Help Your Child Learn:  Telling the Time (Part 1)

Help Your Child Learn: Telling the Time (Part 1)

Welcome to Part 1 of our interactive series on telling the time. This is for younger children who are new to the clock and time. Part 2, for older children, covers telling the time to the nearest five minutes.

Learning to tell the time can be difficult for children because it’s a new concept that’s not like anything else in maths. Time also has its own new language so this resource is designed as a verbal 1-2-1 activity for parent and child. It will guide parents step by step though telling the time.

Step 1 - Times of the day

Here we’re exploring the idea of times of the day and the words we use for this, but avoiding measurement words (hours, minutes etc) and specific times (3 o’clock etc).

Watching the feature video together will give you some ideas for discussing time. First you can talk about the times of the day:

  • What are the different times of the day?  (Morning, afternoon, evening, nighttime)
  • What do you do in the morning?
  • What happens in the afternoon?
  • What happens in the evening?
  • What do we do at night?
  • When does lunch happen?
  • When does breakfast happen?
  • When does dinner happen?
  • Don’t forget your own examples... 

Step 2 - Hours, minutes and seconds

Step 2 introduces the measurement words (hours, minutes and seconds) and the idea of duration through real life “How long does it take?” questions.

There are several different units for measuring time. It’s important children get a feel for how long a second, minute and hour are. You can talk about the units of time (seconds, minutes, hours)

  • How long does it take to brush your teeth?
  • How long does it take to bounce a ball?
  • How long does it take to eat dinner?
  • How long do you sleep?
  • How long does it take to watch a movie?
  • Don’t forget your own examples... 

There are lots of opportunities to talk about time in daily life. You can:

  • Play guess how long a minute is (ask kids to sit with their eyes closed and raise their hands when they think a minute has passed)
  • Start a stopwatch when your child is brushing their teeth and see how well they can estimate two minutes.  
  • Get an analogue clock app for your phone and have it easily accessible on your lock screen or home page so your child gets used to seeing how time is told in this way.

The more often you mention it in real life the better your child will grasp it. 

Step 3 - Making a clock

This step is optional. You won’t need a practice clock because we’ve made an interactive one for you but one of the best ways to learn about the clock at home is to make one.

This guide will show you and your child how to make your own practice clock using household items. It will take an hour or so but it will be well worth it because it’s a great learning activity.

Step 4 - The clock

Watch the video together. It introduces the clock and the idea of measuring time. At this stage there’s no need to explain everything in the video.

Ask your child if they know any times when something happens. You will probably have to prompt them and provide an answer to the nearest hour. For example:

  • School starts at ..... 9 o’clock
  • School ends at ..... 3 o’clock
  • You go to bed at ..... 8 o’clock

Introducing our interactive clock

One of the problems about teaching the time at home is the lack of an interactive practice clock - so we’ve made one for you. The rest of this series will use this clock to teach time through examples.

Clicking on the image below will open the clock. Note that all links to the clock will open a new tab so you will have to use the tabs / windows to get back to this page.

If you feel confident you can easily create your own clock examples. Here’s a guide to help you.

The clock works in modes. In “Show Clock” mode above you see the clock at full screen on your device. This is what you show the child.

Click “Show Controls” to see the control panel for setting up a new time example.

Control Panel

Hide numbers mode

This allows you to select hour numbers and minute numbers to hide from the clock so that you can ask your child “What’s the missing number?”

Note that the clock hands are hidden in this mode.

The clock has a face and two hands. The small hand points to the hours and the big hand points to the minutes.

Now open this clock example and ask the questions below. (Remember - examples always open in a new tab / window so read the questions first.) 

  • Where is the clock face?
  • How many numbers does it have?
  • Which number does the small hand point to?
  • Which number does the big hand point to?
  • Can you read all the numbers on the clock face?

In this exercise ask your child: which hour number or numbers are hidden?

Step 5 - Telling the time - the o’clocks

In this exercise ask your child: what’s the time?

Step 6 - Telling the time - half past

First watch this video with your child. 

Then with your child, say...

This is half past four.  
Can you see where the long hand is pointing?
Yes, it’s pointing to six.
And can you see where the small hand is pointing?
It’s halfway between four and five.

And here’s your clock at half past four

In this exercise the clock is shaded so you can clearly see that the long (minute) hand has moved halfway around the clock. 

Ask “what’s the time?”

In this exercise we’ve removed the shader:

Step 7 - Telling the time - o’clock and half past

Now here’s a mix of half past and o’clocks:

Now let’s try to tell the time with only the small hour hand:

It’s helpful for children to realise that the shorter hour hand moves from number to number. This also helps when trying to work out past or to the hour later on.

I hope you found this interactive article useful. Komodo maths covers telling the time in more detail with more focus on independent learning. In part 2 on this series we'll look at quarter past and to the hour and telling the time to the nearest 5 minutes.

I'm Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any feedback or questions please get in touch.

About KomodoKomodo is a fun and effective way to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (15 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths - without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths - you can even try Komodo for free.

And now we've got Komodo English too - check it out here.

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