How to Teach Children to Tell the Time

Our twin girls recently turned seven. They’re both clever, kind, caring girls who have a natural thirst for learning. I’m always amazed at the things they tell me they’ve learnt in school. In particular when they showed me some multiplication they’d learnt in school, I was amazed at how easy they’d found it.

Like many children, R and M, have a number of watches. Some have a digital display, others an analogue display. Naturally they find the digital display easiest to read in terms of telling the time, but I thought I’d try to teach them how to tell the time on an analogue clock.

I’m in no way an expert when it comes to teaching children anything, but after doing some research online, I found a way to teach them that seemed to be the easiest.

Before beginning I think it’s important that children have an idea as to what the concept of time is. For example, being able to distinguish ‘morning’ from ‘evening’, ‘lunchtime’ from ‘dinner time’ etc.

The first thing I did was draw an analogue clock (pictured below). As you can see I’ve split the clock in half by drawing a line down the middle. On the right hand side I’ve written ‘minutes past’ and on the left hand side I’ve written ‘minutes to’. In addition around the clock and being the numbers, I’ve written a smaller number. For example by the big number 1 you’ll see a small number 5, and again by the big number 2 you’ll see a small number 10. At the 12, 3, 6 and 9 points, I’ve written o’clock, 1/4 (15), and 1/2 past.

I then cut out some arrows to use as the minute and hour hands. These are attached with string so that they can be moved around the clock.

I then printed off some of the resources I found online here and here. I didn’t want to overwhelm the girls with too many print outs so I kept it simple and just a few of the ones I thought would work well including some blank clocks for them to draw the time on and have a practise with.

I found the page pictured below was a good starting point. By first teaching children that the clock has a minute hand and an hour hand, they can start to decipher the time by reading where the hands are pointing.

This ‘Tell the time in 5 minute intervals‘ print out was also an excellent resource to use. I really like how each part of telling the time is broken down into questions so that when the answers are read out it tells the time.

I sat down with our girls and together we worked through the pages of the booklet and stopped now and again to have a go at using the clock I’d drawn to make it display a specific time. I also found that printing out some blank analogue clocks was another good way for the girls to practise and get used to drawing the minute and hour hands so that they could differentiate between the two and make telling the time a bit easier.

With practise and regular discussions about how to tell the time I’ve found that our girls have picked up how to read an analogue clock quite quickly. I think we’ll need to keep at it for another week or two, but so far their progress has been really good.

When we’re out and about I try to encourage our girls to wear their watches. That way I can make it a habit to ask the girls for the time and get some extra practise in!

Have you taught your children the time yet? Do you have any tips to share? Let me know in the comments below.

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