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Learning to tell the time

Telling the time is an important skill in everyday life, but it can be tricky to learn.

Before your child will be able to tell the time on a clock they will need to grasp how time relates to their own experiences. You can start to increase their awareness of time from a young age with simple activities and games. Here are some fun ideas to get you started.

Hints and tips for telling the time

  • Draw attention to time. Mention the time at different points in the day. For example, you could say, ‘it’s 5 o’clock – time for tea,’ or ‘it’s 7 o’clock – time for a bath.’
  • Do fun activities that include measuring time:
    • use a timer for baking
    • play a board game with a sand timer
    • use a stop watch to time a race or challenge
  • Make sure your child is confident with numbers and counting from 1–60 as this will make telling the time easier. Practising the five times table will also be a big help.
  • Start with analogue clocks rather than digital clocks. Focus on telling time to the hour and half hour.
  • Put a clock in your child’s bedroom. Ideally it should have a clear hour hand and half hour hand as this will help them to understand that the short hand shows the hour and the long hand shows the minutes.
  • Talk about what you regularly do at different times in the day. Compare and contrast weekdays and weekends, if there are differences. Use time vocabulary such as today, yesterday, now, afterwards.
  • Let your child remind you that it’s time to do something!

At school

Your child should be taught to tell the time at school in maths from Year 1. However, there isn’t much time at school to practise this skill, so practising at home is important.

Year 1 pupils should be taught to:

  • tell the time to the hour and half past the hour
  • draw the hands on a clock face to show these times

Year 2 pupils should be taught to:

  • tell and write the time to five minutes including quarter past / to the hour
  • draw the hands on a clock to show these times
  • know the number of minutes in an hour and hours in a day

Activity: Make your own clock

A fun activity to create your own clock.

Activity: Telling the time

Draw the clock hands in the right place.

My Telling the Time Activity Kit

Suitable for age 5–7

This kit introduces the concept and language of time to children through fun, interactive activities featuring Biff, Chip and Kipper from the popular Oxford Reading Tree scheme.

  • Kipper Tells the Time Storybook – Read and share with your child to build an awareness of routines, sequences and the language of time.
  • Telling the Time Workbook – A fun activity and sticker book for children to practise telling the time on both analogue and digital clocks.
  • Flashcards – Help to develop skills through interaction and play.
  • Tips for parents – Advice on how to use this pack to bring learning to life.

Copyright Oxford University Press 2020