My child, now four (soon five) years old, is interested in time, knowing what time it is and how long until something happens. We do not, at the moment, have analog clocks and a digital clock is not very convenient, especially since it shows time in the usual 24 hour manner, whereas we often say that "clock is seven" (word-for word translation) when the time is 7:00 or 19:00.

The other problem is the lack of concreteness; two-digit numbers and the symbol ":" as a separator between hours and minutes, and the idea that once the minutes reach 60 they reset while the hours keep on going; there is much to learn.

It seems a pity to not use the child's interest to teach a little bit about the subject matter.

  1. Is getting an analog clock the way to go, or are there alternatives?
  2. How to proceed, given the analog clock or other educational tools, and what are reasonable learning goals at this age?

(As always, please answer based on experience or reliable sources.)

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ One approach. When your kids are very small, get a big analog clock, and hang it on the wall. Over the years, when they ask about it, tell them how to read it. No pressure, no lessons. $\endgroup$ Mar 20 '19 at 15:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ With so much in our daily life still related to analog clock ("keep hands in 10-2 position while driving", "look at that girl at 1 o'clock", "I finished with my test and waited for the end of the exam, but the big arrow barely moved", also using watch as a compass, etc.) there is no other way as to get an analog clock. It is great for learning fractions and reducing them, like 15 minutes out of 60-minute hour is one quarter. P.S. At least your child will be learning proper metric units later at school ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Rusty Core
    Mar 20 '19 at 16:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You could be very ambitious and get a binary-encoded digital clock too! $\endgroup$
    – kcrisman
    Mar 20 '19 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @kcrisman Didnt know these clocks exist! $\endgroup$
    – user5402
    Mar 20 '19 at 19:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm confused: your child seems to be interested in a situation, which might best be solved by buying an analog clock, so do you have any reason not to buy one? $\endgroup$
    – Dominique
    Mar 22 '19 at 8:13

My experience: In the early 2000's, I had my first child ($\approx$ 5 yrs) help me "build" an analog clock (it was just a paper model, no gears). We would occasionally set it to the correct time (given on my phone), perform some task, and then come back to the clock to reset the time. I think this gave him the sense of how fast/slow the minute hand took to move, and it reinforced the meaning of the tick marks for minutes. This made an easy transition to other analog clocks. I never did this with my 2nd child, and there was a definite delay in analog clock reading.

I do not know what the benchmarks were for this age back then, but the current Common Core puts "reading time" in 1st grade (ages 6-7), but restricts it to whole and half hours. Then, in 2nd grade (ages 7-8), students must tell and write time to the nearest 5 minutes.


Have you considered buying an analog watch for your child? My parents got me one for my sixth birthday and I was able to use it to tell time. I would think the child could also use it to learn to tell time. The advantages are that your child will always have it handy and be able to compare the watch to the digital time. Whenever you want to talk about time in or out of the house, your child will have it ready. Because it will belong to your child, he will know that you are supporting him in his quest to learn analog time. Just make sure to get a watch with numbers that are easy to read.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Or... she will know that you are supporting her in her quest to learn analog time. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 24 '19 at 14:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.