Telling the time is an important skill in everyday life, but some children find it very tricky to learn. It does help if your child has an awareness of time, how it relates to their own experiences (talk about morning, noon, night; “good morning, it’s 7 o’clock, time to get up”; “at 3 o’clock this afternoon, we will go for a walk” etc) before starting to try and tell the time on a clock. And by clock, I mean analogue – the one with the hands! It's all too easy these days to rely on digital clocks to tell us what time it is however they do not teach the complicated concept of time.
There are lots of activities you can do with your child which will help with telling the time, all of which can be done in the home as part of everyday life. There are some wonderful resources as well which will support that important home learning. Having a large analogue clock on the wall to which you refer is a great idea – using it to tell the time becomes habit and your child will start to make connections between the numbers, the positions of the hands and the activities in their day.
It really does help if your child is confident with numbers. Focus on telling time to the hour at first with your five/six year olds. Understanding the clockface is important – you can help them relate to morning and afternoon activities. Count through the hours – talk about what you regularly do at different times in the day. This gorgeous wooden sorting clock for younger children is a great toy as it starts to make sense of the hours and the idea of the circular nature of time (also great for fine motor skills and learning colours and shapes!)
I will always stress the importance of understanding the analogue clock. It is a huge part of learning time at Key Stage 1, where children are expected to be able to measure and begin to record time (hours, minutes, seconds); sequence events in chronological order using language (for example, before and after, next, first, today, yesterday, tomorrow, morning, afternoon and evening) and tell the time to the hour and half past the hour and draw the hands on a clock face to show these times. That is not to say that the digital clock is not important also and your child will, at some point, need to be able to make comparisons between the two. This Learning Resources set is perfect for beginning to learn both analogue and digital time.
Family time is always a great opportunity for learning! Do fun activities that include measuring time: use a timer for baking, play a board game with a sand timer, use a stopwatch to time a race or challenge. This bingo style game from HeadU is a lot of fun and can be played by all ages. Or why not have a family craft session and make a model clock yourselves – there are loads of templates online however I loathe cutting out circles so tend to go for a paper plate as a base. Arm yourself with some split pins, cardboard, scissors and felt tips and get creative.
When my son was learning to tell the time, we made one for every door of the house with different colours and backgrounds. I would set times on each one then create different challenges – find each one in order; what time is bath time (it would be on the bathroom door); how many clocks say 3 o’clock and so on. As he got older, I introduced half past then quarter past and to. I encouraged him to tell me when it was time for dinner, bed, x-box etc. By connecting time to his daily routine, he developed a good understanding of how it all worked!
by Allie White, educational consultant to BrightMinds
As a parent and former-teacher, Allie has a hands-on approach to home learning, believing that the best learning is done together in a relaxed environment.
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