Right around the time Gwen started school (and Chris started working weekends), I made this:
It's a very haphazard calendar, and it hangs above Gwen's bed. It's made up of photographs of the many places and activities in Gwen's week, and a pointer that we move from day to day. In this particular picture, you can see the pointer (which is Gwen's tiny face and a red arrow) over Wednesday.
I really wanted to give Gwen a sense of routine and continuity. Right off the bat, she adored school, but it was confusing for her that she wasn't going every day. Having a visual aid that shows two pictures of school activities helps her understand that she goes to school twice a week. Every night before bed we reflect on this - "Today was Tuesday, it was Gwen and Dada day. Tomorrow is Wednesday, and you are going to Denise's," - and move the pointer to the next picture.
This system is working incredibly well and Gwen is starting to understand and predict her routine. Even when the calendar is not right in front of her, she can remember what's coming up next. For example, last night as she left Denise's house, she said that the next day was a school day, which is correct. Similarly, she told me she wanted to go to the library, and I agreed we would go on our next Mama-and-Gwen day. "That's after school day and Denise day," she said. I was impressed that she didn't whine, "But I want to go to the library RIGHT NOW!" as she sometimes does - I think being able to conceptualize how long the wait was until Mama and Gwen day helped her to be patient and not insist on getting her way immediately.
In addition to her caregiver pictures - there are photos of me, Chris, Gramma, school, and Denise, her daycare provider - we have lots of activity pictures as well. In the photo above, you can see a girl in a red leotard; this was our photo for her weekly gymnastics class. We also have photos of the library, the pool, the skating rink, a forest (for nature walks), a playground. There are pictures of Gwen making cookies and Gwen doing crafts. Whenever we agree to do a certain thing on a certain day, it goes on the calendar so we can anticipate it. I even took a photo of our occasional teenage babysitter so that Gwen can look forward to those visits. All the pictures that aren't being used in the current week live in the Ziploc bag pinned to the board.
I am so very pleased that this system is working, for both Gwen and for me. The calendar is certainly not as polished and lovely to look at as some that I've seen, but I like the fact that it's personalized, simple, and easy to add on to. It's become an important part of our routine and I love that it is really helping Gwen to start understanding the abstract concepts of time.