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Teaching Time: Strategies for Helping Preschoolers Learn How to Tell Time

how to tell time
Time is a fundamental concept that governs our daily lives. It helps us to plan our day, organize our tasks, and keep track of our schedules. Learning how to tell time is a crucial life skill every child needs to learn. It not only helps children to become independent and responsible, but it also helps to 
build kids’ mathematical skills.

However, learning to tell time can be challenging for preschoolers. Understanding the concept of time and the mechanisms of a clock can be quite difficult for young children. As a result, it is essential to find effective teaching techniques and strategies that can help to simplify this learning process and make it fun and engaging for preschoolers.

This article will explore effective ways to help preschoolers learn how to tell time using analog clocks. We will discuss teaching techniques and strategies that can help to introduce time concepts, analog clocks, and the hour and minute hands. We will also explore different exercises and games that can be used to practice telling time and reinforce learning. By the end of this article, you will better understand how to teach preschoolers how to tell time and help them develop this important life skill.

When Do You Begin Teaching Your Preschooler to Tell Time

Teaching your preschooler to tell time is an important life skill that will benefit them in many ways. However, determining the right time to begin teaching your child can be a bit of a challenge. Generally, it is recommended that you start teaching your child to tell the time when they are between the ages of four and five years old.

At this age, most preschoolers have a basic understanding of numbers, and they can count from one to ten. They are also beginning to develop their sense of time and have a good understanding of basic concepts like “now,” “soon,” “yesterday,” and “tomorrow.”

Get Your Preschooler Ready To Tell Time

get your preschooler ready to tell time

Getting your preschooler ready to tell time is an exciting milestone that can help them better understand the concept of time and develop their cognitive skills. However, before you begin teaching your child how to read the clock, it’s important to make sure they have the necessary foundation. Here are some tips to help you get your preschooler ready to tell time:

  • Teach them how to count to 60: Help your child learn to count to 60 by counting with them during playtime while driving in the car or during meals. This will help them recognize numbers and become familiar with counting up to a minute.
  • Concepts of time: help your child understand the basic concept of time by talking about routines and daily schedules. Explain the difference between morning and night, and talk about activities that happen at certain times of the day, such as breakfast or bedtime.
  • Whiteboard or flashcards: Having a whiteboard or flashcards can be a great way to practice telling time with your child. You can draw a clock face and have your child practice setting the time or create flashcards with different times for them to read.
  • Teach them the concept of “half-past” and “quarter-to/after. Preschoolers can learn the concept of “half-past” and “quarter-to/after” by using everyday objects such as snacks or toys. Show them how a snack can be divided into halves or quarters, and relate this to the concept of telling time.

By preparing your preschooler with these essential skills, they will be better equipped to learn how to read the clock and tell time. Keep it fun and engaging, and encourage your child’s curiosity and exploration. With your guidance and support, your child will be telling time in no time!

Essential Materials for Teaching Time

materials for teaching time

When it comes to teaching your preschooler how to tell time, having the right materials can make all the difference. Here are some essential materials that you’ll need to get started:

1. Analog clock

Analog clock with clear markings and hands that move easily is essential for teaching your child how to read the time. Look for a clock with big numbers and bold hands that are easy to see and manipulate.

2. Play-clock

play clock is a great tool for teaching your child to tell time. It allows you to move the minute hand to show any time, making it easy to demonstrate different times of the day and help your child practice reading the clock. You can use the play clock to practice setting the time, reading different times, and talking about the concept of time in general.

3. Printouts of clocks

These printouts are excellent visual aid when teaching your child how to read the clock. The clock face is divided into 12 sections, like a pizza, with each section representing an hour on the clock face. This type of clock can be helpful for preschoolers just learning to tell time, as it can help them visually understand the relationship between the hour hand and the numbers on the clock face. Additionally, some printouts may include minute markings around the edge of the clock face to help with learning to read the minute hand as well.

Teaching Preschoolers How to Read Time: Step by Step

Now that you have all the materials needed. It is time to start teaching your preschooler how to tell time! Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

1. Recognizing the Components of a Clock

components of a clock

Recognizing the components of a clock is the first step in teaching preschoolers how to tell time. Children need to understand the different parts of a clock before they can start learning how to read the time. You can use various teaching techniques to help your child recognize the different components of a clock.

Start by showing your child a simple analog clock with large, easy-to-read numbers. Then, point out the hour and minute hands to them. Explain to them that the hour hand is shorter than the minute hand and tells us the hour, while the longer minute hand tells us the minutes.

To reinforce this concept, you can use visual aids like flashcards or pictures. You can also use a toy clock that your child can manipulate and practice telling time on. Encourage your child to practice moving the hands of the clock and to identify the position of the hour and minute hands.

2. Telling Time to the Hour

Once your child understands the parts of a clock, it’s time to move on to telling time to the hour. Begin by teaching your child how to identify the hour using the hour hand. Explain that the hour hand points to the hour that it is currently. Then, show them how to determine the time to the hour by checking whether the minute hand is at 12. If the minute hand is at 12, it is that hour o’clock.

One way to practice telling time to the hour is to mix up asking your child what time it is on a clock and having them set the clock to a time you provide. For example, you can ask your child to show you what 5 o’clock looks like. It can also be helpful to look for opportunities to “discover” time to the hour on a digital clock. For instance, if your child’s bedtime is at 8:00 p.m., you could tell them that it’s time for bed when the clock shows two zeroes after 8. This will help them understand what time means and how it relates to their daily routines.

3. Telling Time to the Half-hour

Once your child is comfortable telling time to the hour, the next step is to introduce them to telling time to the half-hour. Kids must recognize times like 2:30, 8:30, or 10:30 by sight.

It is important to point out to your child that the hour hand is not always pointing directly at the big number. Instead, we always look at the big number that the hour hand is right after.

One way to help children grasp this idea is to draw lines straight across your clocks, splitting them into pizza-like pieces. For instance, the pizza slice for two o’clock would range from the clock’s two to three. This will help your child understand that when the hour hand is halfway between two numbers, it means that it’s half past the hour.

After reviewing the components of the clock, remind your child that when the minute hand points to the 6, it is half past the hour. Encourage your child to practice telling time to the half-hour by asking them questions like, “What time is it when the hour hand is between 2 and 3 and the minute hand is at the 6?

4. Telling Time to Five-Minute Intervals

When your child can count by fives, it’s time to teach them how to tell time to the five-minute interval. This is an essential skill for telling time accurately and understanding schedules.

Explain to your child that they can count by fives around the clock to determine how many minutes it is past the hour. For example, if the minute hand is pointing to the 3, they can count by fives to figure out that it is fifteen minutes past the hour.

To help your child understand this concept, you can use visual aids like a clock with five-minute intervals marked on it. 

Continue working on telling time up to 30 minutes past the hour, such as 5:15, 5:20, or 5:05. Still, it’s best to avoid times past the thirty-minute point, such as 5:45 or 5:50, as these can be challenging for young children to grasp.

Practicing this skill regularly will help your child become comfortable with telling time to the five-minute interval and set a strong foundation for learning more complex time-telling skills later on.

5. Teach Times Past the Thirty-Minute Point

teach times past the thirty-minute point

Teaching kids to read times past the 30-minute mark can be challenging as it may cause confusion. For example, times like 3:45 or 6:55 can be tricky because the hour hand moves closer to the next hour. This can lead young children to misread a clock face, like when they see 4:50; they may read it as 5:50 because the hour hand seems to point to the 5.

However, when your little one seems ready, utilize the play clock to help kids observe how the hour hand gradually moves from one number to the next as the minute hand makes its rounds. You can then begin working on times like 40 and 45 minutes past the hour before moving on to times like 50 and 55 minutes past the hour.

It’s also important to talk to your preschooler about why the hour hand may look like it’s pointing to the 4 when the time is 3:55. One useful way to explain this is to split the clock face into pizza slices that represent the hours. By doing so, you can easily explain to your child that the hour hand is not quite in the next pizza slice yet, which is why it appears to point to a different number. With a bit of practice, your child can easily read times past the 30-minute mark.

Fun Activities to Help Preschoolers Learn to Tell Time

Incorporating these fun and engaging activities into your child’s daily routine can help them better understand how to tell time. By making learning enjoyable and interactive, you can help your child to build the skills they need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.

1. Clock Crafts and Games

One fun way to help preschoolers learn to tell time is through clock crafts and games. You can create your clock faces with paper plates, construction paper, and markers and then use them to play games like “What’s the time, Mr. Fox?” or “Tick Tock Bingo.” Another option is to make a clock out of a cardboard box and have your child practice moving the hands to different times. These activities are not only enjoyable but also help children to develop a better understanding of how clocks work.

2. Time-related Storybooks and Songs

time-related storybooks

Another way to help preschoolers learn to tell time is through time-related storybooks and songs. Books like “The Grouchy Ladybug” by Eric Carle or “What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile?” by Judy Sierra introduce children to the concept of telling time in a fun and engaging way. Similarly, songs like “Hickory Dickory Dock” and “The Ants Go Marching” can also help children to learn how to count and tell time. Incorporating these books and songs into your child’s daily routine can make learning to tell time more enjoyable and memorable.

3. Interactive Clock Apps and Online Games

Interactive clock apps and online games are other great tool for teaching preschoolers how to tell time. These games often include colorful graphics and interactive features that make learning more engaging. Some popular apps and games include “Tic Toc Time” and “Stop the Clock.” These tools not only help children to learn how to tell time but also encourage them to practice and reinforce what they have learned.

Final Thoughts

Teaching preschoolers to tell time is a valuable skill that helps them understand the world around them and prepares them for their future. By starting with the basics, such as learning to tell time to the hour and half-hour, and gradually working up to more advanced concepts, like telling time to the minute, parents and teachers can help young children build a strong foundation in time-telling. In addition to the tips and techniques discussed in this guide, there are many fun and engaging activities that can help preschoolers learn to tell time.

Baby Steps is a provider of Infant Care, Daycare, and Preschool and understands the concerns of parents and teachers when it comes to their children’s learning and development. That’s why we provide resources for parents that help children grow and thrive. We hope this guide has provided helpful tips and insights for teaching preschoolers to tell time. By working together, we can help children reach their full potential.