How to teach a 24-hour clock to kids

Updated April 17, 2017

The 24-hour clock is the standard time-telling system in many countries and organisations, including the British Army and the UK's railway network. However, because of the widespread adoption of the 12-hour am/pm clock for other purposes, many children never learn how to tell time on a 24-hour clock. Provide a worldly alternative to the 12-hour clock by teaching kids how to read a 24-hour clock.

Set two clocks -- one 12-hour clock and one 24-hour clock -- to the same time in the morning. Place the clocks next to each other so that they may be compared side by side. This will give children a basic knowledge of what times on the 12-hour clock correspond to the times on a 24-hour clock.

Explain a 24-hour clock as an "extension" of a 12-hour clock, rather than as a completely different system. Explain that when a 12-hour clock reaches 12:59 and resets to 1:00, the 24-hour clock keeps going to 13:00 and onwards.

Teach children that an easy-to-remember way to read the clock is that any time past 12:00 -- say 14:32 -- on a 24-hour clock, is in the afternoon. Teach that the larger the hour number on the clock, the later it is in any given day.

If the children have a basic understanding of addition and subtraction, teach them that they may subtract 12 from the hour of any time past 12:00 on the 24-hour clock to find its 12-hour pm counterpart. For example, 15:34 minus 12 hours is 3:34 pm.

Make a game out of the two clocks placed side by side. Cover the 12-hour clock with a piece of construction paper or fabric and ask the kids to guess the time on the 12-hour clock by only looking at the 24-hour clock beside it. When they have a good grasp of the concept, cover the 24-hour clock and have the children guess its time based on the 12-hour clock.

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About the Author

Born and raised in St. Louis, Mo., Justin Wash began his professional writing career in 2004 with an online freelance copywriting business. Over the years, he has written for a myriad of clients including China-Vasion and The Executives Closet.