Being organized is an essential part of today’s world, especially for families. Between juggling personal dates, work obligations, and kid-friendly activities, it’s easy to miss something without a good event tracking system. One of the oldest options for doing this is the family wall calendar. However, with digital tools like Google Tasks and Google Calendar, the paper calendar is dying, but a central hub that allows family to stay on the same proverbial page shouldn’t be left out.
Growing up we were always busy with something going on with school activities and sports. One of the staples of our house was the trusty wall calendar, which would have things scribbled down for what we had going for the month. Of course, this was a time before smartphones, little to no internet, and even texting wasn’t much of a thing at first, meaning communication was key between all family members for keep abreast of what was to come.
Between my brother and I, growing up, we had a baseball, soccer, basketball or rodeo workout or game almost every day – so knowing who, where and when was crucial so that we didn’t miss a thing.
I’m not saying everyone should have a paper calendar to keep track of their upcoming events. Google Calendar does a fantastic job in this regard. However, I think for a family, especially a young family, having an event center accessible to everyone is extremely helpful. While there are great phones for kids, not all kids are phone ready, and if they are, some aren’t quite enough to coordinate a monthly schedule.
There is something to be said about having the family calendar in a central location in the house that is accessible at a glance – without pulling out a phone. Although my kids are only in Kindergarten and Grade 3, we already have a lot of events for them in particular and for the family as a whole. So, for my kids, being able to see what’s going on helps them feel up to date and more included in our family time together.
One of the main drawbacks of a physical, not digital, calendar is that you can’t update it when you’re away from home unless you take it with you everywhere. If you do, then no one else will be able to see it until you are all together again. Then there is the constant maintenance to make sure it is kept up to date. With the much more convenient digital tools available to us these days, paper calendars are a chore.
There are different ways to keep everyone on the same page with as little maintenance as possible. As mentioned earlier, one way is a smartphone for everyone with a Google calendar shared among family members. But again, there’s the problem that maybe not everyone is reading yet and the added chance of on-screen distractions.
A family wall calendar can be very useful for families, but it can quickly become a useless wall fixture if it is difficult to maintain.
Perhaps the most obvious solution is to use one of the many great smart displays on the market. With it connected to your Google Account, being able to view upcoming events should be a snap. However, this is not necessarily the case. You can ask your Google Assistant to let you know about upcoming events, but this method has some drawbacks. It’s not going to help with the things happening in two weeks, it’s just your personal events, and no one else in the family can find out what’s going on without your voice.
Smart screens need to have functionality better suited to family calendars. For example, there is no way to visually see what’s going on for the entire month on these devices. Another problem is that visibility isn’t great unless you have a big screen like the Nest Hub Max, and even that may not be big enough.
A large hanging wall calendar is useful because of its size and location. Visibility is another win for the old-fashioned way, as it doesn’t require any effort to see what’s going on for the day, week, or month. My family’s solution is to take the benefits of a traditional wall calendar and combine them with the simplicity of Google Calendar.
I know this may sound like an advertisement for DAKboard, but it isn’t; I was so surprised at the ease and speed of the service.
A few displays are pre-fabricated, ready to hang, and offer exactly what you need, but it’s hard to justify hundreds of dollars for a calendar. I decided to take some components I already had lying around – a small TV wall mount, a microSD card, and an old LCD computer monitor – and put them to work. I found a company called DAK table which offers a predefined solution and the software allowing users to create a solution themselves.
DAKboard offers free accounts that allow you to use a basic set of customization tools to configure a display view that best suits your needs. After testing the free account option on my computer’s browser and realizing how awesome it could be, I opted for the entry-level paid account trial period, so that I could get more ‘customization options.
Once I knew this would be the best solution, I bought myself a Raspberry Pi 3 B + model and a VGA to HDMI adapter to get my family calendar up and running. DAKboard offers downloadable software for the Raspberry Pi that allows the microcomputer to easily connect to your DAKboard account and the digital signage you create.
Once I downloaded the software I followed the easy to follow instructions to prepare my microSD card for my Raspberry Pi. Once done and inserted into my small computer, all that remained was to connect the creation of my DAKboard calendar to the DAKboard operating system running on the Pi. I could not believe how simple it was.
By creating your own display, you can connect as many services directly to DAKboard so you can define how you want your digital calendar to look. In addition to the obvious Google Calendar, you can also use services like SmartThings, Google Photos, Spotify, Weather Underground, and many more are available. Then with a blank slate, using a pre-made template, you can add blocks and then choose the service you want in that block to create the perfect display for your family.
After getting the layout I wanted, I created a specific timeline just for my DAKboard display. I exported my calendar, then imported it into the new family calendar I created, shared it with my wife to add events to the same calendar, and my digital family wall calendar is finished. It updates automatically throughout the day and DAKboard allows me to set a schedule for it to turn off at night.
My family, and especially my wife, already love our new calendar. My wife took charge of updating our dry erase board, and this new solution is so much easier. In addition to the calendar, I added a block to show the current time, 5 day weather forecast, and a live album from Google Photos. Next step is to ask AC resident uber-nerd Jerry Hildenbrand to help me integrate touch support and Google Assistant to make my setup even better.
A wall calendar like this may not be right for everyone, although it may be. Each person and each family must find what is best for them. Being able to have a central location that is visible to the household can be of great benefit. So if you want a modern wall calendar for your home, it’s not only possible but easier than you might think. Even if you don’t have the parts lying around, you can make one for $ 75 or less – and until Google decides to make its Nest Hub a real hub for everyone, you’ll have to take things. in hand.