6 easy ways to teach your kid to tell the time

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — September 28, 2018
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    When he is three or four years, you can teach your child time. Although he typically isn’t able to read a clock until he’s in kindergarten, or six, his sense of time develops long before then. Here are some strategies.

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  • Use the right lingo
    2 / 7 Use the right lingo

    It’s not just about reading accurately from a clock face. There are many related concepts such as “before” and “after”, “short” and “long”, “now” and “later”, for example.

    Use the appropriate language when talking to your child – for instance, tell him that although he is playing now, he will go to bed later, or that the cartoon he watched was short but the movie was long. You’ll notice that he eventually starts to use these words correctly as well.

    Related: 3 ways to teach your preschooler language, maths and science through everyday activities

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  • Break it down into phases
    3 / 7 Break it down into phases

    Bear in mind that your four-year-old’s day occurs in phases. For example, he has breakfast before lunch, he goes to bed when it is dark, he attends preschool during the day and is at home in the evening.

    His day follows a predictable cycle. Ask him about this; for example, “What do you do after breakfast?” or “Do you go to bed at the beginning of the day or at the end?” These questions encourage your child to think about time in relation to his own daily routine.

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  • Introduce the idea of minutes
    4 / 7 Introduce the idea of minutes

    Even though he doesn’t understand the relationship between seconds and hours, describe some activities in these terms.

    For instance, remind him that he will have to tidy his toys in five minutes, that he can play with his jigsaw for another 10 minutes, and so on.

    Through matching your mentions with his experience, he begins to develop an association between the two.

    Sooner than expected, he grasps that playing with something for two minutes is shorter than playing for 20 minutes.

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  • Show him how clocks work
    5 / 7 Show him how clocks work

    With a toy clock, show your son how the hands move round as the hours pass. Demonstrate the positions of the hands at specific times of the day.

    For instance, show him that he gets up in the morning when the hands are at, say, 7 o’clock; that he has lunch at 12 o’clock; that he goes to bed at 8 o’clock and so on.

    Although he is not exactly sure what that means, and he may not even be able to identify the numbers on the clock face, this activity builds on what he knows already.

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  • Play “time” games
    6 / 7 Play “time” games

    For instance, he’ll enjoy matching identical cards that have a basic clock face with different hours; you can have mini-competitions to see who can complete a drawing fastest; or you can give him pictures of different phases in the day and ask him to sort them in the correct order, starting from the earliest. Here are some suggestions for time-telling apps.

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  • Keep it fun
    7 / 7 Keep it fun

    Your child develops his understanding best when he is relaxed and enjoying himself. So don’t make it a stressful experience for the both of you.

    (Photos: 123RF.com) 

    Related: 5 fun play activities that your kids will love (don’t involve the iPad)

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