How to teach a child to tell the time

It may seem challenging to teach young children to tell the time correctly, but with a fun and interactive approach, it can easily be understandable for them. For a child to understand time properly, you will need to practice often with him and include games and a lot of visual aid. 

The following ideas will ease the job of teaching a child how time works:

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Understanding the general concept of time

When teaching a child to tell the time, you can start from the general concept of time. It will allow him to be acquainted with the role of time in his everyday life. The general concepts of time include morning, afternoon, evening and nighttime.

You can relate these time concepts with daily happenings. For instance, the morning is for waking and breakfast while the night is for dinner and sleeping. It will also be helpful if you visualise the explanations by creating a schedule chart.

Read: How can I help my child retain information

Counting

For a child to be able to tell the time efficiently, he has to be able to recognise numbers and count accurately. You can achieve this by including counting in their daily activities and play. For instance, have your child count bottles in the freezer or decide the number of orange slices. You can also spice it up by using counting songs. Ensure you encourage learning by rewarding your child after every excellent performance.

Make a clock for your child

A sure way of getting your child fascinated about time is making a clock for him. Through making a clock with your child, you can teach him how to tell the time. For instance, the candy wheel clock can be made with candy sticks, cardboard papers, glue and scissors. As an alternative, you can get toy clocks – which comes with additional benefits that include easy colours, numbers and shapes identification.

Differentiating and labelling ‘clock hands’

The hands on the clock represent the minutes, second and hours, and you will want to ensure your child grasp that. You can start by helping your child identify the key differences between the clock hands. You can point to the clock hands and ask ‘which is taller and which is shorter?’. Provide a clue if he finds it difficult to get the answer.

After your child has successfully identified the length of the clock hands, you can begin by labelling them. Tell him the minute is the long clock hand while the hour is the short clock hand.

Explaining hours

Please start with the hour because it is straightforward to understand. You can begin by teaching your child how the hour hand functions. For instance, you can say ‘if the hour hand points to 3, then it is 3 o’clock’. Try connecting it to specific daily activities; say ‘it is 3 o’clock, which means lunchtime’. Ensure you always quiz your child along the line to get the necessary feedback. 

Explaining minutes

Minutes can be quite challenging for your child to grasp. You will need to exercise patience and simplify it for him to understand. Start by explaining the multiplicative nature of minutes by saying ‘if the long hand points at one, then it is 5 minutes…. Keep repeating each number. You can use an actual or hand-drawn clock as a reference. 

Read:How do you know if your child is a slow learner?

Explaining the relationship between hours and minutes

Now, your child has grasped the concept of minutes; he needs to understand the relationship between hours and minutes. It will help him jointly read the minute and hour hands. You can begin with less difficult times like 2:30, 1:45, 7:15 and the rest. For instance, point the hour hand at 2 and the minute hand at 6 and say ‘it reads as 2:30’. Keep practising the time reading until your child understands it. 

The mountain, hills and rock method of teaching time

An excellent strategy for teaching your child how to tell time is the mountain, hills and rock method ( if he is above six years of age). Since children have great imagination and visual creativity, it will be easy for your child to learn time in this way. You can draw a picture of a mountain, hill and rocks. Tell your child that mountain, hills and rocks represent an hour, five to thirty minutes and one minute respectively. 

Read: What age should a child be able to tell the time?

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