Creative Deployment Calendar Ideas – Keeping Kids Connected

August 28, 2009 By
Posted in Spouse and Family

When Bryan was away, Emma was only three. She was very close to her papa, so his absence was very hard for her to understand. As far as she was concerned, one day she had her papa every morning and every afternoon, and the next he was gone – completely gone! There was no way to really prepare her for it even though we had tried. I learned quickly to give her very concrete and tangible ways to stay connected to him.

One idea I had come across on various websites and blogs back then was the idea of a “deployment chain.” Of course the idea is also very well used anytime a parent will be gone for a period of time. The deployment chain is simply a chain made of construction paper rings. Each ring on the chain represents one day and each day the child gets to tear a ring off the chain to represent one more day gone until they reunite with the parent they are sorely missing.

It’s tangible and concrete. Young children (grammar school aged) are not able to, developmentally, grasp abstract concepts. The “future” is an abstract concept, so something that provides them with a visible representation of the “future.” It is also interactive and allows them to actively be involved in counting down to a very joyful day.

This past week I was developing calendars to use in home school this Fall and Winter, and I decided we would use these calendars for Emma to count down the deployment of her oldest brother and the time spent in BCT/AIT for her other older brother. Both are leaving within a month of one another, and she’s close to both of them. It can be hung any where in the house where the child can see it when he/she needs to remember that deployment does not last forever — even when it feels like it!

The calendars are season related themes for each month. Here is a description and supply list for our calendars, but you should make the calendars in any way that is meaningful and fun for you and your child. I will try and post a picture of September’s calendar when we finish.

September:
Supplies needed: construction paper, pencil, scissors, glue, tape, 30 “leaves” (either cut out from a pattern on fall colored construction paper OR I bought a garland full of fake Fall leaves), marker, adhesive putty.

  1. Figure out the size you would like your calendar to be.
  2. Cut out a “tree trunk” from brown construction paper. Use pencil to trace a pattern before you cut.
  3. Cut out “tree top” from green construction paper. This what you will tape the leaves to. Glue trunk and top together with overlap of trunk hidden in the back.
  4. Assemble and number the leaves to match the days of the month (i.e., Tuesday, 1st) — on each leaf put a second number that represents how many days until mid-deployment leave, redeployment, or other date when the child will see his/her parent.
  5. Either tape or use adhesive putty to attach the leaves to the tree top. You can put the leaves in order (what I recommend for toddlers) or you can jumble them up and have a leaf search each day, making a little game of it. What ever method you use to hang the leaves be sure the child can take a leaf down each day. The “fallen leaves” represent the days that are done. You can create a “pile of raked leaves” with the ones taken down, or find another creative way to display them.

October
Supplies needed: construction paper, glue, marker, scissors, tape, adhesive putty

  1. Figure out the size you want your calendar to be.
  2. Cut out several long and curvy thin strips of green construction paper for your pumpkin vine – keep the desired size of your calendar in mind.
  3. Cut out 31 pumpkins. You can allow your child to decorate them as jack-o-lanterns, color the stem at the top green, and clearly write the days of the month on them. On each pumpkin put a second number that represents how many days until mid-deployment leave, redeployment, or other date when the child will see his/her parent. They can also write notes on the pumpkins to the parent they miss each day and these can be sent to the deployed parent or saved for homecoming sharing time.
  4. Either tape or use adhesive putty to attach the pumpkins to the pumpkin patch “vine” you created earlier. You can put the pumpkins in order (what I recommend for toddlers) or you can jumble them up and have a pumpkin search each day, making a little game of it. What ever method you use to attach the pumpkins, be sure the child can “pick a pumpkin” each day. The “picked pumpkins” represent the days that are done. If you have a small basket you can place the pumpkins in it, or you can tape them up or send them to your deployed spouse.

For November I am planning on doing a turkey with the feathers representing the days of the month, and December will be a red and green construction paper chain garland, numbered the same way. If you need patterns to help with any of the above mentioned ideas, do a google search for “child crafts pattern leaf” or “child craft pattern pumpkin” etc. Enjoy, and please write me and let me know if you use the ideas I give here, or if you come up with your own. Pictures are always welcomed too!

3 Responses to Creative Deployment Calendar Ideas – Keeping Kids Connected

  1. Very creative!

  2. I hope you’ll be interested in my story and the need that I’m filling as a
    result:

    In January, a family friend began a year’s deployment in the Persian Gulf,
    leaving behind his two young children.

    After his departure, I became aware of the many organizations that send
    items to our troops, but found little that deployed parents can have readily
    available to easily communicate with their young children.

    In an effort to help my friend keep in touch with his children -a difficult
    taskunder the best of cricumstances, I designed interactive postcards for
    him to mail home. The cards are viewed as little gifts both by him and the
    kids, with space for a note from him and drawings the children enjoy coloring,
    connecting the dots and working out mazes.

    When completed, the art is mailed back to him, sharing the children’s
    creativity and accomplishments and maintaining ongoing communication. He
    says that the cards are especially helpful as an easy, economical way to
    keep in touch with his children and give them an equally easy -and fun– way to send a
    little of themselves to him.

    Thus began the birth of the “Troops In Touch” . I have become so energized
    that I’ve designed over 50 cards –some gender specific, others general in
    nature, including military, sports, seasonal and holiday themes. The next
    step of making them available to others seemed natural.

    These cards perfect for young children who cannot write on their own and for
    busy spouses with too much to do to supervise letter writing — the
    activities on the cards require little or no supervision.

    They’re especially easy for the deployed parent since he/she doesn’t have to
    come up with new things to say required by a letter -and when the postcard
    is returned, the “artwork” provides a topic for a response.

    But most importantly, unlike an e-mail or phone call, the postcard has been
    touched by loved ones. Children can hold the cards, carry them around, sleep
    with them under their pillows and know that they’re receiving and sending
    their very own mail.

    Realizing how important it is for parents and children to stay in touch, I
    had hoped to provide the cards at no cost but I simply cannot afford to.
    Ideally, FRGs and groups that support military families will order in quantities to
    help keep the fee modest.

    Individuals may also order cards for service people they know from my
    website -and those sales enable me to have a small income stream so that I
    can donate them when needed. Additionally, I could offer your members &
    supporters discounts for all purchases.

    I hope you will help spread the word about this new resource.
    You can see a few samples at my website at http://www.createmygift.com/troops.php
    and I’d be happy to send actual samples of the postcards to you as well as
    answer any questions you may have.

    Sincerely,
    Beth Allen

  3. What a creative way to help children get through such a tough time in their lives.
    I love the paper chain idea, as well as the calendar idea too. Both are so very visual in nature and give them something to focus on rather than their loved one simply being gone. I also like these concepts because it is the beginning of teaching them coping skills for grief or loss on a much smaller scale, absence.

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