Drawing Mind Maps

You’ve probably heard of mind maps as a tool for planning, prioritization, task completion, and other executive functioning skills, but have you heard of drawing mind maps? Drawing a mind map is such a fun way to put goals down onto paper and actually accomplishing them. All of this can be done through drawing, doodling, and sketching a drawing mind map!

Drawing milestones is another great resource if you are wondering what ages can use a drawing mind as an executive function strategy.

Drawing mind map

Drawing Mind Maps

A drawing mind map is a visual diagram used to visually organize information into a picture outline format. By drawing representation of ideas, projects, tasks, drawing mind map users can see the whole picture and individual steps to achieve a main goal.

Much like mind maps in general, a drawing mind map is typically created for a single goal, project, assignment, or even business.

A drawing mind map is a picture of ideas, doodles to clarify, and visual representation of steps to offer support and structure around a single concept. When drawing, doodling, and writing out steps to a large project, we can see the overarching idea or concept in the center of the page, with connecting steps drawn out from that center idea.

You may have used a mindmap in the past by writing out lists, mapping out details, and putting thoughts down on paper.

A mind map is an awesome visual tool that can help kids (and therapists) in many ways:

  • identify and clarify ideas
  • pinpoint a starting point- Using task initiation skills
  • define short term and long term goals
  • identify steps of a project or task
  • visualize completion (SO important for mindset)
  • Get started on a big project or task
  • Drawing out goal to completion
  • Identifying steps of a task
  • Using foresight to predict problems or potential issues
  • Brainstorming activities
  • Prioritization tool– identify steps and put them into order
  • Goal setting
  • Using “self talk” through drawing
  • Planning a story
  • Graphic organizer
  • Organize thoughts and ideas
  • Writing a paragraph

The real reason beyond these is when people start out with a project, they are not SMART about it.  People are very smart, just not about the way they start projects or set goals. A drawing a mind map can help with incorporating smart goals into actually creating a plan to accomplish goals.

Drawing Mind Maps for Students

Our students create projects similar to the way we set goals. When our learners start a project, it can often feel overwhelming, unclear, and discouraging. 

Without proper strategies, learners tend to stare at a blank page, write in circles, give up, or forget half of what is supposed to go into the plan. 

Graphic organizers, or project planners, are an excellent way to draw a mind map, start a project, prioritize work, and brainstorm activities.

For flexible learning styles, there are three types of project plans highlighted here. 

Some learners will benefit from a large open space to write words, draw pictures, and sketch notes, while others will need more defined space such as the web of circles or note card designs.

Whichever design works for the learners current level, is the starting point. Moving to a more sophisticated design will happen as learners become more advanced.

How to use a Drawing Mind Map

First, you can definitely use this drawing mind map as a visual project planner. But what other ways can you use this tool to support development and target skills like executive functioning skills?

I used a drawing mind map to write my book when I was working on it. It seemed overwhelming, and without a clear goal I might not have met my personal timeline. 

I was able to write my project planner into a list with bullet points, however if I were to use this project planner, I would have put the title in the center or larger area, and add the chapters in all of the web spaces or smaller areas.

To use a drawing mind map with kids, you can simply:

  1. Print out the mind map printable below (or head to The OT Toolbox Member’s Club to grab your copy)
  2. Ask the student to think of one goal, one project, or one thing they would like to accomplish.
  3. Ask the student to use a pencil, crayon, markers, or pens to complete the drawing prompts and writing prompts on the mindmap.
  4. Write or draw a goal or concept in the center of the page.
  5. Then add doodles, drawings, representations, words, phrases, etc. to indicate various steps or parts of the larger project or goal in branches from the center image.

The nice thing about drawing as a planning tool is that you can add steps in a braindump fashion. There’s no need to think out the project in sequential order. Simply get the main idea down on the center of the page and then add the steps from there.

Break out the project into different tasks that need to be done.

One tip for those that need to really focus on the brain dump strategy is to just get it all down on paper and then go back and add numbers to order the tasks in a sequence that makes sense.

You can use this tool to support executive functioning skills, AND address other areas in therapy sessions, including the ones listed below.

After a drawing mind map is done, you can use other tools to help with the task competition, or actually achieving each step of the process:

These items are available for free on our site or also available inside The OT Toolbox Member’s Club under executive functioning tools.

Develop Skills with Drawing Mind Maps  

This activity moves beyond creating a vision, a goal, or a project.  It meets many objectives such as:

  • Handwriting – letter formation, sizing, spacing, line placement, directionality, spelling
  • Fine motor – grasping pattern, wrist stability, intrinsic hand muscle development
  • Bilateral coordination – hand dominance, using “helper hand”, crossing midline
  • Proprioception – pressure on paper, grip on pencil
  • Strength – shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, core, head control
  • Visual perception – scanning, figure ground, line placement, crossing midline, visual closure, seeing parts to whole
  • Executive function – following directions, attention, focus, sequencing, organization, planning, and task completion
  • Social function – working together in a group, problem solving, sharing materials and space, turn taking, frustration tolerance, task avoidance, talking about the activity,

Use Drawing Mind Maps for different skill levels

How do I grade this activity?

When I use the word “grade,” I mean make it easier or harder, not give it a letter grade or score it.

  • Laminate the page for using markers and wipes. This can be useful for reusability and saving resources
  • Different colored paper may make it more or less challenging for your learner
  • Enlarging the font may be necessary to beginning handwriting students who need bigger space to write.
  • Make lines in the boxes to create better boundaries for handwriting. Learners tend to fill whatever size space they are given, often lacking the necessary space to fit all of the words in one box.
  • Project this page onto a smart board for students to come to the board and write in big letters or collaborate.
  • Lower level learners can dictate their words to their helper to get the ideas onto the paper
  • Beginning learners can draw figures instead of writing thoughts
  • More or less prompting may be needed to grade the activity to make it easier or harder.

The OT Toolbox has a great graphic organizer tool called The Project Plan, to assist learners map out those daunting projects so they can have success instead of failing or becoming discouraged!

Teach your learners to become more organized and less frustrated by using planners to set goals or start projects.

Free mind map exercises worksheets

Want to get started with using a drawing braindump with kids? We have new mind map exercises worksheets to get you started! Simply enter your email address into the form below.

OT Toolbox Member’s Club members can access this printable mindmap exercises worksheets inside the club on our Executive Function toolbox. Be sure to log in and then head to the main dashboard. Then click on the EF toolbox to get your copy.

Free Drawing Mindmap Exercises Worksheets

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

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