Make your child’s December manageable by creating a visual calendar. This month, always an exciting one, seems to offer up even more new experiences to navigate – COVID testing, holiday daycare for vaccinated elementary students, and days at home without predictable schedules for preschool and elementary students. Some parents have returned to in-person work. Some families are moving.
As adults, we are capable of mentally holding routines and anticipating what the rest of the day, week, or month will bring. Yet think about our reliance on our calendars and our anxiety about getting our schedule wrong. Most of us rely on orally reminding children of what’s to come, a practice that we know from our own lives doesn’t always work well. “I know I told you our schedule was different today.”
Christians are used to a pictorial overview of December with an Advent calendar, which helps manage anticipation for Christmas. Creating a personal visual schedule for children makes life predictable and fosters feelings of independence. Older children can create their own visuals or notations as they work with you to map out happenings of the month – Chanukah celebration, mom away, visit Grandma, class party. For children with anxiety, behavioral, or sensory issues, breaking events into steps is physiologically calming.
Preschoolers need the predictability of knowing what’s going to happen, but they think in terms of events such as snack time, outside time, and nap time, not hours or dates. Preschoolers are often unsure about when they will be picked up, and even who is getting them. Oral reminders and standard calendars don’t work developmentally. When parents are travelling, these anxieties are heightened, even if children have been told or shown on a traditional calendar what’s happening.
A parent or a teacher creating a pictorial schedule for a preschooler can have miraculous results, not just related to going home, but in many areas of life. Children don’t like to be constantly reminded of routines, and checking a visual calendar helps them feel independence in following routines. It also helps resistance. As the saying goes, words often fall on deaf ears. A child who doesn’t want to put shoes on can see on a visual calendar that after shoes comes something fun. Potty training or carrying out chores can be broken into pictorial steps.
Teachers and parents can collaborate by communicating about events happening this month and encouraging each other in calm and good cheer.
Here’s an article by a parent explaining more about visual schedules, including step-by-step instructions for making one, with an option to download one for free.