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Tell me and Show me: Using pictures to make life a little easier Tell me and Show me: Using pictures to make life a little easier
We all use pictures or visuals throughout the day to give us more information about what is happening in our environment. We watch our... Tell me and Show me: Using pictures to make life a little easier

We all use pictures or visuals throughout the day to give us more information about what is happening in our environment. We watch our friends and families facial expressions to give us information about feelings, we look outside to see what the weather is like, we look at our speedometers and gas gauge to make sure we are safe on the roads.

Our kids are the same! Pictures provide information about what may be happening and what to expect, and can help kids be more calm and organized as they go about their day. Pictures can be a great tool for parents to help their kids understand what the day is going to look like (a visual schedule), what is expected of them during a specific activity (bedtime routine, morning routine, preschool, etc), or a step by step task (getting dressed, going to the bathroom, etc).

Providing your child with a visual picture can help them better anticipate transitions, reduce anxiety, create independence, and build in routines. Visual information (what we see) and auditory information (what we hear) are processed in two different parts of our brain. So when we show kids pictures while we explain the activity or expectation, we’re giving them double the opportunity to process the information. By having the pictures accessible (hanging up where kids can see them) we’re giving our kids the opportunity to become more familiar with routines and activities and consequently become more independent with them.

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The best part: It’s EASY to make your own picture charts/schedules and integrate them into your daily routine. We promise, no pinterest fails here!

When to use pictures at home

Daily schedule

Try creating a daily visual schedule to help build consistency and routine for your child. If a whole day is too overwhelming, try breaking the day down into manageable blocks (wake up to going to school, home from school to dinner, dinner to bed, etc) using only 3-4 pictures in any one block.

Task Oriented

Picture charts can be a great way to support different tasks we are trying to teach our kids (using the toilet, staying at the dinner table, cleaning up, etc). Think about the task you want to teach and break it down into 3-5 components (eg// Dinnertime: sit at the table, eat dinner, ask to be excused, take plate to sink or going to the toilet: pants down, sit on toilet, pants up, flush, wash hands). Post your charts where the task is being completed, (in the bathroom, beside the kitchen table, etc). You can include a sticker chart so that your child can work towards a reward each time they successfully complete the task.

First and then chart

If you’re struggling with getting your young child to do a particular task (brushing teeth, going to the bathroom, getting their coat on) try using a ‘First and Then’ chart with pictures. Have a picture of the task under “First” and under “Then” the rewarding activity (eg// FIRST you put your coat on THEN we go to the park, FIRST you brush your teeth THEN we play trucks.)

Organizing toy bins

Putting pictures on your toy bins gives kids more independence in organizing their play space. A more organized play space can help kids feel more organized and calm.

Our 3 step DIY guide to creating your own picture charts

Step 1

Decide what you are creating a picture chart for (see ‘Ways to use pictures at home’), and figure out what pictures you will need.

Step 2

Gather your pictures. There are a few ways to do this. We find the easiest is to use a good ol’ Google images search. You’ll be surprised by how many photos and pictures you’ll find with a ‘brown haired boy brushing teeth’ search.

Other ways to gather images include taking your own photos of your child doing the activities. Kids love seeing photos of themselves, so if you have the time, this is a great way to do it. Cutting out pictures from magazines is another fun way.

Step 3

Assembling your pictures/photos. This can also be done in a number of different ways. The most simple way is to glue the images in sequential order onto a piece of cardboard or bristol board. If you’d like to build in a reward component you can include a sticker chart below the pictures (as seen in the image). Your child gets to put a sticker under each picture as they complete the task or after the entire activity is complete. Other ways to assemble picture charts include using velcro so pictures can be taken off a schedule once they have been completed and so that you can create different schedules depending on the day.

visual schedules for kids

We have created a pinterest board to give you some ideas of the different ways to make picture charts. Check it out here.


  • Try and keep the images as simple as possible so that the task is clearly shown.
  • Include your child in the process of designing and making their picture chart or schedule. This will help increase their interest in the chart, build independence, and self-esteem. Depending on the age of your child you can have them help with different aspects, cutting out the images, colouring them in if you print them in black and white, and glueing them onto the cardboard.
  • As you start to integrate these charts into your daily routine you’ll probably find things that work and things that don’t work. Just tweak things accordingly and eventually you’ll find the “just right” fit for your child and family. Expect some trial and error in this process.
  • Remember your picture chart does not need to look pretty. Have fun with it and don’t get caught up in creating the perfect chart. If your child understands it, you’ve made the perfect chart!

Having consistent routines at certain times of the day helps kids understand and anticipate what will be happening, which in turn helps them stay more calm and organized. Having the whole family on board with these routines builds consistency and consistency is key!

Picture charts are a great way to not only support your kids in building routines and learning tasks, but also help the whole family stay consistent.

In our upcoming classAnts in your Pants’ we talk all about using picture charts as a way to build in strategies for keeping kids calm, organized, and focused. If you’re interested in learning other easy strategies for helping your child build independence in their self-calming and organization skills, join us in class this month. We’d love to have you there! Registration closes this Friday.

We’re offering a 30% discount to all North Shore Mama readers. Just use coupon code AntsNSM at checkout.



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Header photo: From Weeds to Wishes

Collective Therapy

Jehanne Hill and Andria Anderson are occupational therapists and co-owners of Collective Therapy, an online based occupational therapy practice for kids on the grow and families on the go. They created Collective Therapy to provide families with an easy to access and personable experience that made a difference. They are currently running a 4-week online class for families about self-regulation titled Ants in your Pants: A Parent’s Guide to Self-Regulation. Next class begins March 28th. Details and registration can be found on their website.

  • Judy Cowan

    March 23, 2016 #1 Author

    Very good idea! I think doing up a visual daily schedule for my niece might be helpful. Thanks for sharing.


    • Jehanne

      March 23, 2016 #2 Author

      Thanks for your comment Judy :) Would love to hear how it works out for your niece.


  • Jehanne

    March 23, 2016 #3 Author

    Hi North Shore Mama Readers,
    We’d love to hear what you’re going to try making a visual schedule or picture chart for. Comment below to share what part of the day or activity you’re going to make one for. Then let us know how it goes.
    Happy to help problem solve with you as you set it up. :)


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