Reasons why some Children Struggle to tell the Time

Telling the time is an important skill for children to learn. Throughout their life, it is a skill they will use on a daily basis. They will need to arrive at work on time, keep appointments and have a structure and routine in their day. All of these activities involve being able to tell the time. Parents and teachers will both play an important role in teaching a child to tell the time. However, some children find this much more difficult than others. There are several different reasons for this difficulty.

Specific learning difficulties

There is a group of learning difficulties that is referred to a specific learning difficulties. These include dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. Telling the time is a common difficulty in people with specific learning difficulties. If you suspect that your child has one of these difficulties, you should discuss this with their school as they can arrange for your child to have a number of assessments to identify their particular difficulties and areas of need. Furthermore, they will be able to offer you support and advice and put strategies in place to assist your child with their learning.

Learning the 5 times tables

To be able to tell the time, then you must know your 5 times tables. Or at the very least be able to count upwards in multiples of 5. If your child has trouble in doing this then they will struggle to tell the time properly. To counteract this problem, you should practice their times tables with them. If they find this hard you can use concrete apparatus, such as counters, or worksheets with pictures on to help them.

Spatial awareness

Telling the time involves an element of spatial awareness. This means that the child must be able to understand up, down, left, right clockwise and anticlockwise. If your child has difficulty in understanding spatial concepts then telling the time is difficult for them. Problems with spatial awareness can also be an indicator of other problems, such as neuro-developmental delay. Again, if you are concerned you can speak to your child’s class teacher.

Understanding the numerical symbols

Some clocks use the numbers up to 12 to denote the different time. Others use Roman numerals. Regardless of which symbols are used on a clock they actually represent a value of time that is different from the number that is seen when reading minutes. For example, if the small hand is on three and the large hand is on 12, then it is 3 o’clock, but if the large hand is on the nine it is quarter to four. Similarly the large hand on one means five past, not one minute past, and positioned at five means 25 minutes past, not five past. It is very complex for a child to understand this system.

Learning to tell the time is a common problem for many children. Although it may not be something to be concerned about, it is potentially a sign of your child having difficulties in other areas. Teachers and parents can work together to identify these problems and devise strategies to support the child in learning to tell the time.