Teaching Your Grandchildren How to Tell Time

English: Standard clock face designed to assis...

Standard clock face designed to assist in learning to read. Clock reads 12:14 (am or pm) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kids now learn to tell time first on digital clocks.

Their parents’ cell phones.

The clock in the car.

The clock on the stove.

The clock on the face of the DVD player.

But, Grandparents want their grandchildren to learn how to tell time the old-fashioned way, on a clock with a round face, that has numbers around the outer edge.

And, two hands — the hour hand and the minute hand.

They want them to know what it means to say clock-wise, around to the right, starting at the top of the circle.

Because that is the direction the hands turn around the face of the clock.

And, counter-clockwise, around to the left, starting at the top of the circle, where the 12 is.

At first, the grandchildren are right.

It is harder. You can’t just read off the numbers, like you can on a digital clock.

But, once they learn this fundamental skill, they will learn that, when you’re in a hurry, you can glance at a clock face and tell much more quickly what time it is.

You can tell the time from a distance, even if you can’t read the numbers, because you are reading the pattern of the hands.

You know what the numbers are because of where they are.

And, in fact, many clocks don’t have numbers, for just this reason.

Can you imagine a digital clock without numbers?

They will learn that when you glance at a clock face you can see, much more readily, how much time is left until a certain hour you are waiting for, because an entire 12 hours is laid out.

So, how to teach them this skill when there may be few clocks in their world with hands?


  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Paper
  • Glue
  • Crayons, pens or pencils
  • Scissors


  • Cut the tubes into rings about one-half to one inch wide.
  • Each tube will make 4 to 6 of these rings.
  • The rings should fit easily over a grandchild’s wrist
  • Cut out circles from the paper to be clock faces for the wrist watches
  • Draw numbers one through 12 evenly spaced around the outside of the paper circles, like a clock face, with the 12 at the top and the 6 at the bottom
  • Draw a large arrow and a small arrow, each pointing to a number on the clock face
  • Draw a different time on each clock face
  • Glue one clock face to each toilet paper roll ring.

What Should Happen?

Explain to your grandchild that you are going to teach them how to tell time on the kind of clock you grew up with, so they will know the time no matter what kind of clock is available.

The small arrow they’ve drawn represents the hour and the large arrow represents the minutes before or after the hour.

Explain that, for some reason, we call the arrows on a clock hands.

This has been true since the 1570s.

It may be that the arrows used to be shaped like hands, pointing to the numbers on the clock face.

Explain that the clock represents 12 hours and goes around twice in a 24-hour day.

Explain that for the small hand, the time between the numbers on the clock represents one hour and it will take one hour for that hand to move from one number to the next.

But, for the large hand, the time between the numbers represents five minutes and it will only take five minutes for that hand to move from one number to the next.

Have them count by fives to see what time each number represents for the large hand.

Here is a clock that has all the minutes marked around the edge.

Help your grandchild figure out the time on each of the clock faces they’ve drawn.

Although normally we only wear one wristwatch, they can wear as many of the toilet paper roll rings on their arm as they like.

Figure out which of their clock faces is closest to the time right now.

Take turns drawing hands on the clock faces and letting your grandchildren figure out the time on each.

In 10 minutes they will have a half dozen wristwatch clock faces.

In an afternoon, your grandchildren will know how to tell time on the clocks we grew up with.

Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend, at 2 AM on Sunday, March 10, 2013.

Thanks to pinterest.comfor this activity.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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