The How-To Guide for Creating a Visual Schedule for Your Child’s Routine

The household routine of a child is pivotal in shaping their life and development. An effective, visually appealing routine can instill discipline, increase focus, and foster independence in a child. Parents, particularly those with children who are autistic or have other additional needs, are often challenged to design and implement a daily schedule that caters to their child’s needs and capabilities. This blog post serves as your guide to create a visual schedule, make it successful, and ensure consistency!

Why Routines and Visual Schedules are Beneficial

Routine brings an incredible amount of comfort and security into a child’s world, especially for those grappling with difficulty with change. By setting up a structured, predictable flow of daily activities, we alleviate their stress and reduce any potential confusion. Visual schedules amplify these benefits by presenting the day’s tasks in a tangible, easy-to-follow format. It’s like handing them a colorful roadmap for their day. This powerful tool fosters a sense of anticipation and preparation, paving the way for a more autonomous lifestyle. They get to “see” what’s coming next and ready themselves, empowering them to gradually take control of their own routine. Now, who wouldn’t want to gift their child with such a delightful slice of independence?

The Best Time of Day to Establish a Routine

When it comes to pinpointing the ideal time for instituting a routine, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Your child’s personality, activities, and energy levels throughout the day play a significant role. For some children, mornings are vibrant, full of life and the perfect time to set a positive momentum with tasks such as eating breakfast, dressing up for school, or doing a little morning exercise. On the flip side, some children are more serene and focused in the evenings, making it the prime time for activities like homework, family dinner, or a calming bedtime routine. The essence is to tap into the times when your child is most responsive, molding their routine around these moments. Remember, this is all about crafting a routine that resonates with your child’s rhythm, not against it.

How to Create a Visual Schedule

  1. Kick-start the process by deciphering the activities that form the building blocks of your child’s routine. These could range from daily tasks like brushing teeth, having breakfast, and getting ready for school to recreational activities such as playtime or story reading. Remember, every child’s routine is as unique as they are. 
  2. Once you’ve captured these, it’s time to sequence them. Strategically position the tasks in the order they need to be executed throughout the day. Think of this like creating a narrative for your child’s day – a story where they’re the main character. The flow should make sense to your child, connecting one activity to the next. This makes their day predictable, giving them a sense of control and reducing any potential stress. 
  3. Choose a system for marking that the task/activity has been completed, as a visual for your child. Examples include a checkbox next to each item, crossing items off a list, removing an icon, or covering an icon.
  4. With your list set and order determined, you’re all ready to transform it into a visually engaging, easy-to-follow schedule. And remember, this isn’t a one-time endeavor. As your child grows, their routine may need to evolve, and that’s perfectly okay.

Ensuring the Success of Your Visual Schedule

To make your visual schedule a triumph, consistency needs to be your closest ally. It’s not about setting up a routine and hoping your child will adhere to it. Initially, you’ll need to walk through the schedule with them, guiding and supporting them as they familiarize themselves with this new structure. As time goes on, you’ll find them needing less of your help, and that’s when you know it’s working. Gradually step back and let them take the reins, moving towards managing their daily tasks on their own. Remember, the goal of this visual schedule is to give your child a sense of autonomy. So, keep your end game in mind and let that fuel your dedication to consistency.

An Example of a Daily Routine

Imagine a brightly colored chart with small images representing different activities throughout the day. It kicks off with a cheerful sun indicating waking up followed by a toothbrush and toothpaste for brushing teeth. A bowl of cereal or fruit symbolizes breakfast time. Then, there’s an image of a school bus, signifying it’s time to leave for school. The chart continues to illustrate the day’s events, including lunchtime, playtime, homework, dinner, and bath time. Each activity could be followed by a small box for your child to check off once they’ve completed it, adding a sense of accomplishment. The day concludes with a moon and stars, representing bedtime. Remember, this is just a basic template. Your child’s visual schedule should reflect their unique daily routine, needs, and preferences. It’s all about personalization and practicality!

Check out some of our examples at MeBe below! Additional information and examples can be found on our youtube page! MeBe Learning: Developing Visual Schedules and Supports

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