Time is a very difficult concept to understand, even for grown up people like us. You may not want to admit it but how many times have you misunderstood the 24-hour clock, arranging a meeting at 14:00 and turning up 4pm, instead of 2pm? Go on, fess up! So, imagine being a small person and trying to not only understand time, but also learn how to tell it?
Morning, Afternoon & Evening
So, first things first, you want to slowly introduce your child to the concept of time. Start by pointing out certain times of the day – morning, afternoon and evening. For example, “It’s the evening, time to go to bed”. They will soon start to associate different activities with different times of the day.
The Passage of Time
Similarly, you want to help them understand the passage of time by referring to time during conversation. For example, “Breakfast time is in 10 minutes”. You can even try and introduce timers or alarm clocks so your child can get a grasp of the length of time. So, if you are cooking dinner with your child, put the food in the oven, telling them it will take 20 minutes until it is done, then set the oven timer.
The next step is to start associating time with a clock, so telling them the time and then pointing to the clock. When it’s bedtime, tuck them into their big kids bed and point to the clock, telling them “it’s 7 o’clock, time for sleep”. This will help them start to understand what 7 o’clock looks like.
Once the concept of time has started to make sense, buy them a large analogue clock (avoid digital), and spend time explaining what the different hands mean. Start with teaching them hours, then half hours, then quarters, and so on. As a reward for starting to understand the time you can also buy them their very own wrist watch, which will make them feel proud for all their hard work, and also allow them to spend time on their own, getting to grips with time.
Remember that telling the time is very hard to grasp. Whilst some children may understand it quickly, for others it will take longer, so patience and perseverance is needed, and a lot of praise. Good luck!