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Teaching Tots to Tell Time

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They’ve mastered counting to 20, now it’s time to seal in the skill with time telling. Young tots are extremely visual learners – because time is an intangible concept, it is difficult to grasp. However, when they understand the minutes in a day, chores become less dreadful, good habits are easier to cultivate and leaving the playground becomes easier.

Analogue or Digital
The digital interface might seem easier for us to tell time, but the analogue clock is a more visual tool for children. They will be able to see how ‘far away’ an hour is and draw their own conclusions on how time passes. 

Colour the Time

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Photo Credit:

Print out a clock and shade the space between each number a different colour. Instead of saying, “Nap time is at 3pm”, tell your child to pack up when the minute hand reaches the end of the pink zone. Integrate your schedule into the learning process by labelling the clock with, ‘nap, ‘snacks’ and ‘play’.

Wear a Watch

Photo Credit: styletheplayground

Photo Credit: @styletheplayground

Learning doesn’t have to be boring. Wearing a watch can teach children how to apply the concept of time through the day. Consistently refer back to the watch and give context to the numbers. For example, when the sun sets or how long we normally take to finish dinner.

Words Matter
Children might not understand ‘5 minutes’ but they will understand what it means to ‘sit here for as long as it takes to brush your teeth’. Be sure to avoid vague terms like ‘later’ or ‘in a while’!

Be Punctual
If the family has a habit of running off schedule, your child may struggle with understanding the importance of time since mummy and daddy doesn’t adhere to it. It’s crucial for parents to exemplify punctuality and show your children the reality of what 10 minutes feels like.

Pile on the Books

Photo Credit: Chinese Book Store from

Photo Credit: Chinese Book Store from

Interactive story books with built-in clocks are extremely useful for the learning process. It is easier for children to visualise time through the character’s experience.

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