Using the calendar at circle time (circle time in itself is often criticized) is a bit controversial. We do circle time most days. Keep it brief and don’t expect them, especially younger ones to stay sitting and quiet. Move, play games, sing songs, and make it fun. My kids love Mother Goose Time and always want to know “what we’re learning about today.” I feel it’s an important time on so many levels, but that’s another topic. It’s been said that calendar time isn’t developmentally appropriate for preschoolers. I’m not sure I agree with that. Good Intentions Gone Awry explains how preschoolers learn about time and sequence.
While children may not understand the calendar in terms of units of time or sequence, it can still be a quality learning experience. It really depends on how you use it. The NAEYC article referenced above, states:
Early childhood educators may use the calendar to teach concepts other than time, including numeracy, vocabulary (month, year, weekend), sequencing (yesterday, today, tomorrow), and patterning (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday). Additionally, as children attend to the visual calendar, teachers may hope they will learn numeral recognition and one-to-one correspondence. Early childhood specialists have cited numbers, spatial reasoning, patterning, logical relations, measurement, and early algebra as key components of young children’s mathematical growth (for example, Greenes 1999; NCTM 2000). However, most 4-year-olds are not ready to grasp the complex concepts involved in dates (Etheridge & King 2005).
I want to share some ways that using the calendar time is meaningful for my group.
First of all, I believe from my experience, just exposing the children to the concept of the calendar has value. Yes, they may mix up “last night” and “last year” but if we don’t talk about yesterday and tomorrow, how will they learn? It comes a little at a time. Every child here knows what the calendar is. They reference it to see when the birthdays or holidays are coming up. Often during free play time, children will be at the calendar counting or playing school.
We don’t focus too much on the days of week as far as memorizing, but each day we move the “sparkly clip” to the next cloud to mark the day of the week. We can see how many days are left in the week this way. One of my 4-year-olds noticed that all the days of the week names end in “day”.
On the November calendar pictured below, we have a couple days crossed off when there will be no school or “Stacy days”. I circled Thanksgiving so they know that it’s when the holiday is. They watched me mark the calendar and I talked to them about it. You can also use a Thanksgiving sticker or draw a little image, like a turkey, to remind them what the day is.
We really got into talking about patterns this month. We found three on our calendar:
- doctor/firefighter/police officer
See how Leslie at Jack of All Trades uses the calendar and facilitates circle time with her daughter. She touches on using the calendar to learn patterns as well. She has a great little song for calendar time too!
Tips for using the Mother Goose Time calendar
- Label the numbers on the calendar grid. Then the child can make the numbers when putting on the calendar piece. They can also see how many days are left in the month.
- Mark any special occasions. Birthdays, holidays or upcoming celebrations. Simply circle them, mark with a sticker or write words.
- Daily a child can add the number to the calendar. Since we’re not present over the weekend, on Friday we put on Saturday and Sunday’s calendar numbers too.
- Put a clip on the day of the week. Children love to have a turn to move the “sparkly clip”. Then we can talk about what day it is, what’s happening today, or count how many days are left in the week.
- Use a pointer. This helps direct the group’s attention when talking about the calendar.
- State “Today is….” then point to the day of the week, month title and number on the calendar.
- Teach that there are 7 days in the week. Name them.
- Talk about school days vs. family days.
- Ask what the children did last night.
- Ask what they will do tomorrow.
- Use a Months of the Year timeline to help them visualize the months of the year.
- Look for patterns. Colors, pictures, labels. Chant the pattern. Clap the pattern.
- Count the numbers. Through repetition, the children learn 1-30 and perhaps beyond, before they go to kindergarten. Have one child use the pointer and lead the counting.
- Make calendar time quick. Don’t dwell on it. If there’s no interest, move on. Do one or more of these activities, not all of these every day. It’s just an introduction to the concept of time and how we use a calendar.
More Resources for Calendar Time
- Making Calendar Time Meaningful // Preschool Inspirations
- 10 Tips for Circle Time // Teach Preschool
- Calendar Routine in Preschool // Pre-K Pages