Math Mania: Calendar Activities

Before I begin with activities, it is important to understand WHY calendar activities are done with young children.  Until about age eight, children, developmentally, do not understand the concept of “calendars,” or “time,” for that matter.  They may tell you the day that comes next, they may tell you the number of the day, or the next day, but this is because of rote learning, sequencing skills, and numerical skills, not calendar/time skills. So, why do we do calendar activities with young children?

The answer is multi-fold:

  • numeric skills like: rote counting, simple addition/subtraction, what comes next, place value, patterns, graphing, tallying
  • sequencing skills: days, patterns
  • scheduling/organizational skills: daily schedule

If you have an area that can be devoted to the calendar, that is great.  If not, the calendar can be done on a “project board” (the trifold ind used for science fairs), or even a notebook.  The calendar can be adapted for any theme.

I am including several calendar activities.  Choose the ones that will help your child the most.  I would suggest doing one or two activities to begin with, and then add others as your child gets used to calendar time.  For a three- or four-year old,  stick to place value for the calendar numbers.  For more mature four- to six- year old children, you may want to count the “days of school” and use the place value activities for those numbers.


The calendar, itself, is the focal point of calendar time.  Everything else revolves around the date, or the number of days of instruction.  For a large area calendar center, you may want to go to your local store, where everything costs a dollar, and buy a “calendar kit.”  Depending on the one you choose, days of the week, months, numbers, weather, etc. may be included.

If you do not have an area on the wall to display a calendar, use one that is paper size.  These can be printed monthly, or print one blank calendar and laminate.  If you have a project board, it can be attacked with staples or pushpins.  small squares of paper can be used for numbers, or dry erase numbers can be written on the board.  If a project board is not available, you may put this laminated calendar or printed calendar in a notebook to be used daily.

Outside The Box Idea: The side of a refrigerator is a great place for a calendar center. Magnets can be put onto the back of the calendar items.  Dollar stores have magnetic dry erase calendar boards that will work for this.

Each day, during calendar, talk about the date.  Actually say, “Today is Monday, August 4th, 201-.”  Also, write the number numerically (8/4/201-).  I prefer putting up the number of the day as it comes.  Some like to have the calendar filled out, but I have found over the years, children learn the numbers better when they are actually touching them and putting them in order on the calendar.  I also like to teach patterning with the numbers.  I will have numbers on two colors alternately, the first month, to teach the AB pattern.  If you have advanced or children 5-6, you can teach odd/even and skip counting by two’s.  If using a “theme unit,” I will have alternating pictures.  For example: Odd numbers may be on yellow cards and even may be on blue cards.  So my pattern would be yellow, blue, yellow, blue, etc.  Or, if I was teaching a wild west unit, I might have boots/hats.  After the first month, you may want to add more complex patterns.

This is also a good time to go over the months of the year and days of the week.  A youtube search for days of the week songs/ month of the year songs, should produce some great songs.  I like Jack Hartmann, Dr. Jean, and Greg and Steve. There are also songs of both in Spanish, if you want to add that.  If possible, have cards with months of the year and with days of the week.  Keep the list of months and days, in order, displayed all year.  Mark the month/day on the display.  You can get creative with the days of the week display.  Some ideas: Days on Lily Pads and a frog hops to a new one each day.  Other ideas: dog bones/dog bowls, cowboys/hats, race car/race track, tractor/farmer, child’s face with hats, etc.  If you need other ideas,  contact me, I will be glad to help.

Rote count daily.  Start with one to 10 (or 5).  Count forward and backward.  After the first month, add skip counting by 10, and then 5, and 2.

Have a blank, colored piece of paper laminated with the heading, “Tally Sheet.”  Keep tally of the the days using a dry erase marker.  If you are “counting days,” use that number.  Otherwise, use the number of the date.

To teach place value, You can use straws, beans, beads, toothpicks, anything you have available.  You can be as simple or as creative as you would like to be.  Whichever item I use, I like the idea of setting up “houses.”  This helps with the idea of “borrowing” later, as the children begin higher subtraction.  I have used milk cartons to make the “houses.”  I used a half-pint or pint, cut down for the “Ones” house.  I used the base of a half-gallon carton for the “Tens” house.  If counting days, you will need a “Hundreds” house.  Explain that only nine can live in any one house.  If using straws, when you get to 10, bundle them and move them to the “Tens” house.  If you are only using the numbers on the calendar, 31 will be the highest you will use and will repeat every month.  If using beads, string the beads onto stiff wire, so it will stand up in the “Ten’s” house.  If using hundreds, ten 10’s will be bundled and moved to the “Hundred’s” house.

Money can be taught with calendar.  You can use change to make the number of the day in as many ways as possible.  Days one through 4 will be pennies.  On day five, you can use 5 pennies AND a nickel.  Day 10 can be 10 pennies, a nickel and 5 pennies, 2 nickels, and a dime.  I like to use actual money, if possible.  Again, Jack Hartmann and Dr. Jean have songs to teach money skills.  Adding the singing as part of your daily routine, will help your child remember money easier, as they get older.  If you are counting days, you will need enough change to make the monetary equivalent of the number of days you school.  For example, if you school 180 days, you will need enough change to make $1.80 in at least five different ways.

Clock skills can be introduced during calendar time, by using the numeric date written earlier.  Since there are 12 months and 12 hours, this works out beautifully. On August 4th, the time would be 8:04.  Card stock clocks or dry erase clocks can be found at dollar stores.  Old broken clocks are great for this.  Move the hands to 8:04.  Make sure your child has a clock, too.  Have your student physically move the time to 8:04.  I like to reset the clock to 12:00 each morning, before school.

An idea that helps introduce “time of day” is to have a schedule of your day drawn out and displayed with a working clock beside the schedule.  On the schedule, have a picture of a clock with time set to the event for the day.  Click to see a sample schedule. This will help your child recognize important times of the day, on the clock.  I have had three year olds look at the clock and say, “It is time for lunch, Miss Lori!”

Another activity to offer with the calendar is a math and science component. Keep track of the weather.  For four-year olds and older, an outdoor thermometer with suction cups can be put on a window that will be easy for your child to view.  Have a weather graph. You can change the type of graph as months change.  Use a circle graph one month, a bar graph the next, etc.  Divide the graph into six sections: Sunny, rainy, windy, cloudy, partly cloudy, snowy.  Each day, the child will put a dot sticker on the appropriate weather.  At the end of the month, count up the stickers and graph on a bar graph.  If you use a bar graph only, simply count and ask appropriate questions.  (Which kind of weather did we have the most, least, how many more sunny days than rainy days, etc. ) It is also helpful to have each type of weather color coded.  Using a separate calendar sheet, your child can label the date with the type of weather.

These are a few calendar activities you can use at home, with your child.  Thematic Calendar sets, for as few or as many components of your calendar center, can be made by Gloriwirques Educational Ministries.  Simply contact me for more information.

Workshops are available, in the Memphis, TN area, for home educators.  “Calendar Time” or “Early Math” is an available workshop.

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