Creating a visual schedule for kids

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

Young children love bright colors and pretty pictures. Moms of young children love peace and a semblance of rhythm in the home. Is there a way to merge the two?

Yes! A visual schedule.

About four months ago, I began feeling frustrated by constant questions from my three sweet babes. “What are we doing next, Mommy? When are we having dinner? When can we watch a video?”

It brought to mind a schedule chart I remembered using when I worked in a first grade classroom. I decided to invest the time to make one for us to use at home. My return on investment has been huge!

Here’s how you can make your own, too.

1. Create or order a background template for your schedule.

I’m not really the crafty type, so I went online searching for the one I remembered from my classroom years ago. Yep, found it–the daily schedule pocket chart from Scholastic.

You could also use posterboard with velcro pieces attached like I did for our preschool play chart two years ago. Or check out this daily picture plan for preschoolers over at Sacred Mundane.

2. Adapt the chart for your own needs and purposes.

The Scholastic chart I ordered is for traditional classrooms and when assembled looks like this:

Not very homey, is it? I found it a bit too institutionalized for my tastes, so I switched the paper strips around and listed the activities I wanted.

Now it looks like this:

Those of you who are artists or have toddlers/preschoolers could add drawings or clip art to represent the activities you need.

3. Use it!

Like any good resource, a chart adds nothing to your day unless you use it. Since most of our days follow a similar rhythm, it doesn’t take me long to get it ready in the morning. I do this while I’m downstairs prepping for the day before the kids have gotten dressed.

My children love our visual schedule! It’s the first thing they run down to check before breakfast. My oldest two, both readers, read it outloud together while my youngest listens and follows along. I love not being pestered with the “what’s next” variety of questions.

The chart has added one more layer of peace to the rhythm of our day, and I will take every ounce of peace I can get.

Have you ever tried using a visual representation of the day for your kids?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. I’ve been looking for good schedule ideas, and I love it! Now… help me figure out how to fit that in our tiny schoolroom or anywhere in our tiny house! grrr…
    Tori’s latest post: Teaching kids to give back-

    • You can make a similar color coded schedule on your computer and print it on an 8 x 11 sheet. I’ve done that. I color code it for those who can’t read or can’t read well yet, plus adding a little color is fun. I’ve made a generic type of schedule that says what time certain things will be done each day, what days we do certain things, and a monthly calendar to highlight anything that is extra special to our regular days. We don’t always stick to the time schedule, but we do usually stick tho the order that we do the things on our daily schedule.
      Suanna’s latest post: Working Weekend – Around the House

      • Color coding is a good idea- I think I’m going to do a magnetic wall/chalkboard thingy in my kitchen to do my schedule on. I, personally, couldn’t live w/out my Google Calendar where you can have multiple things for multiple people listed in the same slot… but how to explain that to kids? Where is 3D imagery technology when you need it? lol
        Tori’s latest post: Pruning

        • You could always cut out pictures of your kids faces. Make magnets of them and put the picture with what that person has to do.

      • I like this idea. I’m thinking of coming up with a general outline, then slipping it into a sheet protector so I can erase and re-use with dry erase markers each morning. My oldest (4) will LOVE knowing what comes next as the day progresses.
        Tiffany @ DontWastetheCrumbs’s latest post: 6 Tips for Sticking to Your Meal Plan

  2. Thanks! I will try this. I know even the old kids like to know there’s a schedule.
    Rachel E.’s latest post: All in a Day- Open House – Master Bedroom

  3. Nice!

    My children aren’t small anymore. In fact, I’ve got one homeschool graduate and a 12-year old who’s about to start her high school career. But even for her, a visual schedule works well.

    Of course, she doesn’t need anything big, so it’s just a 1 page paper, printed and placed in a folder.

    http://webmama-blog.blogspot.com/2011/05/when-unschooling-doesnt-work.html

    It was quite easy to create: MS Word was my friend, and then I used Open Office to export the schedule as a PDF file. :)
    Leah’s latest post: Our Summer Dream List

  4. Yep! I’ve been working (interrupted by the move) on a magnet version with pictures for my three little rugrats. Until I get it running, I’ve been just drawing one on the chalkboard of the easel some days. It helps a LOT for the kids to know what we’re doing and in what (loose) order. I’m a fan!

  5. We have the Mellissa & Doug Calendar. It is small and works great! It is a little pricey at first($19.00). However we are on year 5 and it still looks like new!

