How to make a practice clock for learning to tell time

How to make a practice clock for learning to tell time

Making a clock out of household objects is a great way to help your child learn how to tell time. Apart from being a great crafting activity that can while away some time on a rainy afternoon, placing and spacing numbers on the clock themselves is a really important learning objective. 

There are hundreds of different analog clock crafting suggestions online, some of which are true works of art. We feel that to maximise engagement and learning potential, it's good to let your child take the lead - but be prepared for the finished article to look somewhat less than perfect (as shown by our initial efforts in particular!) 

If you'd rather work with a pristine clock, head to our online interactive clock which is also great for kids to practice on. You should also check out this activity that uses the online interactive clock.

Here are the steps to craft a clock which will help your child get to grips with learning to tell time. 

You will need:

  • Paper plate or a piece of cardboard you can cut a decent sized circle out of (think cereal box, or even the back of a refill pad or sketch book)
  • Extra cardboard for the hands 
  • Paint
  • Pencil
  • Split pin or pipe cleaner.

1. Get your paper plate or help your child cut out a circle of card. This is your clock face. We painted ours in a solid color once we'd cut it out and left it for a while to dry well. 

2. Put the numbers around the clock face. Letting your child do this for themselves is a really good way to help them get familiar with the layout of a clock, and for you to get an idea of how well they understand it. 

To do this, you can allow your child to write the numbers in pencil where they think they go. Be prepared for this to not go to plan, even with a clock to copy, and for your beautiful painting to be messed up with rubbing out! Give some guidance by encouraging them to first place the 12 right at the top, then the 6 immediately opposite at the bottom. Next, pencil in the 3 and 9 as anchor points, and lastly fill in the other numbers in the gaps which should help with spacing. 

When you are both happy all the numbers are in the right place, you can make them stand out with some brighter colours. 

Another way to tackle this element is to draw and cut out some colored numbers and allow your child to place them around the clock face, only sticking them down when they're happy that the numbers are in the correct places. It is more time consuming but this definitely works better for getting a more evenly spaced out clock for you to work with. 

3. Make the hands. Cereal box thickness of card is about right for this, and it's as simple as drawing them on and cutting them out. Help your child to use a ruler to work out and measure how long the hands need to be. It's a good idea to make sure the minute hand is long enough to reach right to the numbers, and while the hour hand should be significantly shorter, it needs to be long enough that it's easy to tell which number it's pointing at. 

We made our hour hand fatter as well to help with telling them apart. 

When you've cut out the hands you can paint them bright colors. What colors you choose depends on what stage your child is at - if your child is just starting out with learning to tell the time, it's a good idea to paint the hands in different colors to help differentiate between the hour hand and the minute hand. If they need a little more help, you can even write the words 'hours' and 'minutes' on them to help your child remember. 

If your child is a little further on and has a good grasp of the long hand and the short hand, you can colour them both the same to get your child used to dealing with real clocks and watches which, for the most part, have both hands the same color. 

4. Next, find the centre point of the circle and make a little hole with the point of a pair of scissors or a sharp pencil. (How do you find the centre point? This can be a math lesson in itself!) Make a hole in the same way in the hands, making sure it's nice and central so it doesn't tear. 

5. Attach the hands. If you have a split pin, this is undoubtedly the best and easiest way to fix your hands on to the clock face. Stick the pin first through the hole in the hour hand, then the minute hand, and then the clock face itself. (We found that having the shorter hand on top makes it easier for your child to move them around).

If you don't have a split pin, improvise with a pipe cleaner or something similar - I think a sandwich bag tie would work just as well. Thread it through the hands and then the cardboard, and then twist it around to secure it. Kids will probably need you to step in for the twisting part as you'll want to keep it nice and tight.

And that's it! Your basic clock is ready for learning (as made by Katherine, Komodo writer and Leo, aged 6). 


About Komodo - Komodo is a fun and effective way to boost K-5 math skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning math (15 minutes, three to five times per week) that fits into the busy family routine. Komodo helps users develop fluency and confidence in math - 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 math - you can even try Komodo for free.

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