- “Children younger than 2 years need hands-on exploration and social interaction with trusted caregivers to develop their cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills. Because of their immature symbolic, memory, and attentional skills, infants and toddlers cannot learn from traditional digital media as they do from interactions with caregivers, and they have difficulty transferring that knowledge to their 3-dimensional experience. The chief factor that facilitates toddlers’ learning from commercial media (starting around 15 months of age) is parents watching with them and reteaching the content.”
Do you use calendars, post-its, to do lists, or online event reminders? These are all types of VISUAL schedules. If you went a week without any of these how would you function? Would you remember to go to every meeting, complete your project or job tasks on time, or even remember your friend's birthday that week? Not many of us would function well without a schedule of some kind… That is the idea behind having a visual schedule for your toddler.
Reason 1: Understanding the PLAN. We all like to know what the plan is right? A visual schedule allows your toddler to feel like they are in control of their situation and understand the expectations of a certain task. For example, sometimes the phrase “clean up” is so overwhelming that it keeps our toddler from starting. Having a visual expectation or a sequence of clean up-events can help them understand where the items go. Having an understanding of the PLAN leads to success!
Reason 2: Visual schedules decrease anxiety by giving toddlers specific action steps in a sequence. Have you ever forgotten your calendar or your grocery list? It gives you a little panic inside doesn’t it? As adults though, we usually know how to regulate our emotions and problem solve when we forget our action steps. Problem solving skills take time to develop in our kids, so these specific action steps help toddlers understand what to do next, what they have already done, and it gives them confidence in being more independent as they practice these action steps. (This about the “clean up” example here- how much MORE confident will a toddler be after mastering this sequence of events)
Reason 3: The schedule says so. Do you have a child who decides they don’t need to brush their teeth or put on their PJs??? Well now you can say, “The schedule says that it’s time to brush teeth!”
The pictures on the schedule give CLEAR expectations of their action steps and decreases their ability to argue. ONLY using verbal instructions can open your toddler up to negotiating why they don’t need/want to brush their teeth right now. “After I get my jamies on… or I need a drink.. Or anything that interests them MORE than brushing their teeth.” Now you have a clear expectation for them to follow!
Reason 4: Your toddler may be struggling to understand the action steps. Even if your toddler KNOWS what brushing teeth means, sometimes their ability to understand and complete each action step is affected by several things. Their moods - being grumpy, tired, excited, and being overstimulated can affect how well toddlers listen. Even being under-stimulated or lacking attention to your words can decrease their ability to understand verbal commands. Think about it, when you are tired, don’t you benefit from people telling you things a couple different ways?
On top of this, if your toddler has a delay, you can assume they have difficulty understanding longer sentences so using pictures can provide them with clear and concise commands/action steps, thus, increasing their overall understanding!
Ok- I hope you are ready to start using schedules! Be on the lookout for part 2 for deciding WHEN to use a schedule. Schedules can feel overwhelming - heck, being a parent can feel overwhelming, and if you need a group to feel supported on your journey, I invite to our community so you can start feeling confident again: FREE FB Group.
Reading to a child is one of the most constructive things a parent can do, and you can do this with them their entire life- starting at birth.
To get specific though for 1-2 year olds, it’s always best to choose bright, colorful books with simple pictures. Cluttered pages, like “I Spy” books, are difficult to look at and comprehend due to their age and brain development. Books for this age group should be short and entertaining. I love to read “Where is the ____” type books, lift the flap, and touchy feely books. Some of my favorite stories have an action on each page (like, clapping, patting, or blowing kisses). When your toddler has fun reading, they will choose this activity so you don’t have to make it a “chore.”
Another strategy for this age is to read books face to face - Instead of sitting the child in your lap to read, sit in front of him so he can see your face and expressions! Watching you read with facial expressions is more exciting than watching your hands move or turn the page. Enthusiasm is contagious! Read the story in silly voices -- use a grumpy voice, then a high pitched voice, or even a ROBOT voice… your child will be laughing and enjoying the book even more with you.
