Teaching Young Children About Time

Small children are always asking when certain things are going to happen:

"When are we going to eat lunch?"
"When is recess?"
"When will Mom get home?"
 "When can I go and play?"

Of course, small children also don't have an accurate grasp on the concept of increments of time. Days, months, hours, and minutes are all very fuzzy concepts to them. So to help kids start to understand how to measure time, I borrowed an idea from mathematics guru John Van de Walle. His brilliant idea is to take the minute hand off of a clock so that children can focus on the hand that gives them the most important information: the hour hand. 


I had to break the plastic covering to get to the minute hand, but after that, it was easy to snip off the minute hand with a pair of scissors. Now that only the hour hand shows, the children can begin to conceptualize how long an hour is, and when certain things will happen. If I tell them, "Lunch, will be at 11". They know to watch for when the hour hand is pointing exactly at the 11. And, during that time, can watch the speed at which the hour hand moves from number to number to gain an idea of how long an hour is exactly. We can also use the hour hand to begin to use time vocabulary in a way that makes sense. For example:


"It's almost 9 o'clock" 
"It's just past 12"
"It's half past 1"
"It's exactly 10 o'clock"


I've found that using an "hour hand only" clock has given my kids a lot of independence. They can now check it on their own to find out if it's time for certain things to happen that are always at the same time. They can find out if it's lunch time or play time on their own, which gives them a sense of control over the day as well as an introduction to how time is measured.