by Olynda Smith, AMS Certified Montessori Teacher and Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach
Is it a Green Dot day?
“Is it a green dot day?” is a question I get nearly every morning from my 3 year old as we finish up our breakfast. This is the time of day when we tend to visit his calendar to help him see what he can expect from the day ahead.
Why a calendar?
This month, we’ve been exploring the Simplicity Parenting practice of creating rhythm. Rhythm, in this sense, has to do with a sense of regularity and predictability in our daily schedules. Even when regularity is hard because of our fast paced and sometimes erratic modern schedules, we can always help our little ones have more predictability. Calendars can go a long way towards helping children feel that sense of predictability.
When are children ready for a calendar?
Many children can start working with a calendar when they are as young as two and a half years old. Of course, almost no one is reading by that age, so we need to give them visual cues to help them see the elements of the day that are most important to them. For example: Will a nanny be coming that morning? Is there a playdate with a beloved friend? A special outing? Will a parent be away on a trip? Will they be going to daycare or school? These are some things your child might like to know about. If you find they ask about a certain part of their day a lot, it’s a great one to put on the calendar. Sure, you can use fancy stickers, but we like to keep the waste to a minimum, so we use simple drawings or dots.
Keep it simple
I encourage only tracking a few things on the calendar. If there are five or six things to notice each day, that can feel overwhelming to a young child. You don’t need to put everything on the calendar; consciously choose just a few, especially as you begin this practice. With very young ones, or with any child who finds the full calendar overwhelming to look at, you can use a blackboard or day-by-day calendar to show just one day at a time.
The main purpose of a calendar is to bring a sense of predictability into your child's day. And, along with that predictability, there are also so many skills being learned through this practice! Here are a few:
how to read a calendar
an awareness of the passage of time
names of months and days
symbol to meaning correlation
You actually don’t need to “teach” these skills during this time. As you work with the calendar, many of these skills will be absorbed by young children.
Pick a “calendar” time and stick with it. Some children will like to preview the day that is coming before going to bed, others will do best thinking about it first thing in the morning, or right after snuggles and breakfast.
Connection. Use the calendar time as a relaxed point of connection rather than a quick information session. Answer questions, give details, take your time.
The adult keeps track of the day. Cross off the day before, and point out with your finger the square that represents the day you are talking about. Children won’t naturally know where to look as you are talking at first. This is very abstract for them! Over time, this will become clearer.
Follow the child. If they resist going to the calendar, or space out as you are trying to tell them about the day, they are letting you know this tool isn’t working for them right now. Leave it be, and maybe try again in six months or so!
You can do it without a calendar. You can still preview the day without a calendar. Here is a fantastic 10 minute podcast from Simplicity Parenting Founder and Executive Director Kim John Payne where he gives a clear picture of this previewing practice.
So, what is the green dot?
Last spring, a well-meaning acquaintance introduced our son to the concept of Youtube - in particular, construction vehicle videos. Our son was enthralled. We limit screen time to a few times a week, so on days when we were saying “not today” for videos, he was beside himself. It was hard for all of us. My older daughter was the one who suggested putting his video days on the calendar for him.
Once we had the green dots up on the days when he could watch a few videos, he would check it every morning. Amazingly, if there was no green dot, he would not have the same intense emotional reaction. He just took it in stride. Maybe it was because he could see that a green dot day was coming later in the week, or perhaps the predictability made it seem less like we were making an arbitrary decision. Whatever the reason, the green dot was a wonderful solution to a tricky situation!