Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

2021 Lockdown Family Activities - Make a Sundial

Personal tools

2021 Lockdown Family Activities - Make a Sundial
Make your very own sundial to help you tell the time on a sunny day in the garden


How to Make a Sundial  

A sundial is a device that uses the position of the sun to reflect the time. An upright stick, called a gnomon, is positioned to cast a shadow onto a pre-marked sundial face. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow also moves. The concept can be easily demonstrated in your backyard with a very basic sundial built with a stick and a handful of small stones. There are many easy projects that kids can do to learn the the concept, as well. For something a little more advanced, you can build a permanent sundial in your garden or backyard. After some measuring and a little carpentry, it will reflect the time precisely.


A straight stick approx 2 feet long

12 Pebbles /stones

A watch

1.  This extremely basic sundial is a great way to explain the concept with very little planning. All you need to create it are a few simple items found in your backyard. These tools are a straight stick (about two feet long), a handful of pebbles and a wristwatch or cell phone to tell the time.

2. Find a sunny area to plant the stick. Look for a place that gets full sun exposure all day long. Push one end of the stick into the grass or earth. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, slightly slant the stick toward the north. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, slight it slightly toward the south.

  • If you don’t have access to a grassy area with soft earth, you can improvise.
  • Fill a small bucket with sand or gravel and plant the stick directly in the center of it.

3. Start at 7:00 a.m. If you want to complete the sundial in a single day, begin in the morning after the sun has fully risen. Survey the stick at 7:00 a.m. As the sun shines down on it, the stick will cast a shadow. Use one of your pebbles to mark the place where the shadow falls on the ground.

4. Return to the stick every hour. Set an alarm or keep an eye on your watch so that you can update the dial at the top of every hour. Return at 8:00 a.m. and use another pebble to mark where the stick’s shadow falls on the ground. Do the same thing at 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m. and so on.

  • If you want the greatest amount of accuracy, use chalk to mark each pebble with the exact time you placed it on the ground.
  • The shadow will move in a clockwise direction

5. Continue this until process until dusk. Return every hour and mark it with a pebble on the ground. Do this until there is no more sunlight left in the day. Your sundial will be complete at day’s end. As long as the sun is shining, you can use this simple device to tell what time of the day it is.

For more information and other ways to make your own sundial got to: