How to teach children to tell the time

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When we grow up, each new discovery is a small achievement. To manage to consciously marking time, for example, it represents a first taste of independence and helps the child to learn fundamental notions such as managing the moments of the day (hours of play, bedtime, etc.) or the simple concept of punctuality. So here are some tips to help the child ad learn to read the time and the clock.

In this article

  • Learning to tell the time: the basics
  • Learn to tell the time through play
  • Read the clock: hands, hours and seconds
  • Exercises

Learning to tell the time: the basics

Before learning to read the clock, you need to make sure your child can count to 60 and who knows - at least superficially - i multiples of 5. For this reason, time reading in schools is usually taught in the first grade, when pupils should already be familiar with the most basic calculus in the mind.

At home, mum and dad can therefore strengthen these skills by stimulating the little one to do some reckoning with nursery rhymes, songs or simple games that help make it safe and confident when it comes to numbers.

When the child feels ready, you can start working on the clock.

Read also: How to teach left and right to children: tips, games and nursery rhymes

Learn to tell the time through play

Learning is easier when you have fun. For this reason, the simplest and most widespread method for teaching children to tell the time is to build a clock together and practice with the hands.

It's actually much easier than it might seem - just one paper plate on which to mark the 12 hours and a card from which to cut out the hands. If you are unwilling to simulate the movement of the hands on the dial and not just place them on it, it will be sufficient to drill the center of the plate and fix the hands with a stylus or fermacampioni.

Read also: 15 ideas for teaching children to tell time

Read the clock: hands, hours and seconds

Once you have built a beautiful clock, you will need to carve out a moment of the day to take all the time you need ... to talk about time!

What are the hands for?

The first thing to explain will be there subdivision of the day into 24 hours, with 12 hours in the morning and 12 hours in the afternoon / evening. The child has probably already heard time references such as "noon", "hour", "second" or "minute", however it is better to check that these concepts are already in place, otherwise a little review will be necessary. It is also important to be clear that the hands circle the clock twice during the day, because only 12 hours are marked on the dial.

Then we go directly to the reading of this strange object.

  • Short hand: marks the hours.
  • Long hand: mark the minutes.
  • Smaller hand: marks the seconds (OPTIONAL: it can be shown directly on an analog wristwatch, without making a third hand on our do-it-yourself watch).

Here, therefore, we will explain how to know the time you need to perform a simple action procedural:

  • Look at the short hand to know what time it is (1 to 12)
  • Look at the long hand to find out what minute we are in that same hour (from 1 to 60).

An example? Move the short hand to one and the long hand to 6 and show the time of half past one (i.e. thirty minutes after one o'clock).

Read also: How to teach the alphabet to children


Once you have learned the basics, you can start practicing.

Hour hand

Better to start from the hours, much easier, and ask the child to move the hand to correspond to the times that we will tell him ("one o'clock", "five o'clock", "eleven o'clock" etc ...). To put it a little in trouble, it is also possible to propose two times in succession such as four in the morning and four in the afternoon (which occupy the same space in the quadrant). If in doubt, re-explain the distinction between antimetidiano schedule e postmeridiano.

Minute hand

When the hours have no more secrets for the little one, we move on to the minutes. We start by moving the hand and clearly saying what time we are indicating, then we will ask him to do the same thing.

The next step will then be to resume the concepts of "quarter of an hour" and "half an hour", showing the division of the quadrant into four portions where the cleat drawn on the dial at multiples of 5 it is thicker and longer. Once this explanation has been completed, you can ask to show some more complex times: "a quarter to three", "six and three quarters", "nine and a half and so on".

  • learn while having fun
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