Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Calendar Time

Parents often do not realize that they can do activities at home which will, absolutely, help their child learn language more effectively than anything a Speech/Language Pathologist could do in a session once a week. One of those activities is a Calendar Time. If your child is developmentally ready to understand a Calendar and you spend a few minutes having an interesting Calendar Time most days for the next year, your child will learn a tremendous amount of language.

Many children come to love calendars. With a digital camera, you can make calendars even more interesting to your child. I start using Calendar Activities with children earlier than their parents ordinarily would because I know the calendar is a rich mine of language and learning that many a child will enjoy. I often create events that will make the Calendar Time more interesting. I might create continuity between clinic visits with children by using the calendar. For example, I might says: Today is Monday. Last Monday, we played Masks. I wrote it on our Calendar. Should we play Masks again or play a different game today? (pointing to the relevant days on the calendar as I talk). When we finish playing the game, I take the child back to the calendar and write what we did on the calendar, so we can remember. If I am organized enough, I might have a photograph ready that the child can paste on the calendar him or herself to represent what we did.

If you are starting a first calendar, this calendar will have big squares where you can draw simple pictures or paste on little photographs or write words for children who read. I often use the big desk calendars. Here is today, the number today is 1. You might say to introduce the calendar. Today, we had pizza for dinner. Daddy will draw a pizza.

On the second day of the month, you might say. Here is today; the number is 2. On 2 we had soup for dinner. Daddy will draw a bowl of soup. Here are the pasta letters in the soup. Yesterday, we had pizza for dinner. Use a digital photo if your drawing skills are not so good or your child does not appear to understand. (My drawing is not so good but when we are discussing today or yesterday, my line drawings seem to be good enough for most kids.)

Stick to talking about today and yesterday for a few days. Then add the idea and word tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we will eat spaghetti. These little lines are spaghetti.

If your child expects to eat spaghetti right then and tantrums because there is no immediate spaghetti meal, you might want to write about something not very important to your child as you introduce the idea of tomorrow.

Every day, for a month or two, talk about today, yesterday, tomorrow. If your child points to something that happened three days ago or last week or two weeks ago, then talk about that and use the appropriate time words but stick to today, yesterday, and tomorrow when you choose the conversational topic—at least for a while.

Gradually, you can start to use words like weekend (Daddy’s home days), last week, two days ago, in two days (two sleeps), next week. Of course, you will have to talk about a new Month when you start a new month. Add the names of the days and the months very gradually and as your child shows an interest. If your child pays close attention to what you are doing and saying, even if he or she is not yet verbal, you know that your child is comprehending or at least interested. If your child was interested for a while but stops paying attention when you have Calendar Time, make sure that 1) you are not adding too many new time words or too much language, period. 2) that you are talking about events that your child understands and cares about. 3) that you are using photographs often enough to make the topic and time being discussed clear. Take plenty of photographs and bring them out to support your child's understanding even if you don't paste them to the calendar.

Topics that might be of interest to your child:

  • Food (Daddy cooks dinner today, Mommy cooks dinner tomorrow)
  • School/no school (no school for 1,2,3,4,5 more days)
  • Who your child will be seeing (Grandma visits on Tuesdays)
  • Unusual events in child’s life (We will go to the Water Park Tomorrow)
  • When things are purchased (We got a new TV yesterday)
  • Accidents or mishaps (Mommy’s car had a flat tire today!)
Create your own novel experiences to support learning during Calendar Time:
  • We ate dinner in the living room.
  • Daddy and I wore a suit and tie.
  • We pretended Birthday Party for Kitty with a real cake.
  • Mommy dropped an egg on the floor. Yuck!
  • We took a nap in the tent.
With a combination of a digital camera and a calendar, you can help your child learn to talk about the past, talk about the future, use dozens of new time words, use hundreds of new words related to the things you do in life, learn to analyze or think about what has occurred, share emotions and regulate the emotions generated by remembering together, plan future events together, become more flexible as you put a big red circle with a line through it to indicate that plans had to be changed, understand the relationship between events that happen over time. You can send copies of your calendar to school to give teachers and others a means of talking about your child's home life (and they can create a calendar to send back to you). The first calendar that you make with your young child may need to be very simple and concrete but over time or with older children, the calendar can serve as a visual support for increasingly abstract and complex discussions.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I love this idea. I hope I can figure out how to work it into our daily schedule!