, they will be less likely to be upset when it’s time for lunch at school, and they see that the clock says 11:30 AM. They will understand that there is still 30 minutes until lunchtime.

2. It Encourages Independence

The sooner your child learns how to tell time, the sooner they will be able to start managing their own time. This is a valuable skill that will serve them well throughout their lives. Kids who can tell time are often more independent and are better able to follow schedules.

For example, if your child knows that they have to be in bed by 7:00 PM, they will be more likely to start getting ready for bed on their own at 6:30 PM. They will understand that they only have 30 minutes to get ready for bed and will be less likely to dawdle and delay.

In addition, kids who can tell time are often better able to handle transitions. If they know that it’s time to leave the park, they will be less likely to have a meltdown because they understand that they have to go home now.

3. It Helps Build Healthy Habits

If you want your child to develop healthy habits, teaching them how to tell time is a good place to start. For instance, if you want your child to brush their teeth for two minutes, they will be more likely to do so if they can tell time. They will understand that they need to brush their teeth for two minutes and will be less likely to cut their brushing time short.

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In addition, if you want your child to start eating breakfast at 7:00 AM, they will be more likely to do so if they can tell time. They will understand that it’s time for breakfast and will be less likely to dilly-dally and delay. Ultimately, teaching your child how to tell time can help to instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

4. It Promotes Early Math Skills

A kid learning math.

Telling time is a great way to promote early math skills. When you teach your child how to tell time, they will be exposed to concepts like numbers, addition, and subtraction. After all, telling time is all about math!

In addition, teaching your child how to tell time can also help to promote problem-solving skills. Telling time often requires kids to stop and think about what they are doing. They have to look at the clock and figure out what the numbers mean. This can help to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

5. It’s a Life Skill

Telling time is a life skill. Just about everyone uses a clock or watch on a daily basis. By teaching your child how to tell time, you will be giving them a skill that they can use every day. It’s a practical skill that will come in handy in all sorts of situations.

For example, if your child knows how to tell time, they will be less likely to be late for school or miss their dentist appointment. They will also be better equipped to handle everyday tasks like making lunch and getting dressed in the morning. 

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6. It’s a Fun Activity for The Whole Family

Teaching your child how to tell time doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it can be a fun activity for the whole family! There are all sorts of games and activities that you can do to help your child learn how to tell time.

You can make a game out of it and even turn it into a learning competition. Your child will have so much fun they won’t even realize they are learning!

So there you have it, six reasons why teaching your child how to tell time is important. Time is a valuable commodity, and it’s never too early to start learning how to manage it. So get started today and watch as your child’s confidence, independence, and math skills soar!

How to Teach Your Preschooler or Kindergartener How to Tell Time

Now that we’ve established the advantages, let’s explore some fun ways to teach your preschooler or kindergartener how to tell time!

1. Teach Them Basic Numbers

A kid learning basic numbers.

The first step in learning to tell time is to make sure your child knows their numbers. After all, telling time is all about math! If your child doesn’t know their numbers yet, that’s ok.

There are plenty of fun and interactive ways to teach them. You can start by counting with them every day.

For instance, if your child has any chores they do on their own, your you two do together, you can practice counting while they do them. “1,2,3,4,5… Great job sweeping the floor! Now let’s see if we can count to 20 while you put your toys away.” You can also work with them on counting tangible objects.

  • “How many toys do you need to put away? Let’s count!”
  • “How many forks do we need to wash?”
  • “How many houses are on this street? Let’s count as we walk!”
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The possibilities here are really endless. And as your child begins to understand numbers, they’ll be one step closer to telling time!

2. Add a Timer to Daily Events

Another great way to encourage both time management and add an element of fun to daily activities is to start using a timer. Another great way to help your child understand time is to use a timer. This can be a simple kitchen timer or even a digital one that you set on your phone.

The important thing is that it makes a loud noise when the time is up. This will help your child to understand that when the timer goes off, it’s time to move on to the next activity. You can set the timer for however long your child needs to complete their task, and then they can race against the clock!

This is perfect for things like:

  • Teeth brushing
  • Getting dressed
  • Homework or school projects
  • Practice time for an instrument or sport

Not only will this help your child to be aware of how long certain activities take, but it will also give them a sense of accomplishment when they finish before the timer goes off.

For example, when I was a toddler, my mom used to set a timer for 30 seconds. She’d say, “how many toys can you put away in 30 seconds?” I would run to put my toys away to beat my record every time.

Obviously, 30 seconds isn’t very long. But for a toddler, it’s an eternity! And I was so proud of myself when I could put away more toys in that short amount of time.

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You can use this same concept with your child, no matter their age. It’s a great way to teach them how to budget their time and work efficiently. And as an added bonus, it will likely speed up the pace at which they complete their tasks!

