As we increasingly rely on technology to organize and keep track of our lives, paper calendars have begun to fall out of fashion. It seems that these days less teachers insist on “calendar time” as part of Morning Meeting. Teachers are more carefully considering the duration of seated large group time and questioning the efficacy of daily group activities like calendar time. These age-old tenets of early childhood settings are now regularly seen on the chopping block, especially in progressive preschools, as these programs set out to define what age-appropriate practice means to them.

Some teachers are arriving at the conclusion that having a large group of young children recite the days of the week or count calendar numbers while seated in a circle may be tedious, ineffective, or monotonous. Consequently, numerous preschool teachers have abandoned calendar time – a decision not completely without merit. However, as with many educational approaches, the pendulum doesn't have to swing to an extreme to account for noteworthy observations. While it's true that large group calendar time may not necessarily be the optimal way to teach each child about the passage of time, calendars can still have a meaningful place in early childhood settings. Some teachers are now doing calendar time more informally, during snack time, as part of small group work, or intermittently during large group time.

What are the benefits of using calendars with kids? 

Understanding the concept of time

It seems obvious but it should be mentioned that calendars are valuable tools for helping kids understand the abstract concept of time. Through regular engagement with calendars, children begin to grasp the differences between a year, a month, a week, and a day. This understanding lays the foundation for their ability to reflect on the passage of time, fostering a sense of chronology and seasonal changes. As kids interact with these hands-on visual tools, they develop the capacity to differentiate between various time intervals, enhancing their overall cognitive development.

Early math and literacy skills

Calendars serve as valuable tools for the development of early math and literacy skills. Through the visual representation of numbers, days, and months, children gain exposure to numerical concepts and written language. They practice counting from left to right which is an important foundational reading skill, and they figure out the days of the week by recognizing the first letter sounds.

Calendars are an important social-emotional tool

Calendars play a vital role in supporting children's social-emotional development, helping them prepare for upcoming events, and navigate changes in their routine. For example, calendars help kids process impending separations from parents, such as a parent going away on a work trip. The ability to mark the days leading up to an event provides a tangible way for children to understand and emotionally prepare for changes in their environment, fostering resilience and adaptability.

Should parents use a calendar at home with their young children?

Whether or not your child’s school has done away with using calendars formally, you may want to consider using a paper calendar at home with your child to support their learning and development. Having a home calendar will allow discussion about what it is, what it’s for, and give your child the chance to ask more questions about how it can be used.

In addition, at home, there is greater flexibility when creating a personalized calendar. Parents can tailor the experience and content to their child's readiness. For example, if two weeks’ notice is too much lead time for an anticipated birthday party countdown, parents can choose to add that event to the calendar closer to the date. 

Children can actively participate by crossing off days, taking turns with siblings, or engaging in discussions with an older sibling about the calendar's content. This collaborative approach not only aids in comprehension, but also fosters a sense of shared responsibility and family involvement in the child's weekly plan.

What sort of calendar should I use with my child?

Weekly

Depending on your child’s age or readiness, you can decide if you want to start with a weekly or monthly calendar. If your child is three-four years old, is new to calendars, or is more developmentally suited to focusing on one week at a time, you can either download a weekly calendar online and print out multiple copies, or you can make your own using a strip of paper, contact paper, and Velcro. You can then use the Velcro to affix printed images of the child’s daily and weekly activities, like a picture of their school with the word “school” written above or below it.

Monthly

For a monthly calendar, use a large desk calendar from an office supply store or online. Tape up one month at a time and hang it at your child's eye level in a central location of your home, like the kitchen.You might color Saturdays and Sundays in a light shade with a color pencil to denote weekend days and leave the Mondays-Fridays blank. You could also mark fun upcoming events, holidays, or birthdays with special stickers. Weekly after school activities like dance class or soccer could be shown with a small illustrated symbol, like a ballet slipper, with the activity name next to it.

Other tips

Paper calendars, over dry erase calendars, are recommended as dry erase markers can easily be smudged or erased. For younger children, make sure to keep your designated calendar pen or pencil out of reach to avoid the inevitable scribbling on the calendar. Bring the pen or pencil down each morning when your child wants to look at their calendar and help cross off a day.

Final Thoughts

Calendars are a great tool when used in an age-appropriate manner, casually, in small groups, or one-on-one, both in school and at home. By adopting interactive, playful approaches and balancing structure with freedom, calendars can become invaluable tools and can boost your child’s capabilities, confidence, and sense of well-being.

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