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Why Teach Preschoolers to Tell Time?Whether we want it or not, most of us have to “obey the clock”. We follow a schedule that is dictated to us by our responsibilities, or we create our own schedules to stay sane. In general, young children crave routines, but they are not born with sense of time. We started to teach daughter time very early, because we wanted her to understand on a high level what happens when and to ease transitions from one activity to another.
Teach Young Children a “Language of Time”When our daughter was learning to talk, she didn’t say, I want… Instead, she was saying, It’s time to… I guess she reflected our own language when we would tell her, It’s 1 o’clock, it’s time for your nap. We had dinner, now it’s time to clean dishes. Of course, she didn’t understand the numbers or the clock then, but she was establishing a sense of order and sequence that came in handy later.
Use a TimerIt’s very difficult for children to understand what “5 more minutes” mean. We used a timer for transition times and also for short chores since Smarty was about 2 years old. It also helped a lot with us not having to give verbal reminders about transitions and with turning chores into a fun “race against the clock” game.
Read Books About Telling Time
We read a lot of books about telling time. I remember Dinosaurs Tell the Time particularly well, because I thought it to be very boring while for whatever reason my daughter found it infinitely fascinating and wanted to read it every night for several months. Perhaps it was that plastic clock built into a book that made it so irresistible for my then 3 year old.
Telling Time on Digital Clock
It’s not really feasible to understand clocks without being able to read numbers. This is why early time concepts are usually taught in the end of preschool years or in kindergarten after most children are able to easily recognize numbers by sight. Smarty was “an early achiever” in letter and number recognition, so we put in a digital clock in her room at 3 and every day discussed what the clock says and what it means. Within a month she was able to read a digital clock to an hour. We put this knowledge to a good use – our home rules still include “no service” before 9:00 am on weekends and “quiet time” between 2 pm and 4 pm when daughter can read or play independently.
Telling Time on Analog Clock
We introduced an analog clock through a “math box” that included a “learning clock” from $1 section of Target and a kitchen timer. We talked about minutes and hours and reviewed our prior knowledge of a long hand and a short hand on an analog clock. We played a game where I would write time in hours on this analog clock, and she would set both clocks. As we did that, we also talked about her day and what happens at those times during her day.
Telling Time in MinutesStrangely, we didn’t really teach time in minutes to our daughter. This knowledge simply came through exposure and pattern recognition by the time she was ready for kindergarten. Sometimes all you need to do to teach a concept is to direct your children attention to events of their day when that concept is being used, and it will “magically” sink in. Before you know it, your child will be a master of telling time. But don’t ask me about how to help your child use their knowledge to actually plan their time! This is a sore topic here and a subject for another post.
Resources for Telling Time
- Time For Time website – more appropriate for kindergarten and up.
- Telling Time for Beginners from Nerdy Science
- Make Your Own Teaching Clock from Meaningful Mama
- Free Printable for Telling Time from Happy and Blessed Home
This is my second post in Teach Your Preschooler Real Math series. Stay tuned for more, and check out my first post Teach Your Preschooler About Money.
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