Using a timer is also the perfect opportunity to start talking to them about the concept of a job well done. If your child is brushing their teeth and beat’s the clock, but they still have chocolate wedged between their molars… beating the clock didn’t do them much good, did it? Now they’ll redo the job.

No one likes that. Just be sure that when you are pointing out the quality of their work, you:

  • Help them see for themselves what’s been left undone. For example, “Do your teeth look clean to you? Why or why not?”
  • That you don’t make redoing the task a punishment. Yes, they may not want to brush their teeth again. This is where you as the parent need to help them understand WHY it’s important that they get all of that chocolate out of their teeth and from around their mouth. Sometimes, to do a single task right, we end up having to do it more than once.

3. Use a Visual Aid

It can be helpful to use a visual aid when teaching your child how to tell time. A visual aid can be anything from a simple picture or chart to a fancy digital clock. One of the simplest and most effective ways to teach your child how to tell time is to use a visual aid.

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A visual aid can be anything from a simple picture or chart to a fancy digital clock. The important thing is that it’s something that your child can easily understand and reference when they need to.

For example, you could hang a picture of a clock in your child’s bedroom or playroom. Every time they see it, they’ll be reminded of how to tell time. And if you point out the different parts of the clock to them, they’ll start to understand how it works.

You could also create a simple chart that shows what time different activities should be done by. For example, breakfast could be at 7:00, teeth brushing at 7:30, and so on. This is a great way to help your child understand how to budget their time throughout the day.

Another option is to purchase a child-friendly digital clock. These clocks often have fun features, like animals that move around when the time changes. This can be a great way to help your child understand how to tell time, and it can also be a fun decoration for their room!

No matter what type of visual aid you choose, be sure to explain to your child how it works. And if they have any questions, be sure to answer them as thoroughly as possible. The more information they have, the easier it will be for them to understand how to tell time.

4. Invest in a Play Clock

A kid playing a wooden clock.

One of the best ways to introduce the concept of time is with a play clock. These are usually plastic or wooden clocks with big hands that are easy for little hands to move.

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You can find them at most toy stores or online. And they’re relatively inexpensive, so they make a great addition to your child’s toy collection.

There are all sorts of ways to use a play clock with your child. You can start by having them move the hands to match the time on a real clock. “Can you move the minute hand to the 12 and the hour hand to the 3? What time is it?”

You can also use the clock to time activities, just like we talked about earlier. “Let’s see if you can put your toys away before the clock hits 10. Ready, set, go!” And as your child gets more comfortable with the concept of time, you can start using it to teach them more complex concepts like half-past and quarter-past.

“Can you move the minute hand to the 6? Now what time is it?” Play clocks are a great way to introduce the concept of time in a fun and interactive way. And they provide endless opportunities for learning!

5. Use a Daily Schedule

One of the best ways to help your child understand time is to use a daily schedule. This can be as simple as a list of activities with the corresponding times.

For instance, you might have a schedule that looks like this:

  • 7:00 – Wake up
  • 7:30 – Eat breakfast
  • 8:00 – Brush teeth
  • 8:15 – Get dressed
  • 8:30 – Playtime
  • 9:00 – Storytime
  • 9:15 – Snack time
  • 9:30 – Outside time
  • 10:00 – Clean up

Of course, this is just an example. Your child’s schedule will likely look different than this. But the important thing is that they have a general idea of what they’re supposed to be doing and when.

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Schedules are a great way to help kids understand time because they provide a visual representation of how the day is going to progress. And as your child gets older, you can start involving them in the scheduling process.

For instance, you might ask them what they want to do first thing in the morning. Or you can let them choose between two activities for a certain time slot.

This not only helps them to understand how to use time wisely, but it also gives them a sense of control over their day. And that’s always a good thing!

Schedules are a great way to help kids understand time. But they’re also a great way to help kids stay on track and avoid becoming overwhelmed by their day. If you find that your child is constantly getting off schedule, or if they seem to be struggling with managing their time, then a daily schedule might be just what they need!

6. Watch Videos about Telling Time

To teach the mechanics of telling time, a great way to complement the activities above is to watch short, fun videos about telling time. These are readily available for free on YouTube and other platforms, and there are many different styles to choose from.

Look for videos that teach:

  • How to use an analog clock
  • How to use a digital clock
  • How to tell time to the hour
  • How to tell time to the half hour
  • How to tell time to the quarter hour

Some videos will also teach how to tell time in five-minute intervals, which is a great skill for kids to learn. As your child watches the videos, pause them frequently to point out key concepts and ask questions. For instance, you might ask: “What’s the big hand called? What’s the little hand called? How many minutes are in an hour?”

