Visual Schedules

Visual schedules for kids

Visual schedules are a tool that help kids in so many ways. As an adult I am constantly writing notes on post it’s to remind me to do things. It helps to be organized. When a child is learning to sequence, they may forget steps. A visual schedule is a great way to increase a child’s independence with toileting, that way they don’t have to rely so much on you for every step. visual schedule is used to help guide them in learning the sequence of steps.

Visual schedules for kids

What is a visual schedule?

A visual schedule is just what it sounds like, a schedule or sequence, that uses pictures. Now the pictures used can by real photos, often I will take pictures with my phone an then print those out to use them. Or you can use clip art. A visual schedule is a way to show a child the beginning of a task and the end of the task. Visual cues that show a specic task can be beneficial for many children, of all ages, abiliies, and cognitive levels.

Visual prompts are helpful in teaching the steps of toothbrushing.

Visual schedules can help with toilet training.

Schedules can get kids organized an on time for morning routines.

Or, visual schedules can be used to plan and schedule sensory diet activities.

Visual checklists can be used for classwork, assignments, or chores.


You can use a visual schedule with any multistep functional task or during a series of tasks. Visual schedules are helpful in the classroom, home, in the community, or during therapy sessions. Other tasks such as homework assignments, projects, recipes, or multistep activities can work well with visual prompts.

What is a visual schedule

Reasons to use visual schedules

There are many reasons to use a visual schedule

  1. Visual schedules can be used with all levels and abilities.
  2. Visuals are consistent.
  3. Visual schedules can reduce worries and anxiety by offering a constant direction.
  4. Visuals allow time for language processing.
  5. Visual prompts can offer a visual image and written word to meet the needs of a variety of student’s abilities.
  6. Visual schedules can promote self-confidence after success
  7. Visuals can help your child with transitions and know “what’s next”.
  8. Visuals help your child see what you mean.
  9. Visual prompts offer a chance to order tasks to take away impulse control.
  10. Visual cues offer strategies to impact planning, prioritization, working memory, organization, attention, and other executive functioning skills.
  11. Visuals help to build independence.
  12. Visual prompts can be flexible.
  13. Visuals are transferable between different places.
  14. Visuals have no tone.

How to use a visual schedule

Other students benefit from a checklist of sorts. This can occur with a visual description of the activity or task or simply a list of actions that are to be completed. An example would be toileting. You can start with 2 visuals and work up to as many visuals as needed.

Pictures can be made into a visual schedule. You can cut the pictures out and then glue them to a piece of paper and have it in the bathroom, showing your child the exact sequence of steps.

Remember lots of praise and encouragement with visual schedules, especially when setting up a plan.


For functional tasks like shoe tying, getting dressed, or toilet training, you can have the child pull off the picture each time they complete a task and put it in the “all done” envelope or you can just point to the steps as they do them.


If you want to be more specific and break down a task even more you just add more pictures for the steps. Here is an example of a handwashing visual schedule, which is great for children who often forget all the steps to handwashing.


Another way to get a child to participate in toileting is to use a first then schedule. You put what the task is you want them to do, and the “then” would be the reward. For example, I would say, “First you go to the bathroom, then you get to play ball”.

If you have tried a visual schedule and your child is having some behaviors I would suggest reading this article Attention and Behavior considerations in Toileting and Potty Training the Child. Sometimes there many be other factors that contribute to difficulty with step-by-step tasks such as toilet training.

Visual Cards

If adding sensory processing activities to a sensory diet or just to incorporate calming and regulating sensory input into daily activities is necessary, try adding these visual schedule cards into the day-to-day.

Sensory Diet Cards - The OT Toolbox

About Christina: Christina Komaniecki is a school based Occupational Therapist. I graduated from Governors State University with a master’s in occupational therapy.   I have been working in the pediatric setting for almost 6 years and have worked in early intervention, outpatient pediatrics, inpatient pediatrics, day rehab, private clinic and schools. My passion is working with children and I love to see them learn new things and grow. I love my two little girls, family, yoga and going on long walks.

Wellness Challenge

Wellness challenge for families with ideas for wellness activities

Today, I bring you something that’s been on my mind for a while. Something that I think is much needed not only during the current times, but overall in the past several years or so. Wellness. It’s a topic that occupational therapists know well. Today, I have for you a Wellness Challenge. I thought about calling this a summer activity challenge, or a adventure challenge, or even a play challenge. I kept coming back to a wellness challenge, though. There’s a reason. Family wellness is the home for wellbeing. It’s the “home” to function. Mindfulness strategies or regulation activities for kids to do when we see the need. These wellness strategies need to be integrated into our daily lives.

