How we Can Tell Time Through Rocks (hands on learning)

In this activity, we can use rocks to tell time! It’s true…not by shadows and watching the sun as it passes by, but by physically moving and manipulating rocks as a time telling tool. In this rock and learn math activity, we can use rocks found around the home with heavy work input as a clock building time telling activity! This is just one more way to teach kids to tell time through hands on play.

Tell Time Through Rocks

It’s always nice to play and learn with the kids when the supplies are completely free.  Learn and play with rocks from your backyard or natures walks with a few fun ideas to Learn using Rocks!   You might have seen a few of our other rock activities.  (We really have a lot, believe it or not!)    

In this activity, though, we are asking kids to lift rocks that offer heavy work input, or proprioceptive input while learning to tell time using a simple rock.

Learn with rocks, including teaching kids to tell time, math, literacy, fine motor, sensory.

Teach kids for free using rocks!

This post is part of our month-long Learning with Free Materials series where we are sharing learning ideas for homeschoolers and school-extension activities using items that are free or mostly free (i.e. CHEAP or you already have in the home)…and rocks are most certainly free!  

This series is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.  We do have affiliate links in this post for your convenience.

While using rocks in clock building not time telling, but to learn the concepts of time is fun, it’s also functional. Kids can play to learn and learn to play with rocks!

Use rocks to tell time

  There are a ton of ways to learn at home, either through homeschooling, or as school-based enrichment activities using rocks from your own backyard. 

Let’s take a look at more ideas for rocks:  

Math with Rocks

  • Count rocks in a line.
  • Add and subtract with rocks.
  • Sort rocks by characteristic.
  • Arrange rocks and pebbles into patterns with AB, ABA, ABBA, ABAB, and more complex patterns.
  • Create charts on the ground using rock markers.
  • Write numbers on rocks as a manipulative in math problems.
  • Tell Time with rocks.
Build a clock with rocks to teach kids to tell time, including minute hands, hour hands, and numbers on the clock.

Teach Time Telling with a Rock Clock

We used smooth rocks to create and build a clock.  Clock building and time telling is a fun and common activity for us recently, so building a clock with rocks was a challenge when the rocks didn’t have numbers written on them.  

Teach kids to position the “3”, “6”, “9”, and ” 12″ rocks first then fill in the other “numbers”.  

You could also write the numbers on the rocks using a (Amazon affiliate link) paint marker.  Use twigs to create the minute and hour hands and work on time telling outdoors with nature.

Use pebbles to teach time with rocks. This is a fun hands on activity for kids learning to tell time.

Use smaller pebbles to teach time with rocks. We found smooth pebbles from a garden that worked well as the numbers on a clock.

Kids can move them around to the correct position on the rock clock face. This is a fun hands on activity for kids learning to tell time.

Engineering with Rocks

Rocks are a great material in STEM for kids:  

  • Build towers.
  • Create bridges using rocks.
  • Explore balance.  How does one rock balance on another.  Will a different rock stay put in the same way?
  • Explore force and movement. How can rocks move items?

Building a small tower of rocks is a great eye-hand coordination and fine motor activity, and you can show kids how to mark shadows from the sun to mark the passing of time.

As the sun moves across the sky and the shadow from the rock tower moves along the ground, kids can associate the passage of time with this visual. Then move the hands on the clock to show how much time has passed.

Use rocks to teach like telling time with rocks.

Rocks in Literacy

  • Use that paint marker like we did here to build letter blends.
  • Use the rocks in a letter sensory bin.
  • Use rocks and pebbles in pretend play and story telling literacy activity by creating story-based small worlds.

  More learning ideas using rocks: Use rocks in sensory play,  pretend play sensory bins,  and fine motor with play dough.

A final note on this rock clock activity

While teaching time isn’t something that is always addressed in occupational therapy, we can support the need to learn time as it relates to time management and functional task completion. After all, if one can’t note the time on the clock, they can’t be out the door to school or an appointment, resulting in many issues.

OTs do support their clients in the educational space, and sometimes telling time is a challenge, especially for those with executive functioning issues, visual perceptual issues, or cognitive impairments. So in theses cases, OT can intervene to support the educational curriculum or to offer alternatives that help the individual to succeed at their goals.

When working with this clock activity, learners or clients can build on educational goals as well as executive functioning skills.

These kids rock ideas develop many skill areas:

  • They can learn clock concepts
  • Participants can manipulate small objects to develop fine motor skills.
  • Clients or students can use the hands-on approach to develop motor planning and eye-hand coordination skills while learning time to the nearest five minutes
  • They can develop and learn relationships between time elements.
  • Participates can learn through play.
  • Students can develop and create, using rock manipulatives as a models to support learning.
  • Participates can develop skills and experience in using symbols in learning, organization, working memory, communication, mathematical skills, and more.

How will you use this rock clock activity to teach time or time telling skills through play?

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

Use rocks to make a rock clock