Time Will Tell: How Should You Teach Your Child The Time?

Teaching children to tell the time can be a challenge, but there are ways to make it fun too

Like learning multiplication tables, learning to tell the time is one of the signposts a child is growing up. But in these days when smartphones and tablets are becoming universal, and adults are less likely to wear a watch, how do you teach a child to tell the time?

The analogue clock face can be confusing, particularly in an age when other measures like currency and weight have gone decimal. Maths teacher Mel Muldowney of www.justmaths.co.uk says: “Without fail there will always be at least one student who, when working with time, will work in multiples of 100. For example, they do their calculations based on 100 seconds in a minute or 100 minutes in an hour and, once reminded, will wonder why they’ve done it.”


Telling the time is part of the national mathematics curriculum, so your child should get some help at school.

A typical lesson plan for teaching children to tell the time involves drawing a large clock on a whiteboard and giving them a dummy clock on which they can move the hands. However, make sure you go into detail to confirm their understanding and ensure you include the following:

  1. Show the children a large clock on the whiteboard.
  2. Explain ‘to’ and ‘past’ the hour.
  3. Point out where quarter past, half past and quarter to are on the clock.
  4. Explain that each number on the clock is worth five minutes. Ask the children to count in fives as you point to the numbers on the clock.
  5. Ask the children to set their own clocks to whatever time you call out.

It does no harm to help the learning process along yourself, and as the analogue clock face is divided into five-minute periods, the most useful tip is to teach them the five times table.

By Year 4 (ages 8-9), children should be able to read, write and convert time between analogue and digital, 12- and 24-hour clocks.

An ideal first-buy watch for your child is a ‘time-teaching’ type. The main requirement is that it should have a clear, numbered face, and useful extras are a strong washable strap of the right sort of size, a sturdy metal buckle and some degree of water resistance.


To help with the learning process, some watches are labelled ‘TO’ on one side of the face and ‘PAST’ on the other, with each minute and the quarter-hours individually labelled.

This feature was originally published in the summer edition of Healthy Child with Dr Ranj Singh, which you can also read here!

See Also:

How To Give Kids A Lifetime Of Healthy Habits?

Schools Should Teach Life-Saving Skills

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