“The days are long, but the years are short.”
This adage is frequently shared with parents or caregivers of young children. But the days – particularly during the uncertainty of this pandemic – are likely feeling longer than ever before. How do we plan our days and make them meaningful for our children? One way to foster predictability and routine in your child’s day is to create a visual daily schedule. This will help your child know what to expect throughout the day and give them a sense of control.
Tips for Making a Visual Daily Schedule for Different Age Groups
The right type of visual daily schedule will largely depend on the age of your child(ren). Involve your child in the creation process as much as possible, especially preschoolers and older children. If you are computer savvy, you may want to create a digital schedule on a laptop or tablet your child can refer to during the day.
- Young Toddler–Preschool: Make a picture schedule. You can draw, use symbols, use stock photos or, even better, take pictures of your child and print them out. Let your preschooler color, decorate or help choose which pictures to use.
- Pre-K/Kindergarten: Consider pairing the pictures in your schedule with the written word.
- Elementary: Older children may want to create the pictures or write the words themselves.
No matter what age, this is a great opportunity to work together as a family and talk about thoughtfulness and consideration for others. Being a part of the planning will give children a sense of control, help create better understanding and make it much more likely that they will be happy, active participants!
Making the Most of Your Visual Daily Schedule
Keep the visual schedule easy to understand and flexible. Make sure the different components of the day are interchangeable and not listed in order on a sheet. Although we want as much predictability as possible in the daily routine, the beauty of a visual schedule is that even if something needs to change, you are able to discuss and then move the schedule around, so the child can know what to expect. This helps to build a sense of security that children need, particularly during this very confusing time. It can also go a long way to preventing a meltdown, when inevitably things may need to change.
Make sure the visual schedule is the child’s eye level and easy to reference throughout the day. Refer to it as you move from one time to the next. Let your child take an active role by asking them what is happening next as you transition between activities. Let them point to, move and name the next part of the day. Build in time each morning to discuss the upcoming day and make any adjustments to the schedule. Be intentional in explaining what this will mean for the child and let them help move the pictures around to support these changes. Explain why the change is occurring, “Today, Mommy has an important phone call during our special snack tIme, so we are going to switch snack time with quiet play, and after my phone call, it will be time to go outside!” Support the child in moving the times of day around to represent the changes, so that they feel some control and understanding. When you remind them of the change, make sure to point it out on the schedule.
A visual schedule can help support your children by bringing predictability and understanding to their day while at the same time, allowing for flexibility. This can help them adapt to these changing times where we are all feeling lost.
Great information !! I had not thought of moving the pictures around when the daily schedule needs to change.
I really like to idea of using pictures for a daily schedule. I think the children will have a clearer understanding when changes need to be made. It will give them a visual to see the change.
I agree, Sylvia! Being able to move the activity pictures around is a great way of showing that schedules sometimes change, and it can be okay or even fun. I think this type of schedule offers predictability and flexibility.
I work with several providers that use pictures to indicate what is coming up next in the day. The best ones are when you use pictures of the actual children in your program doing those daily activities and then they get to see themselves doing things.
I like the idea of being able to change the pictures order if needed. Routine is important, and so is flexibility. Sometimes an activity is just to fun to leave and so you may need to make allowances.
I think picture schedules are a wonderful way to make the day go smoother. I used a picture schedule with my children and encourage my providers to do the same. I would sometimes use real pictures of my children instead of a cartoon type picture. That way the children can relate to how the day is really going to go. I would post infant pictures for diaper changes, children playing, lunch/snack, etc. As the children grew older, they could remind me of what happens next. I also kept a calendar in my circle/large group time that had pictures on the day of special events, ie., field trips, holiday’s, birthday’s, etc. Using a calendar with numbers and pictures gave way to teaching my children the concept of printed numbers and words which they will use later in school.
I work with birth to three year olds as a coach. Lots of classrooms do not use visual schedules. In my classrooms that I visit, I enjoy seeing the schedule used. Probably the best use of it is to see toddlers point to what comes next. You can see their eyes light up with an “I did it!” I share articles just like this one with my teachers to help them see the benefits of using these. 🙂