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You can also use the videos to help your child understand more complex concepts like half-past and quarter-past. “Can you pause the video when the clock says 10:30? What time is it?” “Can you pause the video when the clock says 12:15? What time is it?”

There are many different ways to use videos to teach time. And there are videos available for kids of all ages. So if you’re looking for a fun and interactive way to teach time, then videos might be a great option for you!

7. Read Books about Telling Time

The Clock Struck One: A Time-Telling Tale (Math Is Fun!)

Books are another great way to teach time. And there are many different books available on the subject.

Some of our favorites include:

These are just a few examples. There are many, many more great books out there. And like the videos, they’re available for kids of all ages.

When reading the books, pause frequently to point out key concepts and ask questions. For instance, you might ask: “What’s the big hand called? What’s the little hand called? How many minutes are in an hour?”

You can also use the books to help your child understand more complex concepts like half-past and quarter-past. “Can you turn to the page where the clock says half-past 10? What time is it?” “Can you turn to the page where the clock says quarter-past 12? What time is it?”

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8. Build a “Time Capsule” Together

This is a really fun activity that will help your child understand the concept of time passing.

You’ll need:

  • A shoe box
  • Construction paper
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Stickers
  • Old photos
  • Any other small mementos you want to include

First, sit down with your child and explain that you’re going to build a “time capsule” together. Explain that a time capsule is a box filled with things that represent this moment in time. It’s like taking a snapshot of your life right now.

Then, help them decorate the outside of the box. They can use construction paper to make a design, write their name, or even draw a picture of themselves. Once the outside is decorated, it’s time to start filling it with things!

You can include:

  • Photos
  • Tickets from events you’ve attended together
  • A letter to your child (or from your child to you!)
  • Drawings or paintings
  • Stickers
  • A special toy or trinket
  • Anything else you can think of!

The goal is to have a box full of things that will help you remember this time in your lives together. Once the box is full, seal it up and put it away somewhere safe. Then, set a date to open it together. It can be in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, or even 10 years!

This is a really fun activity that will help your child understand the concept of time passing. And it’s also a great way to create some lasting memories together.

If your child is having difficulty grasping the concept, there are a variety of cartoon episodes that talk about what a time capsule is and what it means. Arthur: Time Capsule Treasures is a great one. Watching one of these episodes together before starting the activity may help your child to understand it better.

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9. Make a “Time Map”

This is a really fun and interactive way to help your child understand the concept of time.

You’ll need:

  • A large piece of paper or a whiteboard
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils

First, sit down with your child and explain that you’re going to make a “time map” together. Explain that a time map is a way to visualize all of the different events that have happened in your life. It’s like a timeline, but it can include anything you want!

Then, help them draw a big line down the center of the paper. This will be the “timeline.”

Next, start adding events to the timeline. You can include things like:

  • Your birth
  • Your first steps
  • Your first day of school
  • Holidays
  • Any other special events you can think of!

As you add each event to the timeline, explain when it happened in relation to the others. For instance, you might say:

“I was born first, then I took my first steps, and then I went to school.”

You can also add things that are happening in the present. For instance:

“Right now, it’s summertime! And next week, we’re going on vacation.”

This is a really fun and interactive way to help your child understand the concept of time. It’s also a great way to get them thinking about all of the different events that have happened in their life so far.

10. Get Creative

A kid playing wooden clock.

Last but not least, there are tons of other fun and creative ways to help your child understand the concept of time.

Here are a few ideas:

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Make a homemade clock

Use an empty paper towel roll, some construction paper, and a marker to make your own clock! You can even add numbers around the edge to help your child practice telling time.

Play “I Spy”

This classic game is a great way to help your child notice all of the different things happening around them. Every time they see something, have them say what it is and when they think it will happen. For instance: “I spy a bird! I think it will fly away in 5 minutes.”

Make a time collage

Gather up some old magazines and have your child look through them for pictures of things that represent different times of the day. They can cut out the pictures and glue them onto a piece of construction paper to create a fun and colorful collage.

Do a scavenger hunt

Get a bunch of play clocks, and hide them around the house – with a piece of paper taped to them that says “find X time: i.e., find 10:30!” Start your child off with either a command or a piece of paper that says, “find the time 12:30!” Then your child can run around your house looking for the clock that says 12:30. When they find all the clocks with the right times, be sure to celebrate with them!

There are tons of other fun and creative ways to help your child understand the concept of time. These are just a few ideas to get you started.

How to Help Your Child If They Struggle to Tell Time

If your child is in grade school and they are struggling with telling time, there are a few things you can do to help them. Many of the strategies above can be applied to older kids who struggle to tell time -particularly the games.

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However, as a parent, your first job is to find out what things your child is struggling with. The games won’t be any fun, and the crafts won’t be edifying if you don’t know the root problem of why your child is struggling.