Wellness challenge for families with ideas for wellness activities

What is a Wellness Challenge?

Occupational therapists are wellness experts.

That may come off as a bold statement. But think about it. Occupational therapists help people of all ages and abilities DO the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). They help people do their daily occupations, or the things that occupy a person’s time.

A balance of our occupations fulfills our duties and the things we need to do. That balance allows us to get things done (school work, teaching our kids, work tasks, caring for others, caring for our home and belongings, caring for our bodies physically, managing our emotional well-being, and fulfilling our spiritual well-being). All of these demands require balance. The occupational balance needs to be both fulfilling and health enhancing.
(American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2014b; Hocking, 2019; Meyer, 1922).

Occupational therapists are skilled at identifying occupational needs and managing a balance of those demands.

Sometimes, that occupational balance gets out of sorts. We see dis-regulation, we see behaviors. We see emotions. We see mental or physical responses. We see a need for balance. A balance and use of tools and strategies allows for self-regulation and integrated use of coping strategies, tools, and resources to incorporate into various aspects of our daily occupations.

A wellness challenge is daily activities that

This Wellness Challenge is not…

They are not just ideas of what to do when frustrated, our-of-sorts, when feeling “less than healthy”, or even when bored. It’s not just a checklist to hang on the fridge and direct kids to when they need support. It’s not just a list of ways to get the kids active this summer or off their screens. (And I think we ALL need a screen detox at this point!)

This challenge is not one more thing to add to your to-do list. This is not another recommended list of ways to stay sane. This is not intended to be overwhelming or frustrating.

This is a wellness challenge. It’s a healing challenge. It’s a family challenge, loaded with things to do or ways to adjust thinking in a way that heals. It’s tools for incorporating into daily lives much like a sensory diet. The wellness strategies are meant to be part of our daily lives and cover all aspects of sensory system. The play activities build physical strength and coordination.

They are emotional regulation activities that offer calming heavy work.

These are ways to connect with what matters in your family’s day-to-day life.

There are sensory coping strategies.

There are creative activities to get the mind thinking and making. I am SO excited to bring this wellness challenge to you, because we all need things that are good for the soul and the body.

Be sure to stop back over the next week for more activities in the wellness challenge! You’ll find new tools each day over the course of the challenge, but this is your one-stop spot to all of the wellness activities in this family wellness challenge.

Wellness challenge and ideas for health and wellbeing activities

Family Wellness

Get ready, let’s get started with family wellness and health and wellbeing for the whole family! Sign up below to join the wellness challenge!

This challenge will provide therapists with tools to help clients and their families.

This challenge will provide families with resources, information, and activities to center their family in balance and wellbeing.

This challenge will provide teachers, counselors, caregivers, administrators, and educators with resources to guide families into an optimal place.

Join the Free Wellness Challenge!

WellReceive tips and tricks on family wellness.

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Photo by n Unsplash

WleTherapist-aved.

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    Circus Sensory Bin

    A while back, we were on a bit of a Circus Theme in our pretend play.  We had a bunch of fun with our circus party ideas and read a bunch of circus books.  We did this sensory bin around that time, but are just now getting the chance to blog about it.  This was such an easy sensory activity to throw together that we will definitely be playing this again.

    Creative and sensory play for kids with an easy circus theme.

    This post contains affiliate links.  Read our full disclosure here.

    Create a circus themed sensory bin using popcorn!

    To create an easy Circus Sensory Bin, you will need:


    circus train pieces

    Mini Animals

    popcorn


    plastic tray

    Use circus train and circus animals in an easy sensory bin

    I started by popping some corn.  And only ate a few handfuls.  Pop extra.  Snacks are good.

    I put some popped and un popped corn onto a plastic tray.  Then, simply added our train set and animals.  The scene was set for imagination and pretend fun!

    Kids will love to pretend with mini animals.

    The animals in the different textures was such a fun way to explore animal names, animal sounds, and all in an easy sensory bin.

    Kids will love to pretend and play while learning animal names and noises.

    Baby Girl (age 2) loved this pretend play so much!  Not only did we have a blast playing and learning, she got a snack too!  Bonus!

    Of course, the animals needed feeding, too.

    We loaded up the train with popcorn and made deliveries.  Such a fun way to play away an afternoon.

    This might be the perfect accompaniment to our circus tent craft.  Sensory play, craft, and snack…sounds like the perfect afternoon with the kids to me!

    Note:  Like all of our activities on sugaraunts.com, we encourage playing alongside your kids and in a supervised manner.  Some crafts and activities may present a dangerous situation for children who like to put things into their mouths.  Please monitor your child with this and any activity you see on our website.  Popcorn will present as a choking hazard for small children.  Please use your best judgment if you decide to do this activity with your kids.

