Telling the time | the_doctormom

Telling the time

Mom, “are we there yet?”is a question that pops up in the car million times,whenever I tell them that we are around 10 more minutes from the destination! Or another instance is that they will start playing,when i say that we’re leaving “in a few minutes“.

When my 3-year-old is persistent about going to the park, telling her, "We will go to the park at 4 p.m.," I always see the confusion in her eyes.She would understand that 'both of us would go to the park but not right now'; but wouldn't have a clue about what 4 p.m. means.

It’s because young kids have a very limited concept of time.


Time is the ongoing and continuous sequence of events that occur in succession, from the past through the present to the future. Time is used to quantify, measure or compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and even, sequence events.


The concept of time varies on age.


  • For babies and young toddlers, you can just about forget about the concept of time. They live so much in the present moment, every moment to them is new and fresh. This is why kids can be crying one minute and laughing the next.
  • Infants as young as 6 months old are able to tell the difference between two distinct duration of time.


  • Time is still very much an abstract concept for threes and fours,which they can't see, but they do have an idea about their daily routine. They know that there is a time to get up, get ready, leave the house to catch the bus to school and so on.
  • Before and after are two concepts of time that preschoolers can now understand.


  • Kindergartners define time by recognizable events and symbols
  • Five- and six-year-olds are beginning to understand that certain events occur at a defined time each day.


  • Kids start telling the time by age of seven as they attain digital literacy.
  • Even though they learn how to read a clock, to tell time, during their early school years, it takes them a long time to learn to translate their experience into standardized time units
  • How long is an hour? How much of a certain activity can fit within an hour or 20 min? What do I have to do now in order to be ready to leave for school in 10 min? These are some questions children struggle with for many years.


  1. 0 to 2 YEARS

Though some babies quickly develop predictable feeding and sleeping patterns, this can take quite a bit of time for most newborns. moving from alert to sleep can be a strenuous task both for mother and baby.

  • Consistency: Consistent responsive interactions (like being fed when hungry and soothed when upset) helps babies organize themselves. Reading babies' cues and responding to their signals builds a sense of trust. Loving relationships are formed and life becomes a more predictable pattern of people, things, and events.
  • Predictability: Things that are consistent each and every day (like night follows day and day follows night) are the foundations for a baby's understanding of time.
  • Flexibility:Toddlers develop a sense of order through repeated routines. You can be flexible with respect to the toddler's need for routines. The events of the morning continue to follow the same sequence of play, snack, outdoors, and lunch. But each is slightly shortened or lengthened. None of the toddlers are confused by the change, because their routine remains the same.
  • Words like inside,outside,after,before may be used.

2. 3 to 4 YEARS :

For preschoolers ,present is the most important time. For them, time concepts begin to form around events like washing their hands before lunch or brushing teeth before bed. Following and being involved with a familiar sequence of routines and schedules enhances their time awareness of the present, past, and future.

  • Schedule:They feel secure when they follow the same time schedules daily-get dressed, eat breakfast, ride to school, participate in group time, and engage in free playtime. It is possible for adults to change the length of time of their activities. Change of order of events makes it very confusing for young children.
  • Before and After:They can anticipate an event in the future and plan for it. Recalling past events,though have the ability to describe events that happen in the past and know specific words that describe past events ("last week" or "a few days ago"), they may not always get the duration of the time right. For instance, "yesterday" might really be two or three days ago.
  • Time tools:Although preschoolers cannot really read analog clocks and calendars until they are older, they are aware that these are tools that help them measure how time passes. Some 4-year-olds begin to recognize that when both hands are straight up on the clock, it's time for lunch.
  • You can create visual timeline with photos or drawings and read books on time.

3. 5 to 6 YEARS:

  • Linking Time to Events:The words for yesterday, today, and tomorrow are only understandable when they are linked to a specific event or activity that makes the concept of time concrete.
  • Using a Calendar:Kindergarten children learn about time by observing and recording it. A weather calendar and graph is a perfect way for children to experience yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
  • Exploring Concepts of Time:Kindergartners can begin to understand the concept of present,past and future by exploring both old and new ways to do things like transport.for instance,the old way (in the past) might be to ride a horse and the new way (in the present) is to drive or fly.
  • Structuring the day helps kids become aware of the passage of time. Their capacity to learn about time increases as they become aware of how events reoccur at specific times during the day. A daily routine clock,weather calendar and time diary will be helpful.
  • Use words like soon, later, early, yesterday, today, tomorrow, next week, morning, noon and evening.


  1. Introduce the basic concepts of time like morning,evening,day and night.
  2. Read books about time.

Here are some recommendations.

4.Associate daily routine with time.

Here's a DIY daily routine clock

  • I coloured our regular clock in light blue and deep blue to represent day and night respectively.
  • 1-12 markings were replaced with daily activities according to time.
  • The activities in the night are marked in deep blue region.
  • this clock helps kids to follow their routine without the help of elders.

4.Teach kids to count from 1-60.Encourage kids to do skip counting by 5.

5.Reading clocks:

  • Analogue clocks would be a good way to introduce your child to the concept of reading time.
  • Explain the hour and minute hand.
    • Show your child how the hour and minute hands move according to time so that they are able to relate to each number on the clock to an hour of the day.
    • Keep the minute hand on 12 o’clock and show how time changes as the hour hand moves from one number to the other.
  • Teach how to read minutes.
    • Explain to your child how each number on the clock is a multiple of five. Show how to read the movement of the minute hand.
  • Explain the concept quarter to,quarter past and half past.

Here's a DIY cardboard clock to help kids learn reading time.

  • I cut out a circle from cardboard and marked from 1-12 in regular intervals.
  • An inner circle was drawn and divided into quarters,marked in different colours.
  • Numbers from13-24 were marked in regular intervals on inner circle to represent the digital version.
  • I added another layer of cardboard behind to match the numbers as minute detonations.
  • Bottle cap detonations were added with the help of double sided tape for the kid to practice on minutes.
  • I added 4 dots in between each bottle cap for ease of counting.
  • Hour hand and minute hand were fixed in the center with pin.
  • A pipe cleaner hook was added over the hour hand.This helps kids in avoiding confusion reading half past times.The correct hours is denoted by the number to which side the hook is pointing.
  • You can also ask the kids to make L shape with left hand and the side to which the L ends denotes the hour.
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