Last year, in an unscientific exercise, Jimmy Kimmel’s team showed some kids a traditional clock and asked if they could read the time on it. It did not go so well.
Yes, kids do still learn how to tell time in school, but we can guess that many of them are losing exposure to analogue clocks outside of the classroom. Thinking about it now, the only clock that my six-year-old can see in our home is on the digital display of our microwave. It hasn’t even occurred to me to hang up another one—my husband and I always have our watches or phones on us.
But time management specialists say that analogue clocks can teach kids something that digital clocks can’t, and that is that time moves. Academic coach Leslie Josel tells parents to hang an analogue clock in every room their children spend time in, including the bathroom. (If you have a teen, definitely put one in the bathroom, she suggests.)
“The problem with digital is that it only gives you one time—the present,” Josel says in her video series. “You can’t see what came before it or how much time you have left.”
With an analogue clock (particularly one with a second hand), kids can visualise the passage of time as it happens, making them more aware of this moment relative to the past and future. It can give them a feel for how long it takes to complete certain tasks—say, washing the dishes or writing a book report—and plan accordingly. Seeing time as a one-hour pie can also help them break down projects into smaller tasks more intuitively.
As for the type of analogue clock you should display, keep it simple. Choose one that’s big and easy to read. (Think about the one you stared at every day in sixth-period high school economics—it got the job done.) After hanging the clocks throughout your home, talk to your kids about time, and do it often. Ask them questions like: “If we have to be there at two and it takes us 15 minutes to get there, what time should we be out the door?” Eventually, they’ll no longer require your prompting.
The more your kids “see” time, the better they’ll be able to move with it. And that’s a skill they’ll always need, no matter what new digital devices they’ll have in the future.