I think it really helps preschoolers to understand time. Don’t you always want to know what time it is? That’s because you like to feel in control of your time. Preschoolers want to know how much longer they will have to sit still, how long until snack time, and what they are going to do the rest of the day.
Teach your preschoolers how to tell time, and let them help plan their day. They will be on their way to managing their own time, something many adults (me included) struggle with.
Quantify time whenever possible, and stick to your word. For example, if you say “We are leaving in 5 minutes,” leave in 5 minutes. Get a timer for things such as time out. For some things, such as computer time, say “you can play on the computer for 15 minutes, so when the clock says 6:15 it will be time to stop.”
We all know preschoolers love a schedule. I bet your preschoolers know when bedtime is. Talk about when playtime is, what time they get up, what time you eat dinner. Talk about tomorrow’s schedule at bedtime the night before.
Telling Time Learning Tools
There are a variety of clocks available for kids just learning to tell time. The classic is the Judy Clock, which has gears that make the hour hand move along with the minute hand. It also comes with a booklet of teaching tips.
The wooden shape sorting clock by Melissa & Doug reinforces the position of the numbers around the clock face, and also shows the minutes in 5 minute increments.
Surprise your child with his or her very own watch. Whether digital or analog, a watch can be a fantastic learning tool and a terrific birthday gift, too.
Telling Time Games and Activities
Turn learning into a game. The Telling Time Game by Eboo is for kids as young as 4, and can be adapted to provide a greater challenge for older kids.
Alex Toys makes a telling time kit that includes a clock manipulative, matching cards, a 12 piece puzzle, activity cards and more.
Let your preschooler help you make a toy clock with some paper plates and markers like shown at Learning Ideas. You can also download a free clock printable from Harcourt Schools, and have your preschooler cut out the numbers and paste them on. If your kids like worksheets (mine does), you can download some free ones from education.com (registration required).
Books on How to Tell Time
In Telling Time With Big Mama Cat, kids follow mama cat through her day of napping, eating and watching her family. There is a big fold out clock with movable hands, so you can match the time to mama cat’s schedule.
Maisy’s First Clock is an interactive book that asks preschoolers to choose what Maisy will wear, what she needs to bake cookies, and what she will bring to bed. There is also a clock with movable hands and visible gears.
Clockwise is a beautifully illustrated story about Thomas, a boy whose family is always late. Thomas meets a clock maker, who gives him a very special clock and some unique tips on how to keep time.