Visual schedules are all the rage, and for good reason. We love using them in early elementary, before children are reading well. They can also be really great for young kids at home. Let’s dig into why visual schedules can be so helpful, and how to create your own for home or school! I’ve made it so easy with these free printables.
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What are visual schedules used for?
They are used for early elementary school classrooms, special education students, and kids at home who aren’t reading yet.
The benefit of a visual schedule is that it reduces transition times, especially around daily routines that often seem to drag on forever. Bedtime, anyone? It’s also great for kids who need to get moving in the morning before school!
When a kid can look at their visual schedule on the wall before evening learning to read, they are able to anticipate all the steps it takes to be ready for their next preferred activity.
Many parents and teachers find that a clear, posted schedule on the wall reduces tantrums, speeds up movement from one activity to another, and boosts kids’ confidence.
What should a visual schedule include?
A visual schedule should include anything your child or students do as a matter of routine. Anytime your day includes multiple steps that might be difficult for students to remember can be included on a visual schedule.
Here are some times of day that might benefit from a visual schedule. Remember, there’s no reason why you can’t have several of them posted throughout the day, or in different locations in your home.
- Morning routine before a school day: wake up, eat breakfast, dress, brush teeth, brush hair, etc
- A classroom’s daily schedule: Unpack backpacks, calendar time, math, recess and snack, reading, art, etc.
- After-school routine: unpack backpack, snack, homework, outside play
- Bedtime routine: Bathtime, brush teeth, story, potty, sleep
The purpose of a visual schedule is to draw attention to the image for quick reference. Therefore, don’t include too many words that might overwhelm the kiddo.
If you’re about to welcome a new baby into the home, it’s normal for toddlers and preschoolers to start acting out. You may especially see meltdowns around their normal routines. Here’s my post about helping a little one adjust to a new baby.
How do I make a visual schedule at school?
The first option is to simply use my freebie printable, laminate everything, and then cut out the circles you’d like to use. You can put them on your whiteboard each morning in the order you need, using magnets. Here’s a sample page from the 11 page PDF. There are 44 images total in the download. They are great for home and school.
I teach upper elementary, so we really need to have a literacy-rich environment with words EVERYWHERE. Still, it can be really helpful to have a visual schedule on the board for my babies who are reading way below grade level – specifically my special education friends. In my third grade room last year, I had two kids reading at the kindergarten level who needed the support.
I also love this TPT product (pictured below) made by Especially Education. Here, kids in a self-contained classroom each have their own flip-book of activities, custom made for them. This works well if you need to have kids on different rotations, or have limited supplies for different activities in the room.
Your schedule in the classroom can be whatever you’d like it to be. It will depend partly on your grade level and the reading skills of your students.
Some teachers will also include a visual schedule on the smart board. They’ll build icons for every activity, and then just re-arrange them digitally each morning. That’s a great solution, too (and you save lamination, hooray!)
How can a visual schedule help kids with autism?
Kids on the autism spectrum in particular often struggle with schedule changes and quick transitions. They require predictability to be comfortable and able to learn.
According to Katherine Havlic at the University of Utah’s Department of Educational Psychology, “Research has found that individuals with autism may be more responsive when information is presented visually in a step-by-step manner than when it is presented in an auditory manner.”
Therefore, kids on the autism really benefit from a visual schedule even more than a neurotypical child.
Kids with autism might also really benefit from having a calm down corner. Here’s my post about creating one for your classroom or home.
How would you make a visual schedule at home?
- Print the free download I’ve included in this post. You can find it in the next section.
- Cut out the circular icons you’d like to use throughout the day.
- Be sure to laminate them for durability.
- Decide how to display them.
- You can use velcro dots to attach them in a convenient spot on the wall.
- You can display them with magnets on a whiteboard or refrigerator. Just make sure it’s a convenient location for your child.
- You can hang a ribbon or twine in a prominent location, and then use clothespins to attach the images.
- Be sure to provide a little basket near your visual schedule. As your child completes each task, they’ll enjoy placing the card in the basket. It gives them the same little boost we feel when we cross an item off a to-do list.
If you’re ready to get started on your own schedule, I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible! Just enter your email below and you’ll be on your way!