How To Teach Your Child To Tell Time


How do you teach your child to tell time? It is a question we get asked all the time. They really do need to understand analogue clocks (the old round clock faces), to properly understand the concept of hours and minutes.

It’s something that kids from preschool throughout all of primary school learn – don’t worry if your child hasn’t quite grasped it as yet. Instead, try to incorporate it into every day – asking them to tell you the time and keeping both analogue and digital clocks available for them to look at.

Start with introducing analogue clocks, explaining the difference between the hour and minute hands. Move on to ‘on the hour’ then ‘half hour’ times, before moving on to ‘quarter past’ and ‘quarter to’ times. Finally, you want then to be able to identify any times. Be patient – this will take time (pardon the pun).

So, here’s a few of our favourite telling time activities that we have and still do use with our own children.

  1. Make ‘your’ times

school readiness

Time is quite an abstract concept. I especially noticed this when I tried to explain daylight savings to my son when he was 5 years old: “what?! You can change time?!!” Kids like to be able to relate concepts to real, tangible events and activities. So, we have this set of clocks on a wall at home: ‘our times’. It’s the times we leave for school, we go to swimming, we go to bed, and so on. It’s in both analogue and digital. We encourage the kids to look at these times, then compare it to the clock in the kitchen to see how long until we leave.

  1. Match the clock face to the die.

Telling Time

We are lucky that we have these nifty little desktop clocks with movable arms. However, you could make them out of cardboard with a press-stud button, so the arms move (I used to make them with paper plates). Use a 12-sided die (from educational supplies stores) to roll. Move the small hour hand to match whatever number you have rolled and call out that time. This is a good beginner activity.

  1. Clock numbers

How to teach telling time

Again, we’re using our nifty little clocks – but you can make your own. Or, you could even draw a clock face and ask your child to draw on the hands in the appropriate place. So: you can do this activity two ways. You could set the analogue times, then ask your child to complete the corresponding digital times. Or, you can write out part of the digital times (the minute half), then ask your child to take a number to make the ‘hour’ and make the corresponding analogue time on their clock. These are our magnetic numbers from the fridge!

This is an activity to try out after the kids have mastered on the hour and half past.

  1. Play dough clock hands

Telling time

This is actually an activity from one of our Brilliant Boxes. We’ve included it because it is one of the most popular ones – I think it’s because of the tactile nature of play dough! In our Brilliant Box, we have set of ‘clock cards’ with times on them. We ask kids to use the play dough to make corresponding times on their large clock face. You could write your own times (or, of course, buy a Brilliant Box J ).


  1. Paper plate clock

paper plate craft

I have included the image for this from the ‘Top Notch Teaching’ website – partly to remind me to tell you to check out that site. There is a huge amount of paper plate craft on that site – so, so many awesome projects that I have used with my own kids. (

But anyway . . . back to clocks. Making your own paper plate clock is great for practising telling time. You have to have movable arms. Most of these tutorials suggest using a split pin. To be honest, in our early days we used to do this in our Brilliant Boxes. Then we discovered that press stud buttons are SO much better than this for allowing the hands to move freely. We have more detailed templates in our Brilliant Boxes, but these basic ones are still good for practise.

We hope these ideas will help you help your children master the art of the clock! Telling time, takes time, so be patient and be brilliant!

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