    You may be interested in our Circus Crafts and Activities Pinterest board for more circus ideas.

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    This Little Piggy Went to the Market craft

    Is there a song or nursery rhyme that is a huge hit in your house?  You know the one that is said over and over (and over) again?  Right now we are on a This Little Piggy Went to the Market kick.  Baby Girl (age 2 and a half) loooooooves This Little Piggy.  She will ask me to do the finger play rhyme on both feet and then both hands again and again.  I’ve even heard her saying it to herself…with lots of adorable mistakes.  It’s beyond cute.  I love when she asks me, “Mom, what does this piggy do?” and points to a toe.  What a cutie!
    When we made this piggy craft, Baby Girl very excited.  I told her we were making a This Little Piggy craft and she was so happy!

    "This Little Piggy Went to the Market" craft for kids

    This Little Piggy Went to the Market craft for Toddlers

    This post contains affiliate links.  Your purchases through these links help support our blog. 
    This craft for toddlers is very easy and a great opportunity for some learning, too.  You can talk to your Toddler about circles and sizes (big and little).  Toddlers are learning concepts such as size awareness and you can show them the big and little circles as you build the pigs.

    I started with 5 big circles cut from pink construction paper and 15 small circles.  We counted out the big circles together.

    I helped Baby Girl fold ten of the small circles in half.  These will be the pigs ears.

    Big Sister helped out a little with counting out our piggy ears.

    Baby Girl is all about using the glue stick.  This Little Piggy Went to the Market + glue stick
    = Baby Girl’s best day ever!  She went crazy gluing on the big circles, ears, and snouts.

    Craft idea for This Little Piggy finger play.

    After all of the pieces were glued in place, I drew on little faces.  We had fun saying the finger play while using our five little piggys to join in on the fun.  Baby Girl played with these little piggys all day!

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    Learning Activities for Babies and Toddlers Age 0-2

     I’m so excited to share fun ideas for learning in Babies and Toddlers.  The super creative ideas are perfect for the 0-2 year age range, and would be a hit with older siblings, too.  I’m definitely saving these ideas for after the baby gets here.  Check out these ideas for your Baby or Toddler.  You’re sure to have  fun time!


    Great ideas for playful learning in 0-2 years old.

     

    Playful learning ideas for 0-2 years:

     

    Babies love to hear voices, and there is no time like right now to introduce books.  These favorite Board books and printables (Totschooling) are sure to be a hit with your Toddler, too.

    Put together a Kitchen treasure basket for babies (Living Montessori Now) to explore textures sounds, and shapes with baby-safe household items.

    Explore colors, emotions, painting, and more with some homeschool ideas for Toddlers from 3 Boys and a Dog.

    Create a Simple Alphabet Book for Babies and Toddlers from The Measured Mom for letter learning fun.

    Some of our favorite baby and toddler activities:

    Bunny Tongs Scissor Skills Activity

    Bunny tongs activity for fine motor skills
    When I worked as an Occupational Therapist with pediatrics, I did a ton of work on scissor skills and pre-scissor skills.  It was one of my favorite things to work on with school-based kiddos.  There was an item in my therapy bag that I (and the kids) LOVED for scissor practice.  Now being at home with my own kids, it’s so much fun to pull out my OT stash of supplies and play.  We pulled out a few things recently and the kids had a blast playing.  And if you follow this blog, you know we do a ton of fine motor activities
     
    This is the ONE item you want to pick up from the Dollar Store this spring.  It’s a must-have for OTs working in the schools or with kids on scissor skills.  

     

     
    Beginner scissor skills using bunny tongs

     

     

    Scissor Skills with Tongs

     
     
     If you see these Bunny Tongs at the store this Spring, GRAB them up!  These are awesome for scissor skills and besides being completely cute, they are SO fun to play with. 
     
    Adorable bunny + working on developmental skills= AWESOME!
     
    These bunny tongs are out this time of year because they are really intended for dipping Easter eggs.  We’ve never actually used them for egg dying, but I’m guessing it’s a pretty cool way to dye eggs, too.  I did find them on amazon, so if you can’t find these guys in the store, they are always available online. 
     
    New scissor users will love to sort and manipulate crafting pom poms with bunny tongs.

     

    I set up this sorting activity for the kids one day using our bunny tongs.  Scissor skills were really worked on with the repetition of picking up lots of assorted pom poms and sorting them into crates.

