Practice Telling Time at Home
When it comes to learning about time and clocks, teachers can teach the basics in the classroom. However, the best way for kids to really practice is at home or when they’re on the go in the real world. Involve your kids whenever you’re consulting a clock and they will quickly learn to tell time naturally.
If English is your second language, make sure that you are saying times correctly. Review Tanya’s pronunciation tips, and practice the dialogues below.
Here are 10 ideas for practicing telling time at home. Each idea comes with a model dialogue with useful vocabulary and phrases for ESL parents.
1. Scheduling extra-curricular activities
Write all of your child’s extra-curricular activities on a big calendar, and include start times. Instead of checking the calendar on game day, ask your child to check the times for you.
Mom: What time is soccer practice on Sunday? Can you check the calendar?
Child: Soccer practice is at three thirty.
Mom: Okay. It takes ten minutes to get to the arena and you need five minutes to put your shoes on. What time should we leave?
Child: We should leave at quarter after three.
2. Correcting clocks
Your clocks probably need changing once in a while due to power outages, dead batteries, and daylight saving time. Ask your child to check the real time on your mobile phone. Then help your child reset the clocks.
Dad: The power went out last night. Can you help me reset the clocks?
Child: Okay, Dad. What’s the real time?
Dad: I’ll check my phone. It’s four twenty-three.
But first, you may want to have some fun while the clocks are wrong. Tell your child it’s bedtime when it’s in the middle of the day.
Mom: It’s bedtime!
Child: No it’s not. It’s still light out.
Mom: What time is it?
Child: It’s only five thirty!
Mom: Oh, my clock must be wrong. When is bedtime?
Child: Bedtime is at eight o’clock, Mom.
Mom: Okay, so how long is it until bedtime?
Child: It will be bedtime in two and a half hours.
3. Reviewing time zones
Do you have relatives or family friends who live in different time zones? Talk about time differences with your child before calling your loved ones.
Mom: It’s ten oh five am (10:05). What time is it at Grandma’s? Remember, it’s one hour ahead in Winnipeg.
Child: It’s eleven oh five at Grandma’s.
Mom: What time is it?
Child: It’s eight o’clock.
Mom: It’s Auntie Leslie’s birthday!
Child: I thought her birthday was tomorrow?
Mom: It’s already tomorrow in Australia. Let’s check what time it is in Australia using The World Clock.
4. Going to the movies
Are you planning on going to the movies, a hockey game, or a birthday party this weekend? Involve your child in talking about the start and end times.
Mom: Let’s find out when the movie plays.
Child: I’ll get your phone.
Mom: Here are the times. Can you tell me what it says?
Child: It says the movie is playing at two o’clock and three fifty-five.
Mom: Which time is better for us?
Child: How about the three fifty-five show?
Mom: Let’s check how long the movie is. Okay, it’s 120 minutes. That’s two hours. Will we have time to watch the movie before hockey practice?
Child: What time is hockey practice?
Mom: Please check the calendar.
Child: Hockey practice is at six pm.
Mom: The movie won’t be over until five fifty-five. Let’s go to the early show. When will it be over? It starts at two o’clock.
Child: It will be over at four.
5. Setting alarms
I set a timer every morning to remember to pick my child up at school! You probably set an alarm regularly too. Encourage your child to help you set the alarm whenever you need to wake up or remember to do something.
Mom: Son, can you set my alarm for two fifty-eight?
Mom: I have a busy day today, and I don’t want to forget to pick you up from school!
Dad: Don’t forget to set your alarm.
Child: What time do I have to wake up?
Dad: We’re leaving at seven o’clock sharp. How long do you need to get ready?
Child: I need about half an hour. I’ll set my alarm for six thirty.
6. Cooking or baking
Cooking with kids is a great way to review the time. Here are some questions to ask while you’re cooking or baking.
What time is it now?
How long will it take to cook?
What time should we check on it?
What time should it be ready?
7. Earning an allowance
Are you looking for a new way to help your child earn a little bit of money? Try a game called Quarters for Quarters. Gather a few dollars worth of quarters and put them in a jar somewhere near a clock in your house. For a week or two, tell your child he can earn two quarters a day (or a maximum that you set). Your child can earn a quarter by telling you when it’s quarter after an hour or quarter to an hour. This is a useful way to get your child used to keeping an eye on the clock.
Child: It’s quarter after five, Mom! Can I have my quarter?
Mom: You are right! It’s five fifteen. Take one out of the jar and put it in your piggy bank.
Mom: It’s quarter to nine. Can I have my quarter?
Mom: Let me check. That’s right. It’s eight forty-five. You can have another quarter.
You may want to play this game until your child earns enough money to buy his or her own watch or clock. When your child gets the hang of the quarter hours, change the times to half past the hour (for 30 cents) or five after or before the hour (for a nickel).
8. Getting exercise
The game What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf? is a classic. You can play it with two people or the whole family or neighborhood. Change “Mr. Wolf” to “Mrs. Wolf,” “Baby Wolf,” or any other animal or character. (What time is it, Pikachu? would go over well in my house.) Play the game outside or in a basement. The wolf stands on one side of the space and the others stand on the other side.
Brother: What time is it, Mr. Wolf?
Dad: Two o’clock. (The other family members take two steps toward the wolf.)
Sister: What time is it, Mr. Wolf?
Dad: Three thirty. (The family members take three and a half steps.)
Mother: What time is it, Mr. Wolf?
Dad: Midnight. (The family members take twelve steps towards Dad.)
Brother: What time is it, Mr. Wolf?
Dad: Time to eat you! (Dad runs towards family members who try to run away. The first person who is tagged becomes the time keeper.) *
*As a fun alternative, the wolf can say, “It’s bedtime!” and everyone can fall down and pretend to sleep. The wolf pretends to sleep too. Eventually the wolf shouts, “Wake up! It’s time for breakfast.” The last person to stand up gets eaten.
9. Using a timer
My kids love getting me to time them when they are in the swimming pool. They want to improve their time when it comes to holding their breath under water or swimming from one side of the pool to the other. Why not have your kids time you? (Most mobile phones have a timer app that kids can use easily.) Ask your kids to time how long it takes you to fold the laundry or go grocery shopping.
When my kids need to clean up the basement or their rooms, I always ask them to set the timer for 20 minutes. That’s about how long they can stay on task before fighting or getting distracted.
Mom: It’s time to clean the basement.
Daughter: Do we have to?
Mom: Yes. Set the timer for 20 minutes. I bet you can finish in 20 minutes if you work quickly.
Fifteen minutes later…
Son: We’re finished. Come and see.
Mom: Check the timer. It didn’t go off yet.
Son: We have two minutes left.
Mom: Great! You have enough time to sweep the floor! When the timer goes off, I’ll come and check your work.
10. Waiting around
How often do you pull out your mobile phone for your child to use when they are waiting for something? Whether you’re on the bus, at a sibling’s dance rehearsal, or at the doctor’s office, an educational app can help your child forget how long it takes! Look for Telling Time apps, such as Time Teacher Lite.
Child: I’m bored. Can I use your phone?
Mom: What are you learning at school?
Child: Telling time.
Mom: Let’s find a fun app for you to practice telling the time.
Try some of these activities with your kids, and they will be telling time in no time!