How Do You Teach Children to Tell Time?

I was inspired to write this post when my kindergarten-aged grandchild asked for a wristwatch for a holiday gift.  He was able to read the digital clock in the house but could not understand how the big and small hands work on his analog wristwatch.

Children need to know their multiplication tables, especially the five-times table. Without it, anything beyond the “o'clock” becomes nearly incomprehensible.  Here are a few sound recordings and one DVD that the Mercer County Library System owns which can teach children to memorize by sing-songing their multiplication facts:

Multiplication Rap & Hip (Sound Recording) by Kim Mitzo Thompson
Multiplication Unplugged (Sound Recording) by Sara Jordan
Multiplication Mountain (Sound Recording) by Hap Palmer
Multiplication Rock (DVD) produced by Rock N Learn

Learning fractions is yet another skill required for telling time.  I believe in teaching the concept of fractions rather than memorization.  A great practice for teaching the basics is to draw three clock faces displaying quarter past the hour, half past the hour, and a quarter to the hour.

15 minutes, or a quarter, past the hour

30 minutes to, or half past, the hour

15 minutes, or a quarter, to the hour

There are many opportunities for confusion when teaching children how to tell time using fractions, so I pulled together some helpful resources for understanding the concept of fractions:

Gator Pie by Louise Mathews
Two alligators consider dividing their pie into halves, thirds, fourths, eighths, and hundredths

Eating Fractions by Bruce McMillan
Food is cut into halves, quarters, and thirds to illustrate how parts make a whole. Simple recipes included.

Fraction Action by Loreen Leedy
Miss Prime and her animal students explore fractions by finding many examples in the world around them.

Fractions by David L. Stienecker
Includes an assortment of activities and illustrations to help explain the concept of fractions

Give Me Half! by Stuart J. Murphy
This book introduces the concept of halves using a simple rhyming story about a brother and sister who do not want to share their food.

Fraction Fun by David A. Adler
This book is a basic introduction to the concept of fractions.

The Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar Fractions Book by Jerry Pallotta
Pieces of a Hershey's chocolate bar help explain the concept of fractions.

Children must first look at the digital time and then draw the analog time on the clock faces. These could be displayed around a large image of a clock.  Break it down and show kids that analog clocks are really two clocks (the minute clock and the hour clock) on top of each other.

The digital time is 12:16


Other Great Books:

Telling Time by Jules Older
Humorous text explains the concept of time, from seconds to hours, on both analog and digital clocks; and from years to millenniaon the calendar.

Maisy's First Clock by Lucy Cousins
Preschoolers can learn to tell the time with Maisy as they follow their favorite mouse throughout her busy day.

The Clock Struck One: A Time-Telling Tale by Trudy Harris
Rhyming text expands on the nursery rhyme "Hickory Dickory Dock," as a cat chases the mouse up the clock, followed by other animals, until midnight arrives and the tired creatures fall asleep.  This book also has facts about clocks and basic information about telling time.

Clockwise by Sara Pinto.
Thomas learns how to tell time with a new clock.

What Time Is It? : A Book of Math Riddles by Sheila Keenan
Illustrations and rhyming questions and answers demonstrate how to tell time.

Little Rabbit's First Time Book by Alan Baker
Follows busy rabbits through an active day of shopping and eating. Features clocks with movable hands that can be set to the time mentioned in the text.

Telling Time with Big Mama Cat by Dan Harper
A cat describes her activities at various times throughout the day from morning to night. The book has a clock with movable hands.

A Second is a Hiccup: A Child's Book of Time by J. J. Hutchins
This book explains units of time in terms every child will recognize—seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years.

Tell the Time with Thomas by Rev. Awdry
This timetable of where Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends go throughout the day provides a way of learning to tell the time. This book has simple clock-face diagrams.

Brendan's Best-Timed Birthday by Deborah Gould
Brendan has a wonderful birthday party, highlighted by sharing his father's gift of a digital watch with a stopwatch with his friends who time every activity.

Time To… by Bruce McMillan
An hour-by-hour introduction to telling time follows the activities of a little boy's day from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night.

If children can see, touch, and experiment with clocks, then telling time need not be problematic.   So, my dear Braeden, what time is it?  

Susan S.


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