When the four Gustafson kids step off the yellow school bus and through the side door of their home, they step right into family time. With a quick peek at the super-size wall calendar opposite the doorway, they know exactly what's happening. The easy-to-read and fun-to-manipulate calendar lets everyone know at a glance the "who, what, when and where" of family life.
"I highlight the current date to make it easy to visualize what's going on today and what's ahead," says Angela Gustafson, 41-year-old writer and mom of 12-, 10- and 8-year-old boys and a 6-year-old girl. "The kids like to move the magnets around and talk about the things they are excited to do. It's like a piece of art that's always evolving."
Keeping track of schedules can be a challenge for everyone in active families. This calendar system is a creative way to make sure no important appointment or activity gets lost in the shuffle.
Here's how to create one in your home, and keep it up to date:
1. The key to the Gustafson system is a magnetic chalkboard, available at office supply stores. Before hanging it on a wall, carefully measure and draw a basic calendar grid with 35 squares or boxes. Allow extra space across the top for writing the month and the days of the week. Leave room along the sides to store magnetic backed images. Angela used a permanent silver paint pen for drawing the lines and writing the days of the week.
2. Create eye-catching magnetic images using 8-1/2-by-11-inch magnet sheets or business-card magnets. Cut to size and adhere to the backside of photos, stickers and magazine cutouts. Look for images that relate to activities such as basketball, music lessons, dance or karate. Save business magnets from favorite stores, restaurants and medical offices, too. Trim them down to fit in a square.
3. Attach a magnetic penholder to the side and fill with chalk and non-toxic wet-erase markers, such as Expo Bright Sticks Wet-Erase Fluorescent Markers.
4. At the start of each month, write the number for each day and planned activities. Add magnetic images. It's a great opportunity to talk with young children about the number of days in a week, in a month and even how Feb. 29 leaps into the picture!
5. At the end of the month, wipe down with a wet washcloth. Another successful month has gone by, and the family gets to set the whole thing up all over again.
Editor's note: Donna Erickson's award-winning series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit www.donnasday.com and link to the NEW Donna's Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families."