9 Creative Ideas for Teaching Time

Kindergarten teacher with a play clock and a group of students raising their hands

Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Teaching time can be tricky and frustrating at times, but hands-on and lots of practice will help the concept stick. Judy clocks are excellent clocks for kids to use since the hour hand moves when the minute hand goes around, just like the real thing. The following ideas are from homeschoolers, teachers, and others who submitted creative teaching strategies on an online forum

Make a Clock

"For telling time, you could make a clock, using strong paper and a brad in the middle, and practice telling time. Start with the "o'clock" times, then move on to "30's." After that, show that the numbers around the face have the minute value which is reached when you count by 5's, and practice telling time with the minute hand on the numbers. (Make sure you progress the hour hand as you go. They need to get used to the idea that at 4:55, the hour hand will look like it's on the 5.)" –Anachan

Start with Hours

"For telling time, we made a "clock" out of a paper plate and used a paper fastener to attach to construction paper hands. You can move the hands to demonstrate different times. I started with teaching hours (9 o'clock, 10 o'clock, etc.), then did quarter and half hours, and finally minute increments." –chaimsmo1

Start Later

"I didn't introduce time and money until toward the end of 1st grade. It's easier to understand "quarter-past" and "half past" once you have covered fractions.

Of course, we talk about time and money in our daily life long before the end of first grade." –RippleRiver

Telling Time Job

"I always ask her to provide me the time. It is just one of her jobs. It is also her job to adjust the thermostat. She will read me the numbers and I will tell her what to change it to or how many to change it by, etc." –FlattSpurAcademy

Count by 5s on Watch

"For my son, since he'd learned how to count by 5s, I taught him to count by 5s on his watch. He picked this up really well. We did have a little adjusting to do with the times that were near the next hour because it always "looks" like the next hour, but he learned to really pay attention to where the little hand was (just before the next number, etc.). To me, I find it confusing (and a waste) to show a breakdown of hour, half-hour, learn that, then break it down more... the same time could be spent learning the count by 5s. I haven't taught him how to count by exact number yet (12:02 example), but will be doing that this year." –AprilDaisy1

Time Story Problems

"Personally, I wouldn't start with money and time until she has mastered counting by 5s and 10s. This way, it will become very easy for her to understand the principles in figuring out the time and amount of change, etc. My son only knew the value of coins and telling time by o'clock and half-past in kindergarten. Now, he is able to make change, count change, and tell time. He is now learning how to figure out time sentence problems (e.g., How much time did it take, etc.) and he is starting 2nd grade. However, while in kindergarten and 1st grade, he was able to add and subtract very large numbers and carry-over, etc.

So, don't be surprised if your child is not ready for this—especially if he/she cannot count by 5s and 10s first." –Kelhyder

Teach it as it Happens

"Well, I have a kindergartener and we're working on time and money right now. He actually is really good at time because we teach time as it happens. He realizes that his favorite show comes on at 4:00 pm, he knows that his friends come home from school at about 3:00 pm, etc. He learns because he asks. Also, when he went to visit my parents this summer, they bought him an analog watch and taught him how to tell time on it. He's not perfect at it, but he can get it down to the hour now. But yes, time is definitely better taught as it happens. That's also how I learned analog time when I was a kid." –Erin

The Shiny Pocket Watch

"To teach my son to tell time, once he understood the basics, we went to a store and he picked out a pocket watch that caught his eye. I told him it was up to him to make sure we always knew the time. He was excited to have any excuse to pull out that shiny watch and use it. It reinforced his time telling skills and now every time he sees it, he can remember that special time we spent together." –Misty

Name the Hands

"I realized it is helpful if you give the names to the following hand:

  • Second hand = Second hand (keep it the same)
  • Big hand = Minute Hand
  • Small hand = Name Hand

You can explain now or later that it's not really called the "name hand," but it will make it easier to learn for now. Start off by teaching the time at the top of the hours. Put the clock at 3:00 and ask "what number does the name hand point to?" When he says, "3," say "that means it's 3 o'clock."

Next, change it to 4. "Now what time does the name hand point to?" etc. Mix it up after a few times. Once the child seems to understand that, ask him or her to make a time and tell you what it is.

If they go to something other than an 'o'clock,' (like 3:20), feel free to tell them what time that is, but say that the big hand has to be facing up for it to be three o'clock. Explain you'll learn the rest of it another day (or teach it to them later after they have mastered the 'o'clock' part. Every child will be different.)" –Matt Bronsil

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Hernandez, Beverly. "9 Creative Ideas for Teaching Time." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/creative-ideas-for-teaching-time-1831932. Hernandez, Beverly. (2023, April 5). 9 Creative Ideas for Teaching Time. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/creative-ideas-for-teaching-time-1831932 Hernandez, Beverly. "9 Creative Ideas for Teaching Time." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/creative-ideas-for-teaching-time-1831932 (accessed May 29, 2023).