Visual Schedules 101: What They Are And Why You Need Them!
The Benefits of Visual Schedules
Creating clarity, balance, and rhythm within your days so that you feel centered and empowered to nourish and support your children.
Whether children are in or out of school, managing family life is hard. Some days, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and find it hard to stay focused on daily goals. Other days, family life revolves around moods and sleep schedules. While I know that we will always have ups and downs it helps to stop and think about what is working and what is not. Sometimes, even a small shift can have a big change.
Daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms are the anchors that provide security.
With a strong daily rhythm a child knows what to expect and what is expected of them. With rhythm, simple daily activities (chores, self-care, mealtimes,) become habits instead of challenges.
Visual schedules can mindfully center our being in the wild rush of today’s current and help create a more intuitive ebb and flow to our day.
Toys Add Creativity Into The Mix!
What is a visual schedule?
You’ve heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” When communicating with children, it’s really true. In fact, a picture can replace a thousand words! This is the magic behind visual schedules.
A visual schedule is a symbol or picture representation of a series of activities. It could be used to communicate the overall rhythm of the day or to break a task into more manageable parts. Visual schedules are a wonderful way to set your day up for success.
Verbal instructions are gone in a moment. Visual schedules are static, meaning that they remain present after words are spoken. Children can refer to them once the spoken words are no longer present.
Visual schedules can be used with very young children and children not yet reading and may help reinforce language development and emerging reading skills.
What are the benefits of using a visual schedule?
- Establish routines and expectations
- Minimize resistance to less-preferred activities
- Foster self-confidence and responsibility
How to use visual schedules?
There are many different ways to display a visual schedule. The best way to use visual schedules depends on your child and what you are hoping to accomplish.
For some children, the schedule can be very general, including only the highlights of the day, whereas for others, you may consider breaking down a task into more manageable parts. You can find visual representations and bundles online or you can create your own with simple doodles.
After determining how the information will be represented, consider how much information will be presented to your child at one time. Some children may be most successful with one piece of information visible at a time, while others are able to be successful with a short sequence of activities and tasks, or up to a full day of information presented at a time.
Once length is determined, you can decide how to present the information to your child- one piece at a time, in a left-to-right or top-to-bottom format, or using multiple rows of information.
*Present left-to-right visuals only if your child can scan horizontally. Horizontal orientation may help prepare children for reading. Most young children are vertical scanners. In this case, visuals from top-to-bottom work best.
Display your schedule in a highly visible location that is easily accessible to you and your children. It is important to always use the same picture and label for a specific activity and to display the pictures in chronological order. Most importantly, have a way to signify the end of an activity or completion of a task like using a check mark or removing it and putting it in an “all done basket.”
Tips and Strategies:
- Be consistent
- Schedule breaks
- Involve your children in the planning of the schedule
- Show a clear beginning, middle, and end
- Build in extra time for physical activity such as a bike ride, walk, or daily exercise
- Make your visuals sturdy and easy to handle
- Print your visuals on cardstock, or glue to an index card or file folder
- Covering your visuals with contact paper or laminate with help make them durable
- Ensure the visuals are easy to add or remove so it can be easily modified for changes in routine (Velcro, magnets, clothes pins, dry erase marker)
The magic of a family rhythm invites all those wonderful things plus heaps more within a thoughtfully constructed order, thereby allowing more flow and fulfillment to seep into our days at home.
On a personal note, our rhythm on weekends is left to little else besides rest and play. These are the things our family prioritizes at the end of the week before we begin a new one, and we find that each of these things renews and grounds us in countless ways.
Finally, you won’t settle on a rhythm overnight but try one on for size is the first step in this process. Every family is unique so begin with creating a rhythm that meets your needs as a whole.
This post is by Gina Goldmann. Gina is an early childhood educator and mom to a 4-year-old. She admires the ideals of learning that is grounded in exploration, discovery, and open-ended play. You can follow her @twinkle_andstar for fun and intentional play ideas.