The last strategy I’d like to share with you is eliciting effective communication with your toddler. In our current culture, we rush all day long to make things happen quickly. We drive to the school and daycare fast, we eat our lunch fast, and we’re annoyed when someone is taking too long in the grocery check out line because they are chatting with the checker. Because of this cultural "norm," our speech is automatically faster and we offer less wait time for people AND children to respond. We often expect an action or response right away and continue to speak or ask the same question to fill the silence.
Toddlers truly need time to process the information in their world. Before children develop sentences themselves, they understand best when thoughts are short and to the point. Instead of saying, “Oh look at that blue bird sitting on the tree! He has a worm in his mouth. I bet the baby is hungry!” It may be more beneficial to say, “I found a bird! (pause) A blue bird. (while touching the picture and pausing again) “MMMmmm, yummy worm!” (while rubbing your belly or your childs). When you slow it down, point to pictures, AND use gestures, you are offering your child a visual, auditory, and tactile learning environment. ALL of which are crucial to developing communication and language skills needed for further development.
Now that you have these simple strategies, I encourage you to try at least one strategy this week! Share in the comments what strategy is most relevant to your child.
If you need more guidance or enjoyed these tips, you’ll love my free FB group where we talk all about toddler development. Come check out the growing community.
Can’t wait to see you there!
A Different Way Of Thinking
In my last BLOG, Attention Deficit Disorder, What is it? I discussed what scientists/doctors understand to be true for ADD and ADHD at this time in 2020. Before we dive into these strategies, I want you to realize that ADD has been around longer than doctors have had a “name” for this difference. That’s what I want you to take away from this BLOG - ADD/ADHD is a different way of thinking, learning, and acting. The benefit of you reading this is that you may walk away with a strategy that can help your child be successful in any area of his/her life. Your child is perfectly created by our Creator... So build on your child’s strengths and learning style.
Let’s dig into some of the strategies shall we?!
How many of you appreciate structure? In the school system, the “structure” of the day is the same every single day. I can’t imagine how we would all feel if the bell schedules changed every day. There would be confusion, angst, and chaos because adults and children alike appreciate sameness.
This goes for children in your own home - whether they have an ADD diagnosis or not - children appreciate sameness, or a typical daily schedule. Structure occurs when kids understand the expectations of daily routines. Their morning routine before school/daycare, nap time routine, evening routine, meal time routine, and more! Of course the earlier we as parents or guardians begin these routines in our homes the easier it will be down the road.
Since my time in the schools, I’ve seen a variety of schedule-based systems work. Mind you, these systems may not work the first day or even the third. Have the expectation that for two weeks there is no straying from the schedule/routine you are trying to create for your child. My kids have had the same evening routine since they were 6 months old and I truly believe that’s one of the reasons why my kids are NOW good sleepers.
Visuals may seem intimidating to parents and even some educators at times and I think it’s because they’re not sure how to use them or even create them. I’d like to share some tips with you on how to create a visual, but first let’s understand WHY visuals are so important.
If you remember from part 1, I discussed how difficult it was for children with ADD to focus in order to make spontaneous decisions. However, when these same children have two concrete choices they are able to make the appropriate choice. Visuals take away the guessing. When we use visuals to support kids who have attention issues, or children with communication delays it’s almost as if we are speaking their language! ;)
I personally use the program LessonPix to create visuals, but it’s not necessary. You don’t even need a computer to start with! Choose a routine to target, then break down the steps by drawing each one out. If it’s getting ready for bed, draw the 5 steps leading up to bedtime.
Bedtime Routine example:
Bath... Pajamas on… Brush teeth… Read 2 Books… 1 Drink.
Set it up from left to right like a checklist.
This is a similar bedtime schedule we use for my kids. I specifically put “read 2 books” or “take 1 drink” so there is an expectation I can teach. Will my kids still try to read 3 books some evenings?? Of course! If they didn’t I would think something was wrong. I have this visual so I can go back and help them understand that our home has expectations and rules.
I’d like to share an example of our evening schedule with you. All I need is your name and email so I know where to send it to!
These strategies only scratch the surface of how to support children with short attention spans or communication deficits. Please share how you are already using visuals and structure in your home or ask me about our FREE FB community!