Create a “calendar book” to teach kids their schedules

toddlerschedule1.jpgRobin C.’s schedule-teaching hack is amazing. I have plenty to say about this, but will save it for the end.

I wanted to teach my 1 1/2 year old his schedule and to be able to discuss changes to the schedule or special events he can then anticipate. I also wanted to get him started thinking about time concepts of ‘now’ and ‘later’. I know from my teaching experience that a rudimentary calendar is helpful, but I wanted to make it in a format he could use.

I know people have done this with lists or magnets on the refrigerator, but my boy loves to pull all the magnets off the fridge and paper is something to be drawn on or crumpled. My son is really getting into books, so I decided to make his calendar in a book format, but I needed it to be both sturdy and be able to rearrange the pages easily. Things like ‘brush teeth’ are daily, but his play-gym class is once a week and we often try to take him to special activities on the weekend like swimming or a play-date.

toddlerschedule2.jpgI realized that an easy way to do this would be to use a cheap ($1.99) 4×6 photo album. The one I got has space for 36 photos and a slot on the front for a cover photo, but I also saw some cute ones with popular Disney characters on the cover. I print out each task/activity (and accompanying photo of him engaged in the task or a photo of the person we would be visiting) on a 4×6 piece of paper or photo paper, or even just trim standard paper to fit after printing. This way I can only put in the ‘pages’ that we need to discuss for that day. Extra activities can then be stored in the excess pages, but turned around so the words and pictures don’t show.

I think that when he gets older this could even become a fun storytelling activity if I print out pages with sections of popular fairy tales (beginning, middle, and end). I could then let him pick the pages (mix and match) which we then put in the book and read the book together.

This hack would work for older kids as well. Most kids benefit from visual prompts (as opposed to keeping the schedule “in their heads”), but this is especially true for those with attention and learning bugs. A visual schedule helps kids feel in control of their day by helping them visualize it before it happens.

As the school year ends and many kids head into the more unstructured days of summer, a prop like this helps maintain some light order to their days and weeks.

Related: Help kids organize their own schedules


  1. says

    Great idea on handling the scheduling thing with younger kids or kids who need help focusing- I do a magnet board with my kid (he has neuro and developmental delays…) but had to start with general info, and blocking off squares so he wouldn’t get distracted- the album/book (kiddie filofax/dayrunner?!?!) is a great alternative!

    Here’s what I do for my kiddo:

    (I made the magnets using the scheduling software from but their site and software can be used in many different ways- I did it this way to save paper and make it easier for our family…of course, YMMV….)

  2. Robin C says

    I wanted to add that I did end up making multiple copies of some of the activities and sometimes on the weekend I fill most of the pages (I recommend leaving some empty in case you have last minute schedule changes).
    Also, if you need to check off things you have done, you could get wipe off markers and make a big X over that page.
    An advantage to the book that I did not expect is that it is portable!! I can review the schedule or change it while we are away from home if necessary.

  3. says

    We have a song for nighttime routine with motions and sounds. I need to get a vid up of it…

    Put on your jammies
    *zip zip zip*

    Brush your teethies
    *swish swish swish*

    say your prayeries

    go to sleepies
    *snore sounds*

  4. Chris says

    HA HA HA! Clearly you all only have one kid each if you have enough time to put something like this together.

    But seriously, we use a clipboard with photocopies of a daily to-do lists for our kids with one item for each letter “A” to “Z”. We also have a cool looking thing we bought with things to do that they get to turn over from “Brush Teeth” to “Done” as they do each item.

    They ignored all of it after the 3rd day and it all collects dust as they still do their own thing and we all yell, and each morning is a fight but at least it makes me feel like I’m trying :-)

    But double seriously (part two) even when they ignore it it still soaks in over time, and now even our difficult (now) 8 year old comes downstairs each morning dressed for school and does her homework, which used to be a massive fight for us each day.

    When it comes down to it, the most useful tool in your belt is “The Look” and not these gizmos ;-)


  5. Rebecca says

    When I was little my mom bought spiral bound notebooks for each of us (there were four of us). These were the days before at home printers and one hour photos, so my mom would let us scrapbook our days using pictures from magazines and advertisements. Some of it was everyday schedule, some of it was about our likes and dislikes. (Rebecca brushes her teeth every morning and every night, Rebecca wants a dog for Christmas). This idea might work as an alternative to the great idea suggested in the hack above.

  6. Parent Hacks Editor says

    Chris: I used to believe in the universality of “The Look.” I grew up with a dad who perfected “The Look” to such a degree that he could intimidate neighborhood children from across the street.


    My oldest child is immune to “The Look.” Impervious. Nerves of steel. Doesn’t budge an inch. The simple fact is that he doesn’t understand that form of communication.

    Nothing works for everyone. In my family’s case, “gizmos” like this have helped immensely.

  7. says

    I think this is a great idea! Not only will he appreciate this when he grows up, it’s also so fun to see his photos without actually forcing him to keep up with the schedule.

    This idea is for keeps!

    Thanks for sharing. :)

  8. says

    This is a fantastic idea. I know my son would love staging and posing all the pictures. He’d want a notepad in the back with check-off boxes that he could use to mark his progress. Alas, he is his mother’s son. :)

  9. says

    Love this idea! Will definitely share it with my clients. Here’s another great use for those types of books. When my daughter was three-years-old, we put together an ABC book about her. So, for instance, page one was the letter “A” so it had a BIG letter A, then the word, “apple” next to it. Under that was a photo of her eating an apple and underneath the photo was the sentence, “Hope is eating an apple.”
    This was a great way to reinforce the alphabet in a very personal way and it made for a great item to bring for sharing at school. Several years later, she still pulls this book off the shelf and reminisces and it’s fun for us to read together.

  10. Anonymous says

    Chris: Not using a system like ours (we use magnets and a board) is not an option… Yes, we only have one kid (and we will only be having one kid) but my kid has neurological and developmental issues. The Look works wonders, but doesn’t teach a child anything about transitions or scheduling. We tried many other things before doing our magnet board (and point system that goes with it)… I am the first to admit that this visual schedule thing is a giant PITA and it takes more time and dedication than we can find on some days- and on those days we remember that the effort is a whole lot easier to handle than the fallout of not doing this with our kid…

    The Look IS a powerful visual tool, but for the 45 items on my son’s schedule board I think The Look would wear itself out within 12 tasks… The Look only goes so far- like raising your voice- they do develop a tolerance for it…

    Sneaky little creatures…