Teaching my 4 yr old structure with a picture calendar



My wife is away at a conference for four and a half days. She doesn’t travel for work too often, usually about twice a year. I started making these calendars with my son when he was about two. It has now become some what of a routine that he enjoys. But more importantly, it gives him (and me) structure while Mom is away and helps him learn to understand time. I apologize in advance for my crude artwork. Crayons are not my medium.

Here’s what he gets out of the calendar in a little more depth.

  • Four days can seem like an eternity to a toddler, preschooler, or most of us with ADHD. The calendar is a visual way to represent time, which is a pretty abstract concept.
  • Making the calendar together is an opportunity for us to bond and plan fun things to do while Mommy is away. It is also the first step of allowing him to help me plan. So, I’m modeling good executive functions and teaching them to him.
  • He has always enjoyed crossing the days off with me and seeing how many days are left.
  • (I also did this with him for the month before we moved in to your new house. I really think it helped him understand the process and somewhat eased the transition.)
  • For the first time he has really taken ownership this trip and crossed the previous day off by himself before even coming to get me in the morning. He has even taken to crossing out the pictures of things that got changed, moved, or taken out of our schedule.
  • FYI: for whatever reason my post won’t stop bullet-pointing… so get used to it!
  • We don’t do the calendar every weekend, but I do make a point to give him the structure that he needs by telling him what our daily plan is, what things there are to look forward to each weekend, and by keeping much of our Sat & Sun to a routine. More routine, more predictability, and more structure = fewer freak outs.
  • I realized maybe a year and a half ago that I give him all this structure unconsciously because I do it for myself. It helps me to have a plan for the weekend. That way we don’t miss out on things we want to do because we run out of time. We don’t end up sitting around trying to figure out what to do. I can find the time to engage in appropriate self care, like working out etc. But, not that I realize I’m doing it, I make even more of an emphasis on how this structure helps my little guy.
  • Of course, with any structure, we have to be flexible. We make a lot of changes in the last few days, but having a baseline in the calendar made it easier for both of us to be flexible.

This was pretty stream of consciousness. I’ve got to roll to meet my coach now. I hope it is intelligible and helpful.

Happy New Year!

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