4 great tips to help teach your child to tell the time

by Anna Michaelidou

We all know how tricky it can be to learn to tell the time. Learning to tell the time is an important skill that all children will eventually have to master. Knowing a few basic tricks can be a great way to help your child on the right path to mastering telling the time.

Some children can find learning to tell the time challenging and difficult and often get confused at reading the clock hands or understanding the different ways of saying the time. We have come up with four great tips that we think will not only really help your child learn to tell the time easier but will also make learning to tell the time fun and enjoyable.

fun clock

1. Make sure your child can count to 60 and know their five times tables

Learning to tell the time will be a much easier process if your child is able to count from one to sixty in the right order. Introducing counting into their everyday lives is an essential part of the learning process and will help your child learn to count easily. Simple counting tasks and number games are also a great way of helping your child learn to count. Using objects and asking them to count them or sit outside on a sunny day and ask them to count the cars that go by.

Once your child has learnt to count from one to sixty you should now endeavour to ensure that they can count in groups of five; basically teach them their fives times tables. Learning the five times tables is one of the easiest to learn. There are plenty of songs available on the internet for you to teach them and help bring the fives times tables to life.

When you are sure your child is comfortable with counting and their fives times tables you will be ready to introduce them to a clock face. Start slowly just introducing them to the numbers they will see on a clock and ask them to point out all the numbers they know. Then ask them to recite their times tables, perhaps singing a song you have learnt together, whilst looking at the numbers.

2. Use a real-life large clock with a large face and moveable hands


Having a real-life clock for your child to practice on is a great way to help them really understand what telling the time is all about. You can either purchase a large clock with movable hands and remove the cover so that they can actually move the hands or you can create one with your child. Creating a clock will be a fun way of introducing your child to a clock but eventually a working clock is ideal for their continued practice.

Start off by explaining that the shorthand is the hour hand. Keep the minute hand at 12 and move the hour hand to various different positions on the clock. Explain to your child that every time the minute hand is exactly over the 12, it means that is is ___ o'clock. Let your child move the shorthand around the clock saying the times as he/she does so. Keep doing this until they are comfortable with the shorthand and understand the hour reading.

Next move onto the longhand and explain to your child that this is the minute hand. Keep the hour hand stationary and move the minute hand around the clock explaining what each position means as you do so. It is a good idea to start with the five minute marks and once they feel comfortable with them you can move onto the more difficult numbers. Let your child practice moving the minute hand on their own and telling you the time as they move around the clock.

Once your child feels comfortable reading the longhand and the shorthand times separately you can try to combine the times together. First show your child simple times such as 2:30, 7:15, 10:10 etc. and only once they feel comfortable should you move onto more complicated times such as 3:57 or 11:13.

3. Help your child understand time duration

Helping your child understand what telling the time means and how it plays an important part in our lives it is essential to make a habit of pointing out how to track the time. Start with simple things such as how long you should brush your teeth for, what time they need to be at school, how long a television programme lasts for and how long a cake needs in the oven.

Try to make a habit of pointing out the time you start something on a clock and again once that activity or action has finished. Try asking your child to see what time it is before they have to go to bed and if they have enough time to fit in a small game beforehand. Ask questions such as "how long do you think it will take to have a bath?" or "do you think we have time to pop to the shops before your piano lesson?".

Once you have established the basics of time duration ask your child to remind you of something you need to do at a specific time and try to remind them of certain activities they have to do in '15 minutes' or 'half an hour'.

4. Practice time-telling with fun games

Once your child has started familiarising themselves with how to tell the time you can reinforce their knowledge and help them become more comfortable with some fun games.

A great way to have some fun with a clock is by having your child create their own 'working' clock. All you need is a large paper plate, some felt-tip pens or paints, a short and a longer crayon/straw. Have your child draw the numbers on the clock face (the plate) by copying from a drawing or a real-clock. Have them draw a point in the middle of the plate and use the crayons to depict your shorthand (short crayon) and longhand (long crayon). Set them tasks to set the time making sure they understand that the longhand is the hour and the shorthand is the minutes. Or show them a time and ask them to tell you what time it is. For every correct answer they show you they could be closer to a prize or reward!

Another fun game for practising their time telling skills is to have them look at the clock and tell you what time it is. Then ask them to do something (it could be something like building a Lego tower or drawing a scary monster) and tell them they have three minutes. Once they have completed their task ask them to check the clock to see if they made it in the right amount of time. Again, reward each correct answer with praise and always encourage them whether they are right or wrong. Try to ensure an end goal prize too for extra motivation.

There is also a world of free online games for children to practice their time-telling skills. Always check that the games are suitable for their age group then allow them to spend some time practising their skills.

To conclude

Every child is different and each child learns at their own pace. Be patient and encourage your child along each step of the way of their telling the time journey. Reward them with praise as they master the different levels needed to achieve their goal. Try different fun activities and games to keep your child motivated and interested and reinforce concepts of time into their everyday lives; they will start telling the time with confidence in no time.