|Please excuse the horrible picture quality. I didn't realize my camera was having issues|
until I was done taking pictures!
Step 1: First, sketch out a rough draft for how you would like to lay out your day. Now one of the big perks of being at home with your kids is that you don't need to have rushed mornings and deadlines to meet all day, unless you want to! So what I did was take a look at the schedule we *naturally* fall into and then I just worked to tighten it up slightly and define the dead spaces for the girls, so that they had a little more direction and our days could run more smoothly. For instance, my girls wake up at a wide variety of times between 7am and 8:30. So rather than have our morning super detailed (i.e. 7:30 wake up, 7:45 get dressed, 8 eat, 8:15 clean up) I instead left it more open ended....however things play out with wake up times is ok and we can still stay "on schedule" as long as we're all caught up by 8:30. This same principal holds true throughout the day. I didn't try to divide the day up into 15 minute chunks, but instead most are at least an hour long. It provides a good balance between zero scheduling and micromanaging.
For me I decided to set a wake time for myself (7am) and try to get a shower in before the girls wake up. Then we have until 8:30 for the girls to be awake, dressed, and fed before we really start in on the schedule. I built in a "clean kitchen and free play" daily and then the first big chunk of the day (which used to be an unscheduled free for all) is now arts and crafts (or nap for the baby) and then 10-noon will rotate between things like park, errands, pool, and other various field trips. We then do lunch and have a built in "wind down" with books, etc. before nap. Nap is 1-3 (which this summer we may skip occassionally to go to the pool...or when we go on longer field trips we skip nap too) ....and then 3-5pm is the 2nd big chunk of the day that used to be a crazy free for all. Now that will also rotate with various activities I choose ahead of time. (And my *own* schedule is that during the 1-3 nap I get to relax/blog for the first hour and then must do laundry/cleaning the 2nd hour!)
Step 2: Live with your rough draft schedule for a day or two. I found that even after laying out what I thought would be a good schedule, once I followed the schedule a time or two I quickly discovered things to change. So take your time here and make sure you have something livable figured out before putting the effort in to creating a more permant visual schedule for the family.
Step 3: Decide what sort of visual format works best for your family. For me it was important that our schedule be visual and interactive for the girls. I really wanted them to be active participants during the day in following the schedule, and therfore I wanted a schedule that was durable (so that they can put up and take down the various peices themselves) and visable to them (so that they can see what's coming next). I debated between using a giant piece of foam board or a fold up presentation board. I ended up deciding on the smaller fold up presentation board because I wanted to be able to put the schedule away easily when we had company over, etc....rather than have it hanging on a wall more permanently. But either way works fine! It would also be fun to make a fabric covered board and really pretty it up! I just decided that for these purposes I wanted a schedule I could do in a couple hours for under $10. As complicated as this might *look* it really was quite easy and quick to make!
Once you've decided how you'd like yours then you need to go buy supplies. I bought my presentation board at Walmart, as well as sticky back velcro circles (more to come on that later). I used alphabet/number stickers from my scrapbook stash. I used Google images to search for clip art to print and laminate (if you don't have a laminator you could just print to a sturdy cardstock. However I love my laminator and it's really not that expensive. I have this one here: Scotch Laminator . I still need to purchase a little battery powered digital clock to attach as well, so that the girls can start learning how to read the clock and see what's coming up next.
Step 4: Create your visual schedule. I started by deciding what would be permanent and what would be interchangable on my schedule. I decided that the block of time/hourly breakdown would stay consistant so I used stickers to place directly on the cardboard. However I wanted the activities we did during each block of time to be interchangable, so that if we had plans to run to the store or park etc. then the schedule would show that. If we were going to stay home and do crafts then I could just switch it out. So I wrote various "activities" on paper, which I cut into strips and laminated. Then I attached the sticky back velcro to both the cardboard *and* the back of each activity strip--now I can velcro stick the activities for each day in the time slot I decide upon! And the extra activity cards not being used on any given day are stored in a little pouch that I created from an envelope.
For activity cards there are a number of things you could do. For us, I chose to include "snack" because Raya has a problem with constantly asking for food throughout the day, so now we have specific set times on the schedule. If your kids don't need that spelled out on the schedule then skip it. You obviously cannot include every little thing you do during the day on your schedule.
If you are looking for ways to help fill your larger chunks of time on the schedule, some of the possible activities we included to choose from on ours were: field trip, play outside, go for a walk, arts and crafts, educational activity, play in the basement (playroom), watch a movie, run errands, play at the park, help clean house, etc. As time goes on I plan to continuously add to our activity options by creating activity strips for things like the pool, reading books, grocery store, etc.
The top left portion of the board is where the digital clock will eventually go. The right hand side of the board is where I put velcro so that I can place picture clues next to each daily activity, so that my non-readers can also see what's on our daily schedule! I printed out clip art to match each possible activity strip and laminated the picture cards as well. I think my girls will love removing each picture card as we complete an activity, and it will serve as a visual "count down" of our day :-) The picture cards are stored on the back of the board in another storage envelope.
|Clip Art I just got from a yahoo images search and then shrunk to size|
Step 5: Enjoy! Children thrive on knowing what comes next and having order to their day, so I really think this visual schedule will be beneficial! Especially for children who have limitied vocabularies and/or can't read yet. Plus, it's very similiar to many of the visual schedules I saw in elementary classrooms when I was working as a School Psychologist, so I think it'll be great practice for Raya as she gets ready for preschool. In the future I plan to make the girls a chore chart that is very similiar to the design of this schedule. The possibilities are endless :-)
Let me know what you all think!!