“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.