TIP TUESDAY: I Love I Love I Love I LOVE My Calendar Boy!

Not sure about your kid, but the moment my kid wakes up in the morning, he’s asking me what we are doing TOMORROW morning. Yes, you heard right – T’s not asking me at 7 a.m. (or earlier a lot of days, yawn) what we’re doing that day; T wants to know what’s in store for the next day, and sometimes even the next after that – !

In a way I have to say that I am very proud; already, my planning genes shine strongly in T. But, are they lighting up too soon and a bit TOO brightly?! I believe the answer was yes once he began asking me what we were doing every single day, afternoon, and evening over the next two weeks. Yeah… um, kid, it’s just about 7a.m., and you just woke me from a dead sleep by throwing stuffed animals at my head.

What’s today again?!

As I’ve stated for the record, we are big time on routine and activities around here, so much so that now it appears I am raising the youngest, most detail-oriented cruise director in the history of Long Beach. Surely there’ve been some young and detail-oriented cruise directors that have come to port here over the years – Long Beach being the home of the Queen Mary and a large, active modern cruise ship terminal and all – but T seems ready to give them all a run for their money. At first I thought, wow, it’s weird that a 3-year-old wants to know so very much about their day/ week/ month; he’s a kid, shouldn’t he just go with it, wake up, ask what’s going on, and make it a fun-filled day? But in observing T and our days – weeks, months, now years – together, I’ve come to find it’s really not so strange at all. Preschoolers are very much creatures of habit who want things in their specific place and/or a very certain way, so them wanting to know what’s coming up next in their day-to-day routine is just another way of assuring themselves that things are going to GO a certain way.

Exceptions to these expectations: Last-minute changes, emergencies, cancellations, and the like, because of course those all happen, and in reality they occur more often than not. And while change is not easy to explain to my 3-year-old, it still happens; that’s life, baby. So we parents have to do our best to smooth over the change as best we can, usually by replacing the canceled item with something as fun, if not more so, just as any great cruise director would do.

T's jam-packed calendar of fun!

Rather than fight the planning personality trait with my son, I decided to work with it and get a calendar. Yep, an old-school, pen-and-paper, hanging wall calendar. Since T’s not using electronic date planners yet, and I still don’t use the electronic calendar on my smart phone either (gasp!), it seemed like a natural choice. I thought about using a white board for about 10 seconds, but I quickly decided I was not ready for the potential mess of misused pens or hands or anything else for that matter being used as erasers. We also had a glut of free wall calendars lying around unused at the start of the year (from charity mailings mostly, so yay for free!). Once I gathered up the calendars, I put them in a pile and let T choose the one he wanted. He flipped through all the calendars and chose the one featuring children-made artwork (very colorful, very seasonally themed by the month with hearts in February, red-white-blue in July, etc. – nice choice, T!). Now that T had his calendar, it was time to hang it up. We gave T a choice between a few safe spots in his room at eye-level, he made a decision, and Dad and T put the nail in the wall. Let the calendar games begin!

I explained to T what a calendar was, what we’d be doing with it, and why we were using it. I briefly went over a Calendar 101 and that calendars teach us: how to track what today’s date is; the days of the week; the months of the year; the four seasons; holidays; and passage of time (today is x; tomorrow is y; yesterday was z). I explained that every Sunday I would write in his weekly activities, and I told him we were only filling in one week at a time because I didn’t want to overwhelm him with information and wanted to  focus him more on enjoying our day-to-day activities short-term. Now nightly at bedtime, we “cross off today”; it’s at this time of night when I tell him what’s coming up in the morning or next day based on what is written on the calendar. I am not quite sure just how much T understood at the start of our calendar experiment a few months ago, but I can say that in these few short months, T’s shown us that a calendar is much, much more than a time-tracking tool.

Here are just a few of the extra educational touchstones we’ve covered with our calendar:

Reading. T’s number recognition has grown exponentially. T will watch with me when I read off the daily activity entry; he also listens and follows my finger as I read off the day of the week, month, date, and year.

Writing/ Fine Motor Skills. T watches me when I write the entries on the calendar so he knows the importance of keeping the writing with the applicable date (much like writing on the lines of a piece of paper). While I am not having him write independently on the calendar just yet, he helps me doodle little stars or underlines for special entries and the “x”s through the days that are over. He will begin to use calendar stickers this fall once we advance and begin adding more special events farther in advance than just a week ahead (holidays, birthdays, special school activities, etc.).

Math. T now counts verbally and visually 1-31 (coincidence? I think not) and beyond. He recognizes most numbers up into the 20s (currently one of his favorite numbers is 21; yep, that’s my boy!). He can count days away from a date given, which is a pre-math skill (today is the 5th, and two days from now is the 7th; 5+2=7).

Organization. T understands that the calendar is where we list out what is going on with our schedule and routine (school days, play dates, days he’s going to Grandma’s or we are going out and he’s staying with Grandma here). He already asks me to try to get a certain outing “on the calendar” so we make sure to go sometime soon.
I’ll stop there… I think you get the idea.

So be sure to jot this down on the calendar for tomorrow: go get your child a calendar!