There is some debate in the early childhood arena as to whether calendar time is appropriate for preschool. Critics point to research that says many of the concepts of time are not age appropriate until first grade. We respect this research and think it’s important to keep our expectations in line with what is best for young children. However, we do feel like calendar time in preschool can have many benefits.
It is incredibly important for those teaching young kids to understand the goals of calendar time as it pertains to preschoolers.
For kids ages 3 to 5, calendar time should be used as a tool for exposure to, not mastery of, concepts that relate to time. Calendar activities should focus on developing a general awareness of vocabulary like now, later, next, then, today, months, seasons, etc. Many preschoolers will be experimenting with using these terms in context, and through conversations and calendar activities we can give them opportunities to do so.
Calendar time is also intended to give kids a general awareness of what a calendar looks like. It helps them to understand that there are days of the week, months of the year, etc. Although we do not yet expect them to name or sequence these concepts in order, exposure is important.
Calendar time is also often used as a daily way to practice numeracy skills like counting, number recognition, and basic number sense concepts (like comparing, counting on, and counting back).
Perhaps the most important goal of calendar time is helping kids make meaningful connections with topics discussed. Through these connections kids reinforce their learning, and this is what paves the way for long-term mastery of these skills. For example, when a child learns that another family member shares the same birth month as him, he makes a meaningful connection. When a child learns that the day of the month is the fifth and she is also five, then she has made a connection to that day. When he realizes that all the days of the week end in the letter Y, a child has made another connection. During calendar time it is important to stop and allow time for kids to make these observations. Sometimes that will mean your routine is modified or cut short to allow ample time to develop the discussion, and that’s more than okay! Meaningful discussions trump staying on schedule every time in preschool.