Teaching Children about Time

Here are a few pointers that I use in the classroom to teach my learners about “Time”. These guidelines are particularly for young pupils (Grades 1, 2 and 3), but you can apply these to older students by extending the number ranges or making sure that your older child knows at least these basic concepts.

Some learners can already tell time, but not many at age 8. By this age they should know at least the “o’clocks” and what a person might be doing at each given hour of a day, eg. 7 o’clock a.m. = leaving for school; 2 o’clock p.m. = school ends / sport starts; 6 o’clock p.m. = bath / supper time; 11 o’clock p.m. = sleeping.

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A good tip to teach your child about time is to use a very practical prop in the form of a clock face with movable hands. This is very easy to make: cardboard and a split pin should do the trick. Reading the time is often easier than ‘making’ the time on a clock and it is often clearer that a child has a solid understanding of time when they can make the time on a blank clock. If you feel you need some other resources, here are some great books which will help in teaching children about time.

If you’d like another suggestion to teach your child about time and clocks, here is something else I do: All day in class I like to draw the children’s attention to the clock, not to stress them, but in the real world we need to continually be aware of the time. It is very rare in a ‘working’ situation that we have an unlimited amount of time in which to complete tasks.

Of course they must also have access to unstructured free time where they are not being hounded by the clock… but warnings for a change in activity do help, e.g. In 10 minutes we will need to come in for a bath, rather than calling them away from an activity and expecting an immediate, obedient response.

Especially for dawdlers, they may need the warning for a sense of urgency to kick in, in order to complete a task in time. I might say, “When the long hand is on the 6 it will be half past and that will be ‘Finish Drawing’ time. You have 5 more minutes.” If you just tell a child that they have 10 minutes, they do not have a concept of how long that takes. They need to see it ticking away, or in the form of a countdown timer or an hourglass with sand running.

We also cover ‘half past’ and then ‘quarter to’ and ‘quarter past’. This is quite tricky for 8 year olds and needs a lot of drill. Often the time available to teach the concept is not enough for the necessary ‘drill’ for children to master time-telling.

The day-to-day practice needs to happen at home as well. This doesn’t have to happen in the form of lessons. We never expect parents to teach concepts that we have not covered at school, but in the car, in the bath, at the supper table, drawing their attention to learning opportunities consolidates what is taught at school. It also shows children that there is a link between school and home. It reinforces that learning is important.

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Some questions you could ask, are: It is 7 o’clock now. School starts at 7:30. How many minutes do we have until we must be there? What time is your break time at school? How many hours are you at school before you can eat your lunch? Your rugby is from 2:30 until 3:30. How long is your practice? If it was 15 minutes longer, what time would rugby end? If I was half an hour late to fetch you, what time would I arrive? What time does your favourite TV show start? How long after school do you have to wait for it? What time should we start homework so that we have enough time?

Children must also know that there are 24 hours in a day; that the clock hands make 2 circuits of 12 hours around the clock face; that there are 60 minutes in an hour (and 30 in half an hour and 15 in a quarter of an hour).

Teaching your child about time can be tricky, but it can be made much easier with practical games, patience, and ensuring your child has an awareness of time during his or her activities.

Click here to get some excellent books on teaching children about time.

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