  6. I’ve been working on something like this for my kiddos. Only instead of drawing pictures I take a photo of them doing something, like my daughter brushing her teeth, my son reading a book. I just have to get the photos on the poster board.
    Rana’s latest post: Im in!

  7. Love it, Jamie! I need to figure out how to adapt this to middle/high schoolers!

  8. Thanks for this. Unfortunately #3 is not so obvious to me, but a much-needed reminder. I tend to get bogged down in that perfectionism thing….

    But, my kids love it when they have a written schedule and know what’s coming and when.

    This looks so doable. And fun! Thanks for the great post.
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: The New Healthy

    • So true, Anne. I find that there are some days I just announce a “no chart” day, if I’m feeling pressured or can’t get around to it that morning. But just having the idea in place has been helpful, and it’s so easy to use now that it’s up and running.

  9. Ha! This may be just what the doctor ordered! Nothing adds stress to my day like kids asking “What are we doing? What are we doing?” Thanks so much for this post.

  10. A visual schedule is a must for us, as one of my boys has autism and has always done better with visual cues.
    we do a workbox system:
    http://kirstencan.typepad.com/kirstencan/2009/09/how-were-doing-workboxes.html
    And when the boys are done with a box, they take the number off and stick it to their chart:
    http://kirstencan.typepad.com/kirstencan/2009/09/signs-and-stuff.html

    We’re finishing our second year with these and they have worked like a charm!

  11. I was JUST talking with my kiddos about this. One of my biggest struggles is when they start heading in a direction to do something and I am running behind, “Wait! Wait! We need to have lunch/go to the library/ feed the dog first!”

    This is a great idea Jamie!!! Thanks!!

  12. This would be perfect for summer. I get tired of hearing there is nothing to do. Well, if its on the wall then we can do it.

    • Right! And I also find it helps hold ME accountable, if I promised to bake with the kids, for example, there’s no way I can get out of it later on!

  13. When we homeschooled we used a visual schedule as well. It helped everyone know what was going to happen next. Even if you choose to do a schedule that doesn’t have the times listed, it gives you a flow. A system that I loved, and was very detailed and worked well for figuring out schedules with multiple children was a system calle Managers of Their Homes. http://www.titus2.com/
    It helps keep the kids from constantly having to ask, “what are we doing next? Can I have a snack? When can I have a snack?”
    And it is a great idea to have some sort of schedule during the summer as well!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life’s latest post: Finding your own beat

  14. This is great, now I only need to come up with enough summer time activities to keep the schedule full with a mix of outings. How would you balance this with activities a 4 and 9 yr can do on their own so I can get a couple hours of work in during the day? ~Cheryl Marquez
    Hand Things Down’s latest post: Crafting is Mommy Time

  15. Wow, I Love this!! Totally gonna put it into my amazon cart :)
    My kids wake up every morning asking, ‘what are we gonna do today?’ ‘what’s next?’ ect.
    I bought a weekly erasable white board for our fridge hoping to solve this problem but it didnt work out to well and I actually just took it down yesterday…
    My only problem would be that if different kids are doing different things at the same time- maybe just list all those things on that one slot?
    Thanks for sharing Jamie!

  16. Felicity says:

    I love this idea. We used a similar idea of a white board to write down what was needed when we were on Girl Guide (Girl Scout in US) camp. This greatly reduced the questions of what else do we need to pack and bring with us :-) I love that you have integrated this into your daily home life.

  17. We painted a large section of our dining room with chalkboard paint and use that to write a spontaneous schedule! I like things to be not so fixed in stone. And colorful and artsy and creative. Also the children draw all over it and we write quotes on it, etc. I LOVE it. Guests draw pictures. You get the idea. :) It SO helps this arty mama to have a big open-ended place to try to be more left-brained. And it helps my children to have a mama who is organized and has a confident plan. So good to find what works WITH our personalities. Thanks Jamie!

  18. We can not hang alot of items in our current house because it’s a rental. I’m think I’m going to use our art easel w/our schedule. It will also be easy to move around from room to room.
    Sara S’s latest post: Trial and error with chocolate

  19. I love it! My 3 yr old ask all the time what is next. Thank you for this simple idea!
    Katie @ Imperfect People’s latest post: The voice of truth

  20. Two weeks ago I began writing our schedule out for myself and it’s worked wonders. Now I will take it one step further and we’ll ALL know what to do next!

    Thanks for sharing this great idea.

