According to Wikipedia, time is the continued sequence of existence and events that occurs in apparently irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is the component quantity of various measurements used in the sequence of events, to compare the duration of the events or the intervals between them and quantify the rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience.
Simply put, time is what a clock reads.
The first thing that you need to start with is telling your child about time. Time helps to keep track of everything in day-to-day life. Explain to them that time is read by a clock. The hands of the clock tell us time. There is also another version of the clock which is the digital one and time is shown in digits rather than a person to estimate it.
Time can be read from different devices such as the traditional clock, mobile phones, watches and even from ancient clocks and sundials. Just mentioning time would fill them with never-ending curiosity until they have learnt to estimate time by themselves. It's enough to make them practically force you to instantly start teaching them about the ‘time’ thing.
You can start by introducing to them the general concepts of time – morning, afternoon, evening and night. Try to talk about activities associated with different time of the day. For example, ‘We have lunch in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, snacks in the evening and dinner at night time. You can also randomly ask your child what time it is throughout the day. This will ensure that their foundation gets strong and it will be easier for them to learn to tell the time.
Children who are old enough to tell time should be easily able to count to sixty. So, it is evident that you should make your child practice counting till sixty over and over again until they are comfortable and can do so themselves without any help or getting anything wrong. It should also include that you explain to them the concept of hours, minutes and seconds. Make them know that there are twenty-four hours in a day and it is the biggest unit of time that they should know at the moment. If the hour count is less than twelve, it is AM and if it crosses twelve it is PM.
Analogue clocks can be a great way to introduce your child to the concept of reading time. Start by telling them the correct time at the moment and how did you come up with it. Show them the different sizes of the three hands on the clock. Tell them that the shortest hand shows hours, the middle size shows the minutes and the longest one is for the seconds.
To make it easier for your child to practice, make them a paper clock with the hands drawn representing a particular time or provide them a toy clock and use it to explain the concepts of time reading. In many of the children's books, you will find pictures of clocks or books like The Clock Struck One and Tell the Time can really help in this process and you should ensure that your child reads them.
You can start by moving to hour hand on the different numbers on the clock and then ask your child to answer what hour is being represented. Continue till your child can get everyone right. Then you make move to the minute hand. Tell them that there are markings between the numbers representing hours that are used for showing the exact minute. There are sixty minutes in one hour and all of them are present in the same clock itself. Tell them for minutes, the twelfth hour represents 0 and 60 minutes, the third hour is for 15 minutes, the sixth hour is for 30 minutes and the ninth hour is for 45 minutes. Tell them that each number on the clock is a multiple of five. Then explain to them about the minutes in between those numbered minutes. The second hand also follows the same convention as the minute hand and there should be no problem for them if they can determine the minute. Similarly, explain to them that there are 60 seconds in one minute.
One of the most effective ways to understand reading time is to set a specific time for doing certain things. You can set your kid’s play time at 4 o’clock in the evening and every time your child wants to go play, you can ask them to read the time and check for themselves if it is the time yet to play or not. Similarly set time for brushing their all the meals of the day and the time for brushing before the bed and of course their time to hit the bed and switch off the lights.
There is no better way than practising frequently. Only memorizing a concept is not enough, it needs to be tried out practically too. Explaining a bit more complex concepts such as quarter to, five minutes past, ten minutes to etc. can come at a later stage once they get familiar with their existing task at hand. Gradually your child will be able to slowly but correctly guess the time. Praise them for each time they get it right. It acts as a confidence booster. Soon, introduce them to the digital clock or they already know about it from seeing your mobile phones. Online time clock generators such as Digital Clock or pictures of clocks can provide more than enough practice for your child to determine time accurately.