    Bunny tongs for working on scissor grasp in young kids
     

     

    Baby Girl LOVED this activity. She went through and sorted pom poms at least three separate times.  You can see how she’s got her ring finger and pinkie finger extended out as she opens the tongs in the picture above.  This is a great time to work on pre-scissor skills with her, so that as she does start with snipping with real scissors down the road, she maintains an appropriate and effective grasp on the scissors.

     

    Tuck a crafting pom pom into the palm of the hand to improve scissor skills.

     

    Tips for Cutting with Scissors

    Not a great picture, but popping a crafting pom pom into the palm of her little hand is a great way to correct that grasp on the tongs (or scissors).  This way, the child opens and closes the tongs/scissors with the thumb and pointer/middle fingers in an effective and more controlled manner.  This will help with scissor control and line awareness.

    If you’ve got a little one who cuts with scissors and snips all over the place, with their pinkie finger and ring finger extended out as they open the scissors, try this trick.  You can use any small item like a little eraser or pebble in the palm of their hand.  It’s a good physical prompt to remind them to keep their hand closed as they cut with scissors.

    Kids can sort and manipulate crafting pom poms to work on beginner scissor skills.

    Little Guy wanted in on this action too, and once Big Sister came home from school, she sorted the pom poms too.  This was just fun!

    Kids can sort pom poms using tongs for fine motor play

    Baby Girl resorted to just using her hands to sort later in the day.  Still great for color matching and identification.   we’ll definitely be doing this activity again.  It was a huge hit for my kids as much as it was a hit for all of the school-based clients I’ve worked with over the years.  It’s the cuteness of that bunny!

    Spring Fine Motor Kit

    Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

    Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

    Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
    • Lacing cards
    • Sensory bin cards
    • Hole punch activities
    • Pencil control worksheets
    • Play dough mats
    • Write the Room cards
    • Modified paper
    • Sticker activities
    • MUCH MORE

    Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

    Spring Fine Motor Kit
    Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

    Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Sensory Soup with Fine Motor Sorting

    This was a child-led activity after …someone… emptied a bunch of our sensory bottles into the little play sink!   I had super glued the lids shut, but a bigger cousin had a great idea to cut the bottles open.  Super good problem solving, right?  We had all kinds of things in this little sensory sink…pieces of straws, bits of yarn, glitter, foam snowflake stickers, crafting poms…It was very sensory!!

    So, what does a mom do…don’t stress the mess, roll with it 🙂
    Sensory Sink

    Fine Motor Sensory Play

    I added a few utensils from my kitchen to scoop, transfer, and stir…and a couple of containers from our recycle bin.  Baby Girl had a blast with this while the big kids were at school. 

    Using the Turkey baster to squeeze is such a great hand strengthening activity!  Transferring the objects with a spoon really works on her visual motor skills.  Scooping up crafting poms from that sensory water is a great task for an almost 2 year-old.

    Sensory Sorting

    Baby Girl sorted the objects into sections of a muffin container, with a little verbal cueing from Mom.   This is a fun way to incorporate sorting into  sensory play…and she loved pretending to cook in her little kitchen!
     It was a pretty fun way to recycle our sensory bottles!

    Color Matching Water Bin with Letters

    This was our last water bin in our Water Bins for Kids series with Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails.  This was definitely the most fun water bin for us this summer!  We ended the series with a splash! 
    (Yes, had to go there!!)

    Letter Water Bin

    This week’s theme was Color Matching!
    Two of us sisters got together one day this week and had SO much fun with the kids on a hot and sunny afternoon.
    We started with a colorful plastic bin and filled it with water.  We threw in our bin of colorful magnetic letters (see another fun letter sensory bin here), and egg dying cups in lots of colors.
    We started by scooping the letters into the floating cups and trying to catch the matching letter.  We asked the kiddos what letter they found, the color, and if the letter color matched the cup. 
    This activity is a good one for bilateral hand coordination, eye-hand coordination, and fine motor skills.  They had to use both hands together in a coordinated manner, while visually tracking the letters as they flowed around in the water.  Then, with both hands on the cups, scoop up the letters.  How fun!
    Of course, when these cousins get together, there is sure to be silliness.  The two younger ones were the instigators in the splash down.
    We pulled out a metal curtain rod and stuck a magnet to one end.  It stuck to the curtain rod and was able to attract the magnets of the letters.  Little Guy LOVED this!
    We pulled all of the colored cups out of the water and had the kids “fish” for the letters and put them into the matching cups.
    Little Guy could have done this for an hour, I think…if it were not for his fun-loving little Sister and cousin dumping water on everyone.
                                                            
     There was a LOT more of this…
    …and watering of the plants!
    This whole series has been so much fun!