  21. For years we have been printing our schedule in black and white. Kids definitely thrive when there is a set routine. But a colorful schedule looks even better! Great idea!

  22. Great post! I have 5 children and one has autism so visuals are all over our house to help with transitions and staying with our rigid schedules. It helps all the kids too.

  23. Wow, I’m really impressed, it your picture looks like a really well run classroom, it is so fun and colorful! I have used a visual chart with my son who has language delays, at the recomendation of his speech therepist, and have had wonderful results. It has been so great that I recently began using one for my other son as well. I think that they really enjoy knowing what to expect in their day, it is comforting and reassuring.

  24. This is a great idea for our summer days together! Thanks for the inspiration!
    Julia’s latest post: Vanilla Sprinkle Ice Cream Bites

  25. We don’t homeschool any longer (in a great alternative charter school) but when I did, we had the same problem. I would type up the days schedule on a sheet – my son was 8 at the time – but I also asked on Freecycle for a whiteboard, never expecting to get one. As it happened a woman tasked with packing up her corporate office, contacted me and I went there and walked out with all sorts of office goodies including a large whiteboard on a stand. I still use it today to schedule and brainstorm our activities even though my boys are now 11. It is the center of our day and I love it!
    Alison Golden – The Secret Life of a Warrior Woman’s latest post: On Drowning- Puppies and Mothers Saving Babies

  26. Hi Jaime! This is such a great idea… my kids always seem to thrive under a schedule and I never thought of making a visual chart to help them see what’s coming next. BRILLIANT!

  27. Awesome ideas! And… THANKS!

  28. I love this idea! I think it will help have consistency for the kids on the days that I work (just part time) and I think my day care provider will like it as well.
    Thank you!

  29. This is such a great idea! This will add such structure to my kids school day and also help me be more organized for there benefit.Thank you.
    margret’s latest post: whirligigs

  30. I’ve used a clip-art schedule in a sheet protector – letting my daughter cross off items with dry-erase pens as we go through the day. Since we don’t have a classroom, this little page on the fridge works well for us and serves as a final say when we have disagreements about what we should do next! :)
    Mozi Esmes Mom’s latest post: Happy Corn on the Cob Day!

  31. I have used this technique in the classroom for years, but never though of doing it at home for my own kids. I have no idea why it never crossed my mind! Thanks for reminding me of this technique (and the kids thank you too :) )!

  32. KC in KS says:

    For those considering doing a magnet version…. I tried that a few years ago. The kids thought it was great fun to slide the cards around, pull them off and play with them, etc. If we try it again, it’ll be with something less entertaining than magnets!

  33. Hey! I was browsing around on your blog the other day and I noticed you talked about sections, but I can’t find where you talk about it on your blog. Can you link me please?

  34. I found a similar pocket schedule chart that we use..our schedule has changed a bit since this post, but it gives a general idea. The cards all say different subjects on one side, but I flipped them over since they’re dry-erase on both sides. http://ramblingsmom.com/2011/09/22/our-new-visual-schedule/
    Savannah’s latest post: A New Lilla Rose Giveaway!

  35. I use a visual schedule with laminated clip art images on a magnetic board. One thing I’m going to incorporate this year is the “eat your frog” concept from Tsh’s e-book. I made a “frog” that I can clip to the school subject that the kids choose as their least favorite, then have them do that first. Doing the worst task first is a skill that will serve them well in life (not to mention the fact that my little kids think it’s HILARIOUS).

  36. I like your schedule. I think I’ll have to implement one this fall. My schedule would have to include a chart for each day of the week because all of our Mondays are the same, Tuesdays are all the same, etc. But Monday is not the same as any other day of the week. This fall, I’ll be teaching 4 out of 6 of my kids, so I think this will help me quite a bit to get organized. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  37. We did one of these with photographs when my little guy was 2. It was his therapist’s idea (he received early intervention through the state for sensory processing disorder).
    Rachel’s latest post: Quiet Acts of Revolution

  38. Hi Jamie,
    I have just ordered this same pocket chart, with a plan to have a schedule for my girls while they’re home from school this summer. Unfortunately it’s not scheduled to arrive for the start of the summer holidays, so I want to print some schedule cards that I found online & use them with out the chart until it comes. I’m wondering if you can tell me what the measurements are of the cards that fit in the chart? (mostly I want to know the height- because I don’t want to make them too tall for the pockets!) If you still have your chart handy & have a moment to answer me, I would so appreciate it! Have a great day :)
    ~Heather

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