Teaching our children the concept of time and how to tell the time can be a challenge and while the task may seem daunting, it’s an important step on the way to independence – at home, in the community and at school. With a bit of patience, creativity and the right tools at your disposal, you can definitely help your child develop a meaningful grasp of time. Here are some tips to assist you followed by some useful online resources for tools, templates and games you can use.
Start with the basics
Begin by introducing your child to the fundamental concepts of time. Explain how we divide the day into different parts: morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Use familiar events or activities to anchor these concepts, like meals, playtime, and bedtime.
Other language around time to learn are the concepts of before, after, next, later and until. The days of the week, months and years and also the concept of past, present and future. There are many worksheets and learning resources that can help you with these.
Sand timers can be useful to introduce the concept of time passing and can be obtained in different sizes and durations. Use them for different tasks like brushing teeth, watching tv etc and then check the time passed by against a clock.
In terms of actually telling the time make a start by familiarising your child with the numbers on a clock, then move on to the hands and what they mean. Breaking time down into quarters and halves with visuals is a great way to begin and there are really good time teaching clocks that can help.
Use a clock with large, clear numbers and hands that are easy to manipulate. Show your child how the hands move as time progresses and connect these movements to activities they are familiar with.
Visual aids can play a crucial role in helping children with disabilities comprehend abstract concepts like time. Consider using a daily schedule with pictures representing different activities. This visual representation will provide your child with a tangible way to understand the sequence of events throughout the day.
For time-telling – visual cues such as colour coding blocks of time or the hour and minute hands can be useful. See those aforementioned time-teaching clocks for how this concept is put to good use.
Make time a part of conversations
Incorporate discussions about time into your daily conversations. Talk about upcoming events, how long activities will last, and when special occasions will occur. For example, if bedtime is at 8:00 pm, 15 minutes before you can say, “Bedtime is in 15 minutes.” You can then set a timer for 15 minutes to show the time passing.
You can also relate time to your child’s interests, like how a favourite TV show starts at a certain hour or how it takes a certain amount of time to make a cake. You can also practice timing different events like singing a song, putting shoes on, making lunch etc.
Practice patience and repetition
Your child might need a little more time to grasp a concept like this. Be patient and willing to repeat explanations and activities as many times as necessary. Consistent reinforcement will help their understanding over time.
Use analogies and comparisons
Analogies can be powerful teaching tools. Explain the passage of time using relatable comparisons. For instance, you can compare an hour to a specific activity, like the time it takes to watch a favourite movie or play a game.
An analogue clock might just be too difficult for some children and that’s absolutely ok. Digital time may be easier for your child to understand. And while we’re on the subject of technology – timers, alerts and reminders on watches and phones are all fabulous tools to help you child stay on track of what’s happening and coming up throughout the day.
Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s progress, no matter how small. Learning about time is a gradual process, and each milestone reached deserves recognition. Positive reinforcement boosts their confidence and motivation to keep learning.
Resources to help
Interactive Telling Time App
Teaching Time website: https://teachingtime.co.uk/
Time teacher wall clock
Time Timer plus
Time teacher watch
Easy read tell the time card game
Each minute every moment book
Big Time learning clock