How to teach time

Vee has been able to understand time rather well quite some time back, maybe at 4-5 years old. And I realised it’s a very useful skill for a child.

Here’s what we do to learn about time:

1. Flash cards

To teach time, it’s important to use the analog clock instead of digital clock. This is because the child can see the numbers 1 to 12, and that after 12, the cycle repeats.

We used Shichida flash cards with analog clock pictures at 5-minute interval, in Chinese and English.

2. Simple analog wall clock

Image source:

Ours is the affordable one from IKEA (it’s a steal at S$1.50!). Plain, white and clear. We’ve used it for a few years and I’m amazed it still works well.

Tip: Hang it at your child’s eye level at the learning area. Then show her how you read the time. E.g. “It’s 12 o’clock now, so it’s lunch time.”

3. Time-themed basket


This is a simple basket, to keep related time tools together, and placed on the math shelf. What’s inside:

GIGO teaching clock: move the minute hand and the hour hand moves to the correct position between the numbers

old alarm clock (with battery removed): let the child explore how to move the hands

ELC cardboard clock: for learning “past X o’clock” and “to X o’clock”. This form of telling the time in English isn’t easy to grasp. In fact, I don’t bother to teach it even in Kindergarten. This tool is simply a reference should we read about such expressions of time in books.

workbook from Novum Publishing: we don’t really use it as a workbook. Instead, we flip this like a book to match the time on the clocks to the pictures. It’s a very low-cost book and saves me time from creating printables.

4. Talk about time

I’m a time-conscious person because there’s so much to juggle. So I refer to time often in daily conversation and use different ways of referring to the same time, especially those related to the child’s routine. For example, “It is 2.45p.m. and time for nap.” Then followed by:

“Quarter to three”

5. Count in seconds

For understanding that 1 minute = 60 seconds, I count it regularly at home. Most often during breakfast, time to go, and time to get out of the bath tub.

For example, “I’d finish washing dishes in 1 minute, which is 60 seconds. Let’s count…”
Then we count up from 1 to 60.

We also count down.

For example, “Your oat will be ready in 1 minute, which is 60 seconds. Let’s count…”
Then we count up from 60 to 0. “Time’s up.”

As an extension, we sometimes count for 2 minutes, which is 120 seconds.

With this exposure from young, Vee and Jae have a good understanding of time in seconds.

6. Master multiplication table for x5

Many clocks only show 1 to 12, instead of 0 to 60.

So the earlier the child can master the multiplication table for x5, the earlier he can tell the time accurately with an analog clock.

To master multiplication x5, I used:

  • flash cards showing quantity dots in groups of 5
  • CD reciting and singing multiplication (in Chinese)

Then we practise reciting and singing the table. (In a fun way, just like how we sing a song together.)

Hope you’d find the above info useful in teaching your little one. Have (loads of) fun!




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P.P.S. Upcoming: Home Practice Intensive Workshop (Singapore) on 6 June 2015. The details should be confirmed within these couple of days and it’d be launched. Stay tuned!

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1 thought on “How to teach time”

  1. Hi MieVee,

    May i know where can i get the gigo teaching clock and ELC cardboard clock? I bought 1 wooden clock at kiddy palace but the short and long hands get loose easily. Tks in advance for your advice.

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