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.