1. Talk To Your Child’s Teacher

A teacher teaching her student time.

If your child is in grade school, the best thing you can do is talk to their teacher. Your child’s teacher will have a good sense of where they are struggling, and they can give you some specific ideas of how to help them.

For instance, they might suggest that you:

  • Focus on a specific skill, like telling time to the hour
  • Do some activities that involve using a clock or calendar
  • Play some games that focus on telling time

Your child’s teacher is your best resource when it comes to helping your child with telling time. They see them every day, and they know what kinds of things they are struggling with.

2. Talk to Your Child

Your next step is to talk to your child. Figure out if there is a reason why they are struggling.

Are they having trouble reading a clock? Do they understand the concept of time, but they can’t seem to remember how to tell time? Are they getting frustrated because they can’t keep up with their classmates?

Once you have a better understanding of why your child is struggling, you can start to look for solutions. If they are having trouble reading a clock, you might want to try using a digital clock in the beginning, to make sure they grasp the concept. Then move on to an analog clock.

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If they understand the concept of time but they can’t seem to remember how to tell time, you might want to try some memory games or practice activities. If they are getting frustrated because they can’t keep up with their classmates, you might want to try some one-on-one activities or focus on a specific skill. The most important thing is to find out why your child is struggling before you start looking for solutions.

3. Buy a Watch or Wall Clock together

This is a great way to start the conversation about time with your child. Buy a watch or wall clock together, and then talk about what all the numbers mean. Be sure to let them pick out what they want!

Show them how to tell time on the clock, and then have them practice telling you what time it is. You can also use this opportunity to talk about things that happen at certain times of the day, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is a great activity to do together, and it will help your child start to understand the concept of time.

4. Try Some Games and Activities

Little girl playing time memory game.

Once you have a better understanding of your child’s struggles, you can start to look for games and activities that will help them. There are a ton of great games and activities out there that can help your child with telling time. Here are a few of my favorites:

Telling Time Memory Game

This is a great game for kids who need to work on their memory skills. To play, you will need note cards and a clock. Write the time on one-half of the cards, and then draw a picture of something that happens at that time on the other half.

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For example, if the time is 7:00, you might draw a picture of someone eating breakfast. Then mix up the cards and lay them out face down. Take turns flipping over two cards at a time, and if they match, the player gets to keep the pair. The player with the most pairs at the end of the game wins!

Telling Time Bingo

This is a great game for kids who need to practice identifying numbers on a clock. You can make your own bingo cards, or you can find printable ones online. To play, each player gets a bingo card and a marker.

The caller will then call out times, and the players will mark off the times on their cards. The first player to get five in a row wins!

Telling Time Maze

This is a great activity for kids who need to practice reading a clock. You can find printable mazes online, or you can make your own. To play, the player will start at the beginning of the maze and have to navigate their way to the end by following the arrows that tell them what time it is. This is a great way to help your child learn how to read a clock, and it’s also a lot of fun!

Telling Time Scavenger Hunt

Like we mentioned above, this is a great activity for kids who need to practice finding times on a clock. To play, hide clocks around the house or classroom, and then have the kids find them.

They can write down the times they find, or they can take pictures of the clocks. This is a great way to help your child learn how to tell time, and it’s also a lot of fun!

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What Time is it, Mr. Fox?

This classic recess game is fantastic for kids who need to practice telling time. To play, you will need a clock with movable hands and at least two players. One player will be Mr. Fox, and the other players will be rabbits.

Mr. Fox stands at one end of the yard (facing away from the rabbits) while the rabbits all line up at the other end. Then, they yell out, “What time is it, Mr. Fox?”. Mr. Fox yells out, “10!” Then the rabbits take 10 hops towards Mr. Fox.

This continues until Mr. Fox thinks the rabbits are close enough to catch. Then, when the rabbits shout, “What time is it, Mr. Fox?” Mr. Fox will yell, “MIDNIGHT!” and tag as many rabbits as he or she can.

For a fun twist on this game, let your child be the fox and give them a play clock with moveable hands. When they shout out a time, they also have to put the time on the analog clock and hold it up for the rabbits to see.

5. Be Patient

Everyone learns at their own pace. So, it’s important to be patient with your child as they are learning to tell time.

Encourage them and praise them for their efforts, but don’t get too discouraged if they don’t seem to be getting it right away. Just keep practicing, and they will get there!

Final Thoughts

Little girl holding a clock.

Like most things in life, you can never start too early when teaching your kids about time. Whether it’s telling time on a clock or learning how to budget and save, teaching your children early on will help them immensely as they grow older.

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When it comes to teaching time to kids, the most important thing is to be creative and have fun! There is no one right way to do it. Just keep trying different things until you find something that works for your child.

With a little patience and a lot of practice, they will be telling time like a pro in no time!

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