How to Teach a 24-Hour Clock to Kids

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The 24-hour clock is the standard time-telling system in many countries and organizations, including the United States Armed Forces and most South American countries. However, because of the widespread adoption of the 12-hour a.m./p.m. clock in the United States, many children never learn how to tell time on a 24-hour clock. Provide a worldly alternative to the 12-hour clock by teaching kids how to read a 24-hour clock.

How to Teach a 24-Hour Clock to Kids
(Desiree McMahon/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • 12-hour clock
  • 24-hour clock
Step 1

Set two clocks, one 12-hour clock and one 24-hour clock, to the same time in the morning. Set the clocks next to each other so that they may be compared side by side. This will give children a basic knowledge of what times on the 12-hour clock correspond to the times on a 24-hour clock.

Desiree McMahon/Demand Media
Step 2

Explain a 24-hour clock as an "extension" on a 12-hour clock, rather than as a completely different system. Explain that when a 12-hour clock reaches 12:59 and resets to 1:00, the 24-hour clock keeps going to 13:00 and onward.

Desiree McMahon/Demand Media
Step 3

Teach kids that an easy-to-remember way to read the clock is that any time past 12:00, say 14:32, on a 24-hour clock, is in the afternoon. Teach that the bigger the hour number is on the clock, the later it is in any given day.

Desiree McMahon/Demand Media
Step 4

If the children have a basic understanding of addition and subtraction, teach them that they may subtract 12 from the hour of any time past 12:00 on the 24-hour clock to find its 12-hour p.m. counterpart. For example, 15:34 minus 12 hours is 3:34 p.m.

Desiree McMahon/Demand Media
Step 5

Make a game out of the two clocks set up side by side. Cover the 12-hour clock with a piece of construction paper or fabric and have kids guess the time on the 12-hour clock, by only looking at the 24-hour clock beside it. When they have a good grasp of the concept, cover the 24-hour clock and have the children guess its time based on the 12-hour clock.

Desiree McMahon/Demand Media

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