How to Teach Your Child to Read a Clock

Because the concept of time is abstract, teaching a child how to read a clock can be difficult. Simply exposing a child to a clockface isn’t enough. A more active teaching approach can speed things up and make the learning process go more smoothly. If your child isn’t able to read a clock after one attempt, however, you shouldn't worry. It can take some children several lessons to fully grasp this important concept.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil (colored pencils optional)
  • Paper
  • Analog clock


    • 1

      Have your child draw an analog clock without the hour and minute hands. The clock doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should resemble a typical circular analog clock. Have a basic analog clock available for your child to look at.

    • 2

      Ask your child to print the numbers on the clock starting with the 12. Have him follow the pattern of a regular analog clock by looking at the real clock. Once your child has made his basic clock, make a few photocopies of the template.

    • 3

      Explain that the short hand on the clock indicates what hour it is. Show your child what it looks like when it is a 12 o'clock hour, or a 1 o'clock hour, and so on, by drawing the hour hand positions on one of the photocopies.

    • 4

      Get a fresh photocopy that hasn’t been marked and ask your child to draw an hour hand at a set time. Repeat this process using a few different hours. If your child is putting the hour hand in the incorrect spot, explain the concept to him again and show where the hour hand belongs by drawing it in yourself.

    • 5

      Explain that the long hand on the clock indicates what minute within the hour it is. Show your child what the hands look like at five-minute intervals by drawing the minute hand yourself. Using five-minute intervals will help your child further understand how the numbers on the clock are used to tell what time it is.

    • 6

      Get a fresh copy of the clock and ask your child to draw the hour hand at a set time, followed by a minute hand at five past the hour. Repeat this, asking him to show changes in the minute hand in five-minute intervals.

    • 7

      Explain further how the minute hand works by showing your child how individual minutes work, starting with 12:01. Draw a few different examples to demonstrate.

    • 8

      Get a fresh copy of the clock and ask your child to draw the hour hand at a set time, followed by a minute hand at one minute past the hour. Repeat this, asking him to show changes in the minute hand in one-minute intervals.

    • 9

      Test your child by showing him a real analog clock and asking him to mark the actual time on a fresh copy of the clock he drew. Repeat this, instructing him to mark times corresponding to some of his real-life activities. For example, have him mark the time when he eats lunch or goes to bed.

    • 10

      Pick random times and ask your child to draw them on the clock. If your child is having trouble with a certain task, explain it again using the same method. Stay positive and don’t get frustrated.

Tips & Warnings

  • Using different colored pencils can make it easier for your child to distinguish the hour and minute hands.
  • An upside-down saucer or dinner plate works well for tracing as a circular clock template.
  • Avoid confusing your child with phrases that you regularly use like “a quarter ‘til” or “half past.” Stick to basic, exact times at first.
  • Do not try to teach everything at once. Take it at your child's pace.
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  • Photo Credit Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

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