As you well know, young children are just beginning to develop an understanding of time. In the preschool and kindergarten years, children often have difficulty understanding the difference between yesterday, today, and tomorrow, much less Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday! These abstract concepts can be confusing, but are made less so by the process of concretely marking off time on a calendar.

Create Calendars

Many teachers use the calendar as part of their group-time ritual and routine. Think of your calendar not only as a way to mark time, but also to collectively record the daily experiences, events, ideas, and observations that are important and meaningful to children. Creating calendars together also supports self-expression, as well as self-esteem, language, math, and problem-solving skills.

If available, show children examples of different types of calendars and discuss their similarities and differences. If you have a Personal Digital Assistant calendar, or one on the class computer, you might want to show it as well. You can find examples of ancient calendars online for printing and sharing. Explain to children that the calendar will be used as a way of marking off the days you spend together.

Start Simply

You can make your own calendar in the following way:

  • Use poster board divided into rows of squares, like an open, dateless calendar. Show children the blank squares and ask them to suggest ways to use it to keep track of passing days. Don't worry about teaching the names of the days at first. Focus on the purpose of the calendar as a way to mark the passage of time.
  • Starting with the first box, invite a child to use markers or stickers to fill in the day. Repeat this process with another child the next day. By the end of the month, you will have a very individual and colorful calendar!
  • Expand the learning by asking children to count how many squares are filled in. Compare this number to the number of days they have been in school that month.
  • If there is a special event coming up, such as a school party, visitor, or holiday, mark this on the calendar. Children can count the number of days until the event by counting the "empty" squares on the calendar. Another approach is to fill in the calendar at an end-of-the-day group time. Children can fill in the square with what happened that day. What kind of day was it? Suggest that children paste a "smile" or "frown face" to mark how the day felt.

Take Photos

How many times a day do you get asked if it is time to eat snack or go home? You can make a simple photographic timeline so children can easily see the passage of the day and learn how to answer their own question of "What comes next?" Invite children to help you take photos of the major events of the day (morning meeting, snack, and so on) with a disposable or instant camera. Develop the photos and adhere them to poster board to make "daily event cards." Place the photo cards in a row from left to right. Ask children to help you think of a title for each time period and write this on the timeline. Post the timeline at children's eye level for easy reference throughout the day. Not only will they be learning about the daily schedule, but they will also use the important reading skills of left-to-right progression, sequencing, and using illustrations to interpret text.

Chart the Weather

In the first few months of school, children's attention span for group-time activities is short. In addition, there just isn't enough time to do everything, from attendance to the calendar and weather. Consider including parts of your group-time activities during transition times throughout the day. Children are better able to pay attention during these shorter periods of time.

October is a good month to begin collecting weather information for the year. Prepare a simple chart with space for picture symbols that children can paste in each column. Keep the chart ready for any short transition time. An excellent choice is the very last transition of the day before children head home. Each day, you can ask one child to be the "weather reporter" and add a weather symbol (sun, cloud, raindrop, snowflake) to the weekly chart of the weather. At the end of the month, transfer the information to a weather journal. Use this diroughout the year to compare the weather each month. How is January different from June?

Pick a Poem

Poetry is a great way to mark and celebrate each month. Choose an appropriate poem for the month. Write it in block letters and post it next to your calendar. Invite children to say the poem with you each day as you point to the words. They will quickly learn the poem and can discuss its meaning. An excellent source of poems for "poem of the month" is the classic book Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak.

For printable calendar pages, go to: