A Matter of Time: Teaching Kids How to Tell Time

More Ways to Help Kids Tell Time

Use Kid-Friendly Explanations

Rather than focusing on specific times and dates, try describing when something occurs by linking it to an event in your kid's life, says Allison Kawa, Psy.D., a child psychologist in Los Angeles. At midday, say, "It's 11:30; that's almost lunchtime." For family movie night, explain that you'll put the movie in at 7 p.m., which will come after dessert.

Although children may be able to recite the days of the week in order, what they're really learning is a pattern, not that Saturday is two days after Thursday. To help your daughter tune in to the idea that days form a week, make a point of mentioning what day it is every morning ("It's Monday, so that means you go to preschool today. Tomorrow will be Tuesday").

Make It Visual

Your child can absorb more information if she can actually see what's going on. Kids this age relate well to sand timers, says Dr. Kawa. Tell your child, "In five minutes it will be time for a bath." Then turn the timer over and follow through. Or if one parent is going on a weeklong business trip, buy or make a large 30-day calendar. Draw an airplane flying away on the date Mom or Dad leaves and another airplane on the date they return. Have your child cross off each day as it passes. The next time she asks how many days until Mom or Dad gets back, you can count the days together.

You can also introduce the clock. Put a digital one in your child's room and explain that she has to stay in bed until the first number on the clock is a 7. When you first show her a clock with hands, move the little hand to different hours, pausing at each number to mention her daily routine (12 o'clock -- time for lunch!). Your child will soon be associating numbers with activities, and time will become a comfortable, rather than confusing, concept in her life.

Originally published in the August 2011 issue of Parents magazine

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