Read Aloud Books and Two Activities that Teach Time Concepts to Preschoolers

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The question “What is time?” is one with many answers stemming from science, philosophy, religion, and even business. However, the simplest answer is that time is the measurement of the duration of an event and of the intervals between events. Although the concept of time is often difficult for young children to understand, preschoolers can begin to learn about the basics of time with these age appropriate books and activities.

Books About Telling Time

Reading a book is a great activity for introducing preschoolers to any topic. The following books about time are recommended for young readers:

  • Clocks and More Clocks by Pat Hutchins (1994)
  • Telling Time with Big Mama Cat by Dan Harper (1998)
  • Telling Time: How to Tell Time on Digital and Analog Clocks! by Jules Older (2000)
  • It’s about Time (MathStart 1) by Stuart J. Murphy (2004)
  • Tell the Time with Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (2004)
  • What Time Is It, Peter Rabbit? by Beatrix Potter (2004)

After reading aloud to the class, talk about the book with the entire class during circle time. Ask questions such as “What did you like about the story?” and “What do you think time is now that we have read this book?” Also have the children ask their own questions about the story.

Make a Clock Activity

Using a clock that children craft themselves is a fun way to teach preschoolers about the concept of time. The materials needed to make this craft are:

  • white card stock
  • colored card stock (two colors)
  • scissors
  • brass paper fasteners

To make the paper clock, print a clock face onto the white card stock. Print short hour hands onto one color of card stock and long minute hands onto the other color. Help the preschoolers cut out the clock faces and clock hands with safety scissors. Punch a small hole in the center of the face and near the edge of both hands. Attach the hands to the face with the paper fastener.

First use the paper clocks to ask general math and number questions about time and clocks. Some suggested questions are:

  • How many hands are on a clock?
  • How many numbers are on a clock?
  • How many times do the hands go around the clock during a day?
  • How many hours are in a day?
  • How many minutes are in an hour?

After the preschoolers are comfortable with their clocks, show them how to make the hands point to different hours. For example, for three o’clock, the short hour hand points to the three and the long minute hand points to the twelve. Explain that the long minute hand always points at the twelve for hours.

Using paper clock activities will help young children learn about time concepts as well as master their number literacy.

Sequencing Activity

Activities that require preschoolers to think about the sequence of events, although relatively simple, will help young children learn about time as the measurement of the duration of an event and of the intervals between events. Simply make sets of three picture cards that are images of a sequence of events. For example, make a set of cards that contains pictures of a seed, a seedling, and a plant. Then introduce the words for ordinal numbers: first, second, and third. Finally have the students arrange the pictures in the correct order and have them describe the sequence of events. For example:

  • First there is a seed.
  • Second the seed grows into a little plant.
  • Third the little plant grows into a big plant.

Create sets of more than three cards and introduce larger ordinal numbers as the preschoolers master sequences of three events.

Time can be a difficult concept for young children to understand, but these books and crafts will help preschoolers learn about the basic elements of time through age appropriate activities.


  • All ideas courtesy of the author, Heather Marie Kosur