Picture This: A Calendar for Kids!
A few months ago I transitioned to a new job. While I was so excited about the new opportunity, I also struggled with the transition that it was going to mean for my son. He had to go from a childcare situation that was almost one-on-one and in the same building as my job to a more full time situation away from where I would be. He was soon surrounded by new teachers, new kids, new classroom, new rules, new expectations, and a new schedule. It was too much for him and it was a rough couple of months for our family. It broke my heart to watch him struggle day in and day out with what was going on, why he wasn’t going to his “old school” and all the other questions he continued to have. We were patient and we knew that it would indeed get better, but there were plenty of days and nights filled with tears – not just his!
It was during this time, while my heart was hurting for my child who just couldn’t grasp all the new in his world, that I started to search for any way to give him some sense of control and consistency from day to day. One of the issues that he seemed to have was understanding the new schedule of school – some days there is chapel, some days there is music class, some days is show and tell, then some days it wasn’t a school day! So many things to remember and track for a toddler! So, I decided to make him his own calendar so we could look at it each night and he could know what to expect for the next day. Since he cannot read yet, it was important to make it so that he could understand it by himself – so I decided that instead of the traditional dates, I would use pictures to show what was happening each day. I set it up one night and showed it to him the next morning. The relief in his face was obvious and he asked a ton of questions about each picture. Now, he looks forward to the part of the nighttime ritual when he takes the current day’s square off the calendar since the day is over and then we talk about what’s on the calendar for the following day. Even though he’s moved past the anxiety of his new school, the calendar is something he still enjoys because he loves to know what’s going on and what to look forward to each week. It’s also been a great way to teach about the days of the week, weekday versus weekends, and we’ve already started having the discussion of prioritizing. A recent example of teaching prioritizing: While setting up this month’s calendar, we had to take the soccer ball off one of our weekend days signifying not going to soccer practice and replaced it with balloons and a party hat signifying a birthday party for a family friend. A great way to help a child learn about having to pick and choose early on before the schedule gets truly crazy!
There are several ways to go about setting up a calendar similar to the one we have. I went the easy and least creative way by visiting our local teacher supply store and buying one of the calendar sets that include a calendar, titles for the 12 months, squares for the dates (I just use the blank side), etc. You could easily make a calendar out of a posterboard (be sure to get everything laminated so it can be reused!) and some patience. If you choose this route, you have fun with that and God bless you for your commitment to creativity. I’m totally jealous of your kind!
Once you decide how you’re going to get the basics, here’s how I set everything up:
- I hung our calendar on the inside of my son’s closet door in his room. It makes it easy for him it see and reach but it’s not actually taking up wall space.
- Before you begin, I want to remind you that this calendar is for a toddler, or small child at least. Try your best to look at it through their eyes. As you are trying to find pictures that represent their daily activities, find pictures of what makes sense to them, even if it doesn’t make complete sense to you. For example, if you have a trip to zoo planned, pick a picture of the animal that your child gets most excited about seeing when your visit the zoo instead of a generic picture of a zoo.
- If there’s not a picture that your child directly associates with an event or place, pick one and stick with it. They will pick up on it and commit it to memory quite quickly!
- Get all your clipart for the maximum number of days possible. For example, I made 25 “daycare” days because that gives me plenty (with a few extra) days made to use on the weekdays . I picked a generic schoolhouse for our daycare days. I told my son once what that picture stood for and now he just knows what it means when he sees it on his calendar.
- I bought stickers to add to the daycare days that have weekly occurring events such as music class and chapel. (Again, you can make these yourself or print them from the computer…I just saved a step and some time.)
- Then, I added our son’s regular chore – feeding his pet frog. Soon, we will add additional chores but for now, this has works as a good reminder for what days the frog gets fed and a good way to keep the frog from getting fed every day!
- Once, you’ve set up the regular days that you’ll use every month, you’ll need to sit down with your calendar and see what is on your calendar for the specific upcoming month. I sit with my calendar up and a word document up and insert clipart as I come across a special occasion – a holiday, sports practice, family event (baseball game, play, etc.). Once I’ve made clip art for everything for the month, I print it, cut them out and tape them on top of the days I’ve already put on the calendar. It’s important to only put events that pertain directly to your kids on this calendar. They don’t need to have a picture interpretation of every detail of the family schedule. So, some Saturdays are just blank if nothing is happening in my son’s schedule – and that’s a good thing!
- Another great way we use the calendar is to help him understand when one of us (me or my husband) travel. I have printed out 2 pictures of an airplane and 2 pictures of my car. Then, on days that I leave on a trip, I put my mode of transportation and a picture of the state to which I’m traveling on the calendar. Then, on the day I’m going to return I put a picture of my mode of transportation and a picture of our house to show that momma comes home that day.
As each day is taken off, I keep them in an envelope in my desk so they can be easily sorted for the next month. Now that the majority of them are made it takes me 30-45 minutes to do a new month’s calendar depending on how many pieces of clipart I have to find and if my son wants to help pull the tape off the dispenser as I’m trying to pull the new days back on the calendar!