When you’re young and carefree, you measure time in ways that are meaningful: snack time, play time, bed time. Even toddlers understand when you frame time in ways they can easily relate to. As your child ages, he’ll begin to tune in to numerical time as he hears references to it in conversations, on television and at school. Teaching time to kids is fun and interactive when you use creative activities that reinforce the concept from many different angles.
A homemade clock is a great way to teach your child how to tell time. Craft a clock with a paper plate, markers, construction paper and a brass fastener (brad). Help your child write the numbers around the clock in the appropriate places. Start with 12, 3, 6 and 9, then fill in the missing spaces to make your clock as symmetrical as possible. Attach a short hand and a long hand in the center of the plate with the brad. Let your child decorate her clock with markers and glitter. Challenge her to show different times on the clock, or move the hands yourself and ask her what time it is. This is a really fun way to start teaching time to kids!
Talk About It
Instead of being vague with your young child, talk about time as if she understands. When you’re getting ready to go in the morning say, “Let’s put on your shoes, we need to leave in five minutes!” or “Dinner is at 6:00, so no more snacking.” Mention the time school begins, how long it takes you to drive to work/the grocery store, etc. As you continue to talk about time in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, your child will form an important foundation upon which to learn how to tell time. And don’t be surprised when your 3-year-old says, “Dad, we’re late! School begins at 8:30!”
Children love to get active while learning. Play a game where you time your child doing various movements for one minute. Ask her to run in place, perform jumping jacks, hop or do pushups as you time the action. After 60 seconds yell, “Stop!” Challenge your child to count the number of jumping jacks she can do in a minute. You might also time your child while cleaning her room or setting the dinner table.
March Around The Clock
Create a simple large floor clock by writing each number of the clock on a piece of paper. To begin, mix up the numbers and help your child put them in the correct order. As his understanding grows, count by fives with your child as he hops around the clock, landing on each number. Begin teaching time in hours only by asking your child to march over to 1 o’clock or 3 o’clock. Continue to challenge your child by creating an hour hand and a minute hand from heavy paper or cardboard. Ask him to manipulate the hands to show different times. Alternatively, let your child’s arms be the clock hands by lying in the middle of the clock and pointing to designated times.
I Think it is Time to Give it a go
Knowing how to teach time to kids requires paying attention to your child’s current understandings and expanding on them with activities and conversations that feel more like games than learning. Capitalize on your child’s interests and questions to create learning activities that she will readily engage in. Have fun with it as you watch your child’s young eyes open to this new and exciting concept.