How to construct a clock out of cardboard

Written by gryphon adams
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How to construct a clock out of cardboard
A round clock with large numbers helps kids learn to tell time (office, school, or home wall clock - vector image by Piter Pkruger from

Learning to tell time is a rite of passage that helps kids make sense of the world. They learn to anticipate when it's time to go to school, when it's time to leave for a party, what time their parents come home, and when it's bedtime. Making their own cardboard clock offers kids a chance to discover how clocks keep time, what the hand positions on the clock mean and how to relate specific times to the events of their lives.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Table or other work surface
  • Thick, non-toxic marking pen
  • Pencil
  • 10- to 12-inch bowl or plate
  • Ruler
  • White lightweight cardboard or card stock
  • 1-inch number stickers
  • Brass paper fastener
  • Safety scissors for lightweight cardboard
  • Glow-in-the-dark pen
  • Lamp

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  1. 1

    Put the clock-making materials on the table. For a group project, provide materials for each child.

  2. 2

    Guide the kids in using a bowl or plate as a pattern for the clock. Place the cardboard white-side up. Turn the bowl or plate upside down on the cardboard. This makes it stable to use as a pattern. Demonstrate how to hold the centre of the dish with one hand and draw a circle with the other hand.

  3. 3

    Assist each child in using a ruler to mark the positions of the hours on the clock. Help write large, easy-to-read numbers on the clock face or apply the stickers. Peel the numbers off the backing and stick to the clock face one at a time.

  4. 4

    Demonstrate how to draw arrow-shaped clock hands on an area of the cardboard outside of the clock circle. Draw these with a thick marker, and make the hour hand at least an inch shorter than the minute hand. For example, if the clock face is 12 inches in diameter, make the hour hand 6 inches long and the minute hand 4 inches long, so it's easy for the child to tell them apart. One thick marking pen line with an arrow tip on the end works well for a clock hand.

  5. 5

    Show how to outline the numbers and the clock hands with the glow-in-the-dark pen. Allow the ink to dry.

  6. 6

    Help cut the clock hands, and help with cutting the clock face circle if needed.

  7. 7

    Use the brass fastener to attach the clock hands. Use a ruler to mark the centre of the clock face. Place the minute hand on top of the hour hand and position their ends at the centre of the clock. Push a paper fastener through the hands and open the clasp on the back of the clock. Bend the prongs down, so that the tips point straight down at the cardboard in an "M" shape.

  8. 8

    Place the clock under a lamp to activate the glow-in-the-dark ink. Let the kids turn out the lights and set the clocks to different times.

Tips and warnings

  • Use the lid of a white cardboard document box or a white stiffener from a package of T-shirts to make an environmentally-friendly clock from reused materials.
  • Work with the kids on learning how long things take to cook, how long it takes to study, to finish chores and get from one place to another. These learning activities give kids a greater understanding of how things work and how to manage time in their lives.
  • Don't leave kids unsupervised with marking pens and glow in the dark pens.

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