Kids: Fun Activities To Teach Your Child About Time

Two great activities for teaching children about time: timelines and sundials.

Time is an intangible concept and can be difficult for young children to grasp. Try some of these fun activities to help children understand how time works.

Make a daily time line

Time lines are a great way to illustrate the passage of time to children. Start by discussing the kinds of things the children do on a typical day. For example, your list might include waking up, eating, getting dressed, going to school, playing, driving in the car, helping with chores, watching television, bathing, and sleeping. Cut pictures out of magazines or draw small iconic pictures to represent the major activities that fill the day.

Break a long piece of paper into 24 even segments. Each segment will represent an hour of the day. Label the segments of the day each with an hour of the day. Help your child place the pictures representing activities on the timeline to fill out an average day, or use what you did the previous day as an example.

Discuss the things that take up most of the timeline. What things are surprising? For example, children often have no idea how much time they spend sleeping. Attaching time segments to tangible activities helps children understand how long it takes to do things.


Sundials were one of the first devices used to keep time. On a sundial, an angled piece is positioned so that the shadows it casts mark the hours of the day.

First, talk with your children about the motion of the earth and our position relative to the sun. The time it makes for the earth to make one rotation is what we call a day. Since the earth is rotating, our location on the earth only faces the sun for part of the day. So, the position of the sun relative to a single location on the earth can help us tell time. Check the Internet for convenient diagrams and animations to help illustrate this concept.

To make a simple sundial of your own:

1. Place a large piece of wood or poster board (at least 18 inches square) on a flat outdoor surface. This will be your sundial base.

2. Cut a piece of cardstock into a right triangle with the two shortest sides each having a length of 12 inches.

3. Fold one of the 12-inch sides over to make a flap approximately 3/4 of an inch wide. Use this folded-over flap to tape or tack the triangle to the center of the sundial base. Make sure the triangle stands upright.

4. Look at where the shadow from the triangle falls on the base. The movement of the shadow is going to help you tell time. Using a watch or clock, on every hour mark the location of the shadow on the base and the time that corresponds to that shadow position.

5. Once you have marked the time for all of the shadow positions, you can use your sundial to tell time. Look at the shadow's positions.

Note: Make sure you do not move or re-position your sundial since your marks will no longer be accurate.

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