How to make a sundial for kids

Updated November 21, 2016

Sundials provide a valuable lesson to kids on time and the way the Earth's position changes throughout the day. They are easy and inexpensive to make, and can be displayed all year round on a sunny porch, patio or backyard. Follow these instructions to make your own sundial with your child.

Buy a 12-inch wooden disk for making clocks at a craft store. It will have a pre-drilled hole in the centre and already be sanded and smooth.

Fill the hole with air-dry clay. Insert the wider end of the chopstick into the hole. Set it aside and allow the clay to dry completely. The chopstick will be the gnomon, or the part of the sundial that casts the shadow that indicates time.

Pour some craft paints into disposable paper cups or on a plate. Give the children some craft brushes and have them design and paint the disk. They might like to go with astrological symbols, flowers or wild geometric patterns. Don't forget to paint the gnomon.

Allow the paint to dry completely. Bring the sundial outside on a day you plan to be home. Place it in a sunny spot and angle it in your desired direction. Go to the sundial every hour on the hour, and apply a number sticker near the edge of the disk on the spot where the gnomon is pointing. Be sure not to put the sundial outside when it's damp or there's a chance of rain, as its surface is not sealed yet.

Once all the numbers are in place, spray the sundial with a clear acrylic sealer. Do this outdoors where there is good ventilation. Allow the coat to dry, then spray it with another coat. For good measure, you can apply a third coat.

Set your sundial back in its spot in the same direction it was before. As the sun moves through the sky in the day, the sundial will indicate the approximate time.

If your sundial ever seems off, or daylight saving time ends, simply reset it. Go to it on the hour and change its position until the gnomon is pointing at the correct time.

Things You'll Need

  • Round wooden disk
  • Wooden chopstick
  • Air-drying clay
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Number stickers
  • Acrylic sealer spray paint
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