Telling the Time

Do you or your little ones have trouble telling the time? Well, so does the Glass Slipper Princess! So much so, that she’s often late leaving royal balls and has to dash home before her carriage turns back into a pumpkin! Thankfully, she’s been learning all about telling the time so that it doesn’t happen again. She’s decided to share her new skills

Why hello there little mice. It’s me, the Glass Slipper Princess! The night I met my prince at the royal ball, my fairy godmother gave me the gift of a magic spell that made a beautiful dress from my rags, turned a pumpkin into a carriage and my mice into horses! It was such wonderful magic. However – it only worked until midnight!

When midnight struck, I was caught a little off guard. You see, I wasn’t very good at telling the time – so I didn’t realise how late it had gotten! By the time I got home, my dress was already gone, my pumpkin carriage had fallen to bits, and I’d left my glass slipper behind – I’m sure you know the rest!

I told myself that very night that in order to avoid a mishap like that again, I’d teach myself how to tell the time. And I did! So now, I’d very much like to pass on my learned knowledge to you. Let’s start telling the time together…

Telling the Time

How do we Count Time?

The first thing we need to learn is how we count time! Without this baseline knowledge of how time works, counting it all up would get very confusing. We count time mostly in seconds, minutes and hours. There are sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour and twenty four hours in a whole day!

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The reason we count this way is actually down to the magic of your heart. Put your hand on your chest – can you feel your heartbeat? The healthy human heart beats on average 60 times a minute. That’s a beat per second! Now we know these basic breakdowns, we can learn more…

The 12 Hour Clock

The clock starts at exactly the same time it stops – MIDNIGHT. What a magical time! Every day ends and starts at midnight. I guess that’s why my magic stopped at that moment…

At midnight we start counting each hour all the way to twelve. At twelve it becomes midday, or noon. Then, we start our counting again – from one to twelve. In the morning, we put “am” after the number, so we can easily differentiate it from the afternoon – where we put “pm” after the number.

We count midnight as 12am. After midnight, we count sixty minutes (one whole hour) and then it becomes 1am. We count another whole hour and it becomes 2am. Then 3am, 4am, 5am, 6am, 7am, 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am, then midday – which is our first afternoon number – is 12pm. Then 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm and then – at 12am – we’re back to midnight!

We call this system the “12 Hour Clock” because we count to twelve twice when counting our time.

The 24 Hour Clock

We can also tell the time using the “24 Hour Clock”, where we count all the way to twenty-four instead! We start in the very same way, at midnight. However, instead of adding “am” or “pm” after our numbers – we add two zeros instead! And because the day starts at midnight, 12am in the twelve hour clock becomes 0000 in the twenty-four hour clock. 1am becomes 0100, 2am becomes 0200, then we have 0300, 0400, 0500, 0600, 0700, 0800, 0900, 1000, 1100 – and 1200 when it becomes midday.

Instead of restarting our count and going back to one like we did in the twelve hour clock, we carry on counting! So 1pm becomes 1300. 2pm becomes 1400, then 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000, 2100, 2200, 2300, and then back to midnight – 0000 again!

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15 is the Magic Number

A really quick and useful way to divide up a whole hour (sixty minutes) is by splitting it up into quarters, or four equal parts. we can fit four lots of fifteen minutes into one whole hour. So if you hear a grown up saying “a quarter of an hour”, they mean fifteen minutes. So that means that “half an hour” is two lots of thirty minutes – thirty minutes, and “three quarters of an hour” is forty-five minutes.

When telling the time, we also use these easy chunks of fifteen minutes. If we say that it’s a quarter past three in the afternoon, we’d write it as 3:15pm in the twelve hour clock or 1515 in the twenty-four hour clock. If we say it’s half past ten in the morning, we’d write 10:30am or 1030. If its quarter to nine at night, we’d write 8:45pm or 2045! See if you can practice this with your grown up – get them to say a time out loud, then you try to write down both the twelve hour and twenty-four hour clock versions!

Reading the Clock

Oh, that clock! Often these days in your kingdom, you have digital devices such as phones, tablets, laptops, or digital watches – these will tell you the time in either the twelve hour or twenty-four hour clock, displaying them as easy to read numbers.

However, there is another way to tell the time – and this one can be quite difficult to do: Reading clock faces, where there are twelve numbers in a circle with two hands that spin round to point to each one. I struggled to read the clock at the ball and almost didn’t make it home in time! Let me show you how you can do it yourself…

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The Enchanted Rose Princess has some wonderful furniture friends – do you recognise them? Well one of them is actually a clock! Can you see the spinning hands on his face? The longer, thinner hand on the clock face is the minute hand, and the shorter, wider hand is the hour hand. Sometimes you also get a very thin hand that spins a lot faster than the other two – this is the second hand.

As we already know, there are sixty seconds in a minute and sixty minutes in an hour. You see all the numbers around the clock face? Behind the numbers are marks, notches around the edge of the clock. There are sixty of those notches – one for each second of the minute and each minute of the hour! The second hand ticks all the way around the clock, hitting each of these marks – once it makes a full circle, the minute hand will click around to the next mark.

Each hour, the long minute hand will make its way around the whole clock, getting back to pointing to “12” at the top. While the minute hand is making its way around the clock, the shorter hour hand will make its way to the next hour. When the new hour begins, we tend to call the time “__ o’clock”. for example, four o’clock when the clock strikes 4pm.

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Remember we talked about the magic number fifteen? Well each quarter of the hour (fifteen minutes) is a really good way to tell the time from the clock face, as the minute hand will be pointing directly up, directly right, directly down or directly left. If the minute hand is pointing all the way to the right – pointing at “3” – this means it is quarter past the hour. If it’s pointing down towards “6”, it’s half past. And if its pointing left towards “9”, it’s quarter to the next hour. Take a look at the picture to familiarise yourself with how these times look! I’ve used three o’clock as an example…

I know, it’s very confusing when you first start! But I promise with lots of practice, you’ll be able to tell the time beautifully whenever you look at a clock – and you won’t be quite as late as I was when I left that ball!


It’s time to put what you’ve learned to the test! Let’s see how well you do. Grab a pencil and a notebook and answer these questions – then get your grown up to check them for you. I’m sure you’ll do wonderfully! Let me know how well you did, email my friends at [email protected] to share your score. I’m sure there’s a place on Imaginacts’ social media for the very cleverest of children to be celebrated! Good luck, little mice…

Tell the time! What time do these clock faces show?

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Fill in the blanks! Can you translate between the twelve hour clock and the twenty-four hour clock?

The Twelve Hour Clock The Twenty-Four Hour Clock

What did you score out of twenty? I can’t wait to hear all about it! Well done everybody!

I hope you’ve learned a thing or two, I certainly have since I decided to learn telling the time! Just remember that it’s ok not to get it right the first time. Practice makes perfect! Good luck with all your time telling endeavours, little mice!

Telling the Time

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Written by Fiona Lynn