Interactive Calendar Reviews
Interactive calendars are a fantastic resource to use in any early years setting. They can be used with any age group to support children’s development, particularly understanding the world. This is done by exploring seasons, discussing the days of the week and annual events to help children begin to comprehend the concept of time.
Using a calendar as part of a daily routine is the best way to incorporate them. Children learn to anticipate this time of day and will rapidly pick up the key points that are discussed. Days of the week, months, seasons and numbers are all covered throughout calendar time, as well as building self-confidence, listening and attention skills.
Calendar time provides children with a short period of time to be still (around 10 minutes), also preparing them for similar experiences they will have in school. The idea being for practitioners to lead the children in completing the calendar, recalling each area (days of the week, months, seasons for example) one at a time. Using songs to remember these is an effective way to help children remember them. Children are then given the opportunity to say which day/date/month/season it is. Children can then take turns to place the correct piece of the calendar on the ‘today’ section.
Mathematics are also learnt during the ‘date’. Depending on the age of the children, they can be encouraged to count up to the number of the date, incorporating actions and movements further solidifies learning and makes it fun! For example, if it was the 12th, children might do 12 claps, jumps, stamps, or shoulder touches while counting to 12.
When discussing the weather children can be encouraged to observe their surroundings, looking out of windows, or recalling what it was like on their way to nursery. When discussing the seasons, children can also offer their ideas of what happens in each, such as varying temperatures, appropriate clothing and activities, such as going to the beach in the summer, or crunching leaves in the autumn.
If a setting does not already use calendars, it is recommended that they are implemented as early as possible within the school year (from September). This makes it easier for new children to get used to their routine, rather than trying to add something new halfway through the school year. The calendar should be completed near the beginning of each session, once in the morning, once in the afternoon for example.
Calendars should also be used in every age group, adapting them to better suit the children’s capabilities. For example, all areas of a calendar should be used for preschool ages, whereas in toddler groups, using only the days of the weeks and the weather may be more suitable.
Magnetic vs Fabric
There are many variations of interactive calendars available online, the most prominent being magnetic or fabric. While either are effective there are a few pros and cons to consider:
Having used both, we recommend the magnetic ones. The reason being the pieces on the fabric calendars do not stick as well, leading to them gradually fall off and getting lost. The children can also struggle to stick the pieces on the soft calendars. The magnetic ones are much more user friendly and generally more durable.
We suggest hanging calendars so the children can view them through the day but keeping them out of the children’s reach, bringing them down only for calendar time or similar activities. This makes it less likely that pieces will go missing, meaning they can last for years.
There are a number of intricate calendars available, including such areas as emotions, special events, years and clocks. While these may be suitable for older children, these extra items are not entirely necessary. The additional aspects make the calendars busy and not as easy for children to navigate.
If there are any annual or religious events happening, these will usually be covered by the days planned activities. Emotions will also be an ongoing part of the curriculum, taught though the course of each day. Clocks are great to have around the setting, introducing the idea of time to children, however most will not be able to tell time until school age. Covering the year (2021) is also usually too advanced for children of nursery age.
We suggest finding calendars that include no more than the few key ideas in a calendar; days of the week, numbers (to create the date), months, weather, and seasons. If possible, the same type of calendar should be used in each room, this way children are already familiar with them as they advance through the age groups.
The magnetic calendars are certainly more cost effective, being around £15.
Fabric calendars can be more expensive, ranging between £17-£35.
There are also magnetic calendars available that are made from wood. A good quality one can cost between £17-£40. If the budget is available for one of these, we recommend wooden calendars as they certainly last the longest (provided pieces don’t go missing!).
Fabric calendars may be more appropriate for babies to explore (with adult supervision), and magnetic ones are easier for older children to use. We recommend magnetic calendars, that are not overloaded with too many concepts for children to understand.
No matter which calendar best suits your setting, we strongly advise using them with all children. Even if children cannot yet verbally respond, exploring the calendar with them while singing a ‘days of the week’ song plants the seeds for later learning.
The daily use of calendars and discussing such key aspects as seasons, months and the weather deepens children understanding of the world and introduces concepts of time. Incorporating calendars into the daily routine is extremely beneficial for all children for many reasons, including personal development and school readiness.