If you are using the lesson plans provided in this blog, you’ll see a half hour set aside for calendar activities before breakfast. When you do this isn’t important. Some families may prefer to add this to their bedtime routine, focusing on recapping the day’s events with their child. If you want to know the what, why, and how of calendar time, that is what this post is about.
The Preschool calendar is fairly large and prominently located. The numbers should be two inches minimum. They can attach to the calendar with hook-and-loop closures, magnets, masking tape, or you can purchase a pocket calendar from a teacher supply store, and the numbers slip into clear plastic pockets. You can periodically change the cards that the numbers are printed on. In the fall, you could use apple-shaped cards. For December, use cards cut in green pine tree shapes. Have special cards for birthdays, vacations, and other activities your child will look forward to.
The purposes of the calendar activity changes with the age of the child. For very young children, it is mostly another language lesson. They won’t really grasp the concept of time, of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. They won’t understand number concepts even when they learn to recite the numbers. But they can learn routines and words. They can learn to say “February” and “Wednesday” and “25”. They might learn to say them altogether – “Today is Wednesday, February 25th”. They can learn to place the square with “25” on it to the calendar, right after the square with “24”. And if you forget to do the calendar, they will remind you!
Older preschoolers can learn the words “yesterday”, “today” and “tomorrow”. Your calendar time may take a little longer now. You’ll start by asking your child what month it is, pointing to a large name tag with the word “February” on it (substitute the correct month). You can point out the letters, if your child is ready to begin letter recognition. Then talk about yesterday. Yesterday it was “Tuesday”, “February 23rd” (again, of course, substitute the correct dates!). What did we do yesterday? Help your child to remember some things that happened yesterday. Did you go to the park and play on the swings? Did Grampa come over to eat pizza for dinner? Continue the discussion of yesterday for a few minutes, or until you sense your child is losing interest. Then talk about today. Teach the child to pronounce the word correctly if he doesn’t already. Wednesday is a hard word to say when you’re little! Discuss a few things that might happen today, or that did happen, if you do calendar at bedtime instead of before breakfast. Let the child post the date to the calendar. Practice saying the date together.
If your preschooler is restless, end the activity. You don’t want him to associate Calendar time with boredom. This is a fun time, a private moment with mom. Stretch it out as long as you can, but end while the child is still enjoying it. You may have to miss a day or two once in a while, or really abbreviate calendar time to only a few moments, but that’s okay. They do that in public school, too!
As your child progresses, Calendar time will include counting. If the child doesn’t immediately guess that “24” comes after “23”, then start at 1 and count to 24. Later, you can teach skip-counting. Count by twos, missing every other date. Or by threes, saying a number, then skip two. Skip counting is a more advanced activity, your child may not be ready for that until age five or more. But learning to skip count makes memorizing the multiplication table a snap!
I chose a narrow wall in the hallway for our calendar. It is about 40 inches wide, and from floor to ceiling. I bought a bright Dr. Seuss border, and taped it all around the wall. Then I bought a blank calendar, and a pack of numbers from a school supply house. You could also make yours from poster board. My numbers are black, printed on red apples with a yellow background. The opposite side is green, with yellow books on them, and the numbers, for a little variety. I also bought the month cards, which are bright and colorful. All the numbers get taped to the wall scattered around the blank calendar, and day by day get transferred on to the calendar.
Below the calendar I tape large posters that fit with the unit we’re studying. For foods week, we taped a poster of fruits and a poster of vegetables. My granddaughter sits in my lap and we point to the foods. I say the name, she tries to say it, and we talk. Some days she points to a vegetable, and asks “whasthat?” I answer. Some days I point to the pictures, and ask her “what’s that?” The more words your young child learns, the better able he is able to communicate his wants and needs. The better young children communicate, the less frequently they go into “melt down” mode – temper tantrums. It must be awfully frustrating when you know what you want but no one understands you!
The wall space above the calendar is where I post my granddaughter’s art work. This gets rotated frequently, as she makes a new picture every day and there is room for only about four pictures.
If your child is really snuggly, and not in a hurry for breakfast, you might use calendar time to teach a new song or fingerplay, or to sing the ones he already knows. If not, you can cover new songs after breakfast, perhaps while your child is still in his highchair. Again, the schedule is yours to rearrange in whatever way best suits you and your child.