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Tips For Helping Your Children To Learn About Time

Below are some tips to help you when you are helping your children to tell time (most of the tips also apply to their learning in general).

Click the more links to read further about how you can help your children learn about time.

Be hands on!

Numbers and lines used to explain mathematical concepts are not the actual materials, but are abstract symbols to represent the concrete concepts. The numbers and lines are a conceptualization of math. Direct handling, arranging and organizing of real materials to illustrate the mathematical concept engages the children’s understanding of the complex mathematical theories. Maneuvering and manipulation of real materials captures children’s attention and fosters a greater knowledge base and understanding of their awareness of math .

Try this; place a piece of paper with math facts and a pencil on one side of a table and a box of stuff, (e.g. a minute sand glass, a kitchen egg timer, a digital watch, an analog watch, marbles, paper clips, bread tags, old keys, toy cars, lids), on the other side of the table. Invite your children to explore all the materials. Try not to comment or interfere with your children’s choices, but simply observe their behavior.

Hands-on manipulation and exploration of materials from the natural world further develops your children’s observing and describing skills. Allowing your children to play with the materials before any formal direction or lessons are started cultivates problem solving skills and nurtures making predictions and drawing conclusions. It also fosters their curiosity and spontaneous interest. Allow them time to play freely. Once they have exhausted their handling of the material, they are then ready to begin working with the material under direction.

Parent Talk Suggestions; “Look at all these things.” If your children are reluctant, you may want to encourage/prompt them to explore. “What would you like to work with?” Hands-on materials are alluring and hold a special charm for children. Encourage and nurture their curiosity and development by providing them with numerous opportunities to explore the world around them without rules or restrictions. Play in the mud. Build sand castles. Climb trees. Allow them ample opportunities to play freely. Our brains develop cognitively when our natural instincts are allowed to explore and expand without too many rules and regulations. (Keep in mind, safety first, of course.)

Gather your materials

Gather the materials that you will use in this lesson with your children. Engage them in the process of collecting or buying the materials you will be working with. Doing this together helps the children have an appreciation of the cooperative effort that it takes to establish and maintain a learning environment. Children also feel that their contribution is valued and needed.

Give the materials a home. They will be used in many places around the learning environment and should be put back in their home so that they are easily find-able.

Don’t overwhelm

This is an informal discussion about time, especially for kindergarten students, but also for the early grades too. Answer any questions that do arise, but do be careful not to overwhelm your children by giving them too much information. Keep it simple.


Singing is another tool used to help in learning and remembering. By singing, your children are engaging other parts of their brain to commit to memory the math concepts they are covering. Singing fosters physical, mental and social well being, speech development, social behavior and aggression control.. Singing is a powerful nourishment for children’s brains. Hidden in the fun are rhythms and rhyme and lyrics and laughter. All build memory. When some memories are hard to retrieve, music is easier to recall.

Don’t talk down

Use your own vocabulary. Talk to your children as you would talk to any other person. By this, I mean, as if you were talking to an adult. Avoid using baby talk, or talking down to your children as this is patronizing and they will not benefit from this kind of communication. If your children do not understand your word choice, explain it to them. They speak what they hear. Children are sponges and will develop their language based on what they hear.

Show them

Keep in mind that to effectively build your children’s confidence and solidify their foundation of the skills being taught, you may need to say or do the lesson first and then have your children repeat or copy after you. Role model for your children and they will follow your lead. You will have to decide if you think your children are hesitating and need to repeat the numbers after you or if they are comfortable and can say the number words with you or even on their own.

Give them time

Allow your children time to arrive at answers independently. Only give support and guidance once they have had time to think and process the questions and concepts. Be patient. Be careful not to rush your children’s thinking process. It may take longer than you think or want. Provide as little direction as possible in order that they may reach the edge of knowing and not knowing. Allow them time to arrive at the answer. If the answer they arrive at is correct, great. If the answer is incorrect, review, discuss and go over the activities again. Try to use different language to describe the same concept. It could be that your choice of words has tripped them up. Keep it simple. You may even want to have someone else explain the same concept. Another parent or adult, a sibling or friend.

Ask them questions

For most of the questions that you ask them, you should be certain that they know the answer as you want to boost what they have learned rather than find out what they don’t know. Do not burst their bubbles!

  1. When the time is an hour, half hour or at a five minute interval, ask; “What time is right now?”
  2. When the time is at a five minute interval ask; “What time will it be in 5 minutes? In 10 minutes? 30 minutes?” And so on.
  3. Ask; “What time was it 5 minutes ago? 15 minutes ago?” And so on.
  4. Ask; “If we are leaving at 7:00 and it is 6:30, how much time is there before we leave?”
  5. Ask: “What time does …place the name of their favorite show here….start? How long does it run for? When does it end?”

Continuing to ask questions, playing games and singing songs often helps your children master math.