Create a paper plate sundial

Before watches and clocks were invented, we had to improvise when it came to telling the time. The humble sundial laid down the groundwork.

Wait until noon – when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Head outside with your child, grab a paper plate, and experiment with the most ancient and natural method of telling the time – the sundial!



  1. Get your child to use the pencil to poke a hole through the very center of the paper plate, and to write the number twelve on the edge of the plate with a crayon.
  2. Using the ruler as a guide, draw a straight line from the number twelve to the hole in the center of the plate.
  3. At noon, take the plate and the straw outside. Put the plate on the ground and poke the straw through the hole.
  4. Slant the straw toward the line your child drew, and carefully turn the plate so that the shadow of the straw falls along the line to the number twelve.
  5. Fasten the plate to the ground with some pushpins. Have your child predict where they think the shadow of the straw will be pointing in one hour’s time. Why do they think so? How will they know if their suspicions are right?
  6. One hour later, at one o’clock, check the position of the shadow along the edge of the plate and write the number one on that spot. Continue each hour predicting the position and then checking and marking the actual position and time on the edge of the plate. Did your child guess correctly?
  7. At the end of the day you and your child will have your very own sun clock. On the next sunny afternoon you will be able to tell time just by watching where the shadow of the straw falls on your clock. By night, you’ll need to figure things out by looking at the stars.
  • Cost
  • Free
  • Time Needed
  • 1 hour
  • You will need
  • Crayons, paper plate, sharpened pencil, push pins, ruler, plastic straw
  • Skills developed
  • Observation, communication
  • Perfect for
  • Game changers and innovators