How to Create a Family Calendar That Works

Libby Kane
Posted

It’s coming.

We hear it, chugging down the street spewing folders and broken crayons. We see its wake of brightly colored flyers and knit sweaters.

It’s back-to-school season–and it’s towing sports games, doctor’s appointments, orchestra practices, haircuts and playdates along with it.

How to keep it all straight? With a family calendar, of course! Construct the ultimate family calendar with our five cornerstones of effective calendaring and you’ll never miss another previously scheduled appointment again (not to mention you’ll be way less stressed).

1. Make a Master Calendar

The best kind of calendar is the one that you’re most likely to use, whether that’s in Outlook, hung on the fridge or scribbled on the back of your hand. (Hopefully not that last one.) But the truth is that most of us have both internet and smartphones, so electronic is probably the way to go if you’re looking to share with multiple people.


For those who don’t know (or only use it at work), Google Calendar is a free, reliable service that will allow every teenage or adult family member with an account to keep track of family appointments and to send out invites to things as needed. (One LV staff member recently sent her fiance a Google Calendar invite to their wedding!) Other services like Microsoft Outlook and iCal work similarly. The chosen program should serve as the master calendar to which all smartphones, tablets and other devices can be synched.

2. Color Code

Each family member should have an assigned color for his or her appointments, whether that means choosing different colors in Google Calendar or using different colored markers on paper. This way, you can tell who has appointments when with a quick glance.

For young children, consider assigning colors to only the adults: Mom, Dad, Grandma, babysitter. That way, your child’s appointments can be designated to the adults who make them happen, and you can easily tell who has preschool drop-off duty on what day or who’s in charge of supervising the birthday party. When a child is old enough to get to and from her appointments safely and needs less supervision, she can claim her own color.

3. Plan Ahead

One of the best features of an automated calendar is that you can set up recurring events for every week, month or year. Since school ends on a different day every year, and you might not always be able to visit the dentist on February 8, we recommend setting reminders rather than appointments. That way, you’re always reminded to start planning Thanksgiving plans well before ticket prices soar! Even if you’re keeping track on a free calendar from World Wildlife Fund, penciling in reminders for the whole year will help you plan ahead. A few reminders you might want to schedule in advance include:

  • Car Inspection
  • Annual Checkups
  • Spring Cleaning
  • Birthdays
  • Back-to-School Shopping
  • Holiday Shopping

4. Add Your Financial Tasks

A family calendar shouldn’t only plan out your days–it should plan out your finances, too. Make sure to add the following reminders:

  • Pay Your Credit Card (monthly)
  • Reassess Your Budget (monthly)
  • Check Your Credit Score (3 months)
  • Prepare Your Taxes (yearly)
  • Update Your Insurance (yearly)

5. Have a Kids’ Version

Especially if your family calendar is digital, it’s easy for kids to be unaware of your daily, weekly or yearly schedule. For that reason, we recommend having a tangible, easy-to-read version of the master calendar that presents your week or month and highlights only the events your child needs to know–for instance, you wouldn’t include Dad’s big presentation or driving Grandpa Steve to the doctor. There’s a reason classrooms have calendars for the students’ reference: Kids like to know what’s coming.

Keeping little eyes in mind, we loved these ideas:

Whiteboard Calendar

Easily updated, whiteboards are also magnetic, so they can be decorated for birthdays and holidays with fun magnets. While you can buy a week or month-long, pre-made calendar (like this one from Pottery Barn), it’s an easy DIY project: Grab some tape (or a Sharpie) and a whiteboard to make your own. Camille Styles has great instructions.

Image via Camille Styles

Chalkboard Calendar

We’re loving this new twist on a chalkboard calendar: Instead of using a standard chalkboard, buy chalkboard contact paper (seen here) and create a square–or any shape–for each day. Stick them up on the fridge, on the wall or on the door to your child’s bedroom. Momtastic has easy-to-follow instructions.

Image via Momtastic

Sticky Note Calendar

Using a sticky note per day makes it easy to change your plans. Granted, it’s not as environmentally friendly as the above options, but kids can save the notes in a box or notebook and look back on the highlights of that year in December. If simply sticking notes on the wall won’t do it for you, The Summer House has a great example of how to make this idea craftier.

Image via The Summer House 

Tell us–how do you keep your family’s schedule in line?

  • Elisa

    Cozi!!! It has everything you suggest above for internet and/or smartphone calendars, and plenty more. List features, text/email reminders, a journal, & there’s even a toll-free nnumber to have your grocery list or appointments read to you if you dont have a smartphone. Best of all, it’s free (there is a paid version w/o ads and a couple other perks, but I don’t mind the ads and have never needed to “jump the line